About Time: You Discovered the New Florence, ItalyBy Caroline Patterson
Florence is a wonderful city with so much history, beautiful art and stunning architecture to discover. From the iconic Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore to Michelangelo’s David, the vibrant city of Florence is a city you’ll never want to leave.
For all its beautiful history, Florence is a city of change, too, and the city has recently taken on new, exciting projects to show its forward-thinking, modern side. Here’s where get your art, food and shopping fix in the city with our new Florence travel guide:
Florence: What to See
There’s so much to see and do in Florence, you’ll be simply spoilt for choice. Florence’s top attractions include the Ponte Vecchio – a Medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River and the most striking of Florence’s six bridges – the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Uffizi Gallery.
Florence is unique in the world for its artworks, mainly from the 12th to 17th centuries, acquired through the patronage of the Medicis and other aristocratic families. Well known among the glories of Florence are the Baptistry’s bronze doors – the Gates of Paradise – housed in a magnificent new museum Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in the Piazza Duomo, where you will also find magnificent artworks from the Baptistery, the Duomo and Giotto’s Bell Tower. Here too maybe you can unravel the mysteries surrounding Michelangelo’s masterpiece Pieta, ‘The Deposition’!
Photo credit: Duomo by Petar Milošević here
Florence: The New Cool
Excitingly, there is a new, contemporary Florence emerging from the contemplation of the past, perhaps epitomised most clearly in the very significant Ai Weiwei exhibition Libero, on display at the dignified Palazzo Strozzi (the Strozzis were rivals to the Medicis). This is Italy’s first major retrospective of this influential dissident Chinese artist. Works here include his recent controversial works built with Lego bricks and highly topical projects such as the migration in the Mediterranean region.
Photo credit: Alfred Weidinger here
Florence: The Food Scene
For foodies, there is a new take on dining in Florence at the recently converted market hall Il Mercante Centrale located in the Via dell’Ariento. This features a Food Court with tasting stands, shops and a cooking school; visit 12 amazing food stalls open seven days a week until late.
You can expect fabulous food made with the best Italian ingredients: sun ripened tomatoes in panzanella and bruschetta, followed by pecorino grated onto pici pasta and a mouth-watering range of gelato. Also of interest is the Chianti wine tasting corner – not to be missed!
Photo credit: Derek Key here
Florence: Where to Shop
Sensory delights await at the Lorenzo Villoresi perfume shop on Via de ‘Bardi, where you can enjoy the extraordinary range of scents whilst taking in a magnificent view of Florence from the Oltarno Terrace. Founded in 1990 recent innovations include a collection named Fantasy Fragrances introduced to evoke exotic places and worlds of dreams. A fantasy indeed!
Florence: The Best Views
For something completely different visit the Torrino della Specola located next to the Pitti Palace on the via Romana. From the windows of its octagonal hall you can have a complete 360 degree view of the city. The museum houses an historic and impressive collection of ancient telescopes as well as an eclectic natural history collection, a botanical garden and an 18th century museum devoted to the history of science – the first in the world. If historical scientific specimens are your thing, this is the place for you!
Visit the Palazzo della Signoria and its chemin de ronde. The palace built at the end of the thirteenth century has been the symbol of civic power for over seven centuries. Do not miss the stunning Hall of the Geographical Maps, with its unrivalled collection of beautiful ancients maps from the old world and the ‘great terrestrial globe’ – the world’s largest.
Photo credit: here
Florence: Where to Stay
For your visit, you might stay at the Hotel Rosso 23 on the beautiful Piazza Santa Maria Novella: a contemporary hotel housed in a beautiful old stone building, right in the centre of Florence, minutes from the Duomo and Santa Maria train station. Ask for a room overlooking the square and the Basilica Santa Maria Novella with Alberti’s elegant façade.
Florence: Where to Relax
After a long day of sight-seeing, you’ll want to put your feet up. Drink at La Terrazza Continentale, with views of the River Arno on the Vicolo delle ‘Oro, near the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, where you can try Florence’s most fashionable and refreshing cocktail: the Aperol Spritz. To make it yourself: mix one part liqueur Aperol with two parts prosecco, one part soda water, ice and a slice of orange – salute!
British Airways flies from London City to Florence from £70 return. Flights from London City deliver you direct to Florence Airport, Peretola, in just over 2 hours. For more information and to book, see here. To discover more about Florence, see Firenze Tourism’s website here.