The Renaissance may have occurred more than 500 years ago but, for Florence, it’s an ongoing mentality. The city that gave us Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci is home to a new generation of artists, museums and cultural experiences just waiting to be explored.
The ancient city’s residents are also championing Florence’s 21st-century rebirth through cultural initiatives. Leading the way is Leonardo Ferragamo, son of legendary shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo, a business executive and an active cultural heritage patron.
“Florence has incredible energy that has piled up through the centuries, [so] you have to be inspired,” Ferragamo says. In fact, he’s funneled his passion for his hometown into initiatives like Association of Partners Palazzo Strozzi — the Palazzo Strozzi museum’s board of directors — and tour company Tuscany Again,with the ambitious goal of introducing visitors to the region beyond the guidebooks.
“There is so much hidden in the territory, and wherever you go in Tuscany you find beautiful things,” Ferragamo says. He continues by stressing that the success of the destination and its artisans is due to a shared “mindset of values.” Pride, intelligence and creativity have led the territory to produce some of the world’s best wines, art and fashion — it’s a destination that consistently gives.
Whether you’re first-timer to the region or a repeat visitor, you’ll find Tuscany to have an unforgettable effect on you. From incredible hillside towns and wild shores to innovative artisans, there is always something to see and another adventure to embark on. To experience the energy and creativity that Ferragamo spoke of, use this guide.
WHERE TO EAT
Ciblèo and C. Bio
Florentines know their cuisine is coveted — probably because the Tuscan region is a veritable cornucopia of produce and meats — and nobody is more proud than Fabio Picchi, the force behind the Cibrèo empire, an ensemble of incredibly delicious restaurants in the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood. His flagship location has been touted for four decades, but new ventures, Ciblèo (a 16-seat venue serving a fixed menu of Tuscan-Asian cuisine) and C. Bio (a Florentine specialty market), are game changers.
Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo
In Santa Croce, Damiano Vigna gives a shoutout to yesteryear at Club Culinario Toscano da Osvaldo. Vigna and his team not only revisit heritage recipes, but also rely on their favorite memories to create unique dishes form hard-to-find and often-foraged regional ingredients and specialized producers. Spend an hour or two lingering over plates like chickpea-battered cod, umbricelli pasta with sausage and black truffles, and Etruscan-style pigeon with olives.
Antico Ristoro di Cambi
A favorite for an old-school experience is Antico Ristoro di Cambi, a rustic trattoria in the Oltrarno neighborhood. Cambi’s been a city staple for nearly 70 years thanks to its consistent top-quality Tuscan dishes. Be on the lookout for its bistecca alla Fiorentina, one of the most beautiful steaks ever served.
WHERE TO STAY
Keeping it contemporary requires a great address. Look no further than the Lungarno Collection, a luxe portfolio of chic hotels owned by the Ferragamo family.
This stylish Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star stay is the crown jewel of the collection: a 37-room boutique just a few minutes’ walk from the bustling Piazza della Signoria. The overall vibe is a fashionable townhouse with living room reception and 24/7 concierge.
Celebrated local architect Michele Bonan designed the high-end property to be impossibly chic with unfathomable style and cutting-edge design. Rooms immediately feel like home thanks to muted colors, hardwood floors, large mirrors and cashmere throws, but the best features are the ceiling-to-floor windows that make you feel you could jump right into the Arno below.
This impeccably designed Forbes Travel Guide Recommended retreat has an unbeatable position on the banks of the Arno river in the hip Oltrearno neighborhood — almost all of its rooms face the waterway for postcard-worthy views.
Bonan recently upgraded the design of this historic address to a swanky yacht feel with blue and red highlights, and accents like bespoke houndstooth cushions, wooden floors and modern art. Expect Egyptian cotton sheets, cashmere throws, marble bathrooms and techy touches like Bose Bluetooth speakers and iPads.
Still, the ultimate luxury is sipping an apertivo in the Picteau Lounge, where you can savor a little piece of Florence through large, river-facing windows.
Gallery Hotel Art
Around the corner from Piazza della Signoria, this art-focused property displays modern pieces and exhibitions throughout the hotel from Centro Pecci, a contemporary art foundation.
The décor itself is also a Bonan masterpiece. The boutique hotel’s 74 rooms and suites are decorated with calming white walls, buttery leather headboards and light hard wood floors, while the ground-level Fusion Bar and Restaurant changes up the vibe with its jewel tones and Asian-fusion menu (hence the name).
Just across the street from Gallery Art Hotel is this 43-room hideaway. A white-on-white color scheme creates a modern feel and, like its neighbor, the property doubles as exhibition space for a private collection of cutting-edge contemporary works.
The boutique hotel has a trio of fabulous features: a second-level relaxation room on a corner overlooking the Ponte Vecchio; the panoramic rooftop terrace La Terrazza; and White Iris Beauty Spa.
Pro tip: It’s easy to get a taste for each property. Hotel hop to enjoy breakfast at any of the Lungarno options or to sample cocktails, like riverside drinks at Hotel Lungarno’s Picteau Lounge, followed by rooftop sips at Continentale’s scenic La Terrazza.