There’s something about Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance. Dante, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci’s hometown. The origin of the Italian language. The ever-popular Firenze has been the “it” place for centuries.
But Florence’s contemporary draw goes far beyond its history and beautiful cityscape. A thriving community of artists, creators and entrepreneurs is putting a new perspective on this charming Tuscan town.
The modern era has seen this ancient city again rise to prominence as a culture capital thanks to the biannual Pitti Uomo men’s fashion expo and several pioneering tech-meets-luxury summits.
This Renaissance city has always been a great place to visit, but now, Florence is even more fabulous.
Catherine de Medici, the Florence native who reportedly upgraded cuisine in France by introducing the country to Italian recipes and the fork, would be proud of the city’s stalwart collection of restaurants. With its superb Tuscan fare, Il Cibreo always shines, as does the century-old Trattoria Sergio Gozzi, a family-run eatery stewed in Florentine tradition.
For a taste of Italian luxury, Il Locale is the spot. Housed in an authentic Renaissance palazzo, this opulent restaurant is designed as a modern Medici court with decoupage walls and velvet damask, sandstone columns, vintage design pieces and contemporary sculptures.
For something little more modern (but still slightly retro), stop by the charming Bar e Cucina, a hybrid golden age diner and Florentine café that’s a great pit stop during the buzz of Pitti Uomo.
Along with the usual suspects (we’re looking at you, David), Florence likes to keep you entertained with exhibitions and museums that traipse between traditional and unexpected.
Opened in 2005, Palazzo Strozzi is not only a fabulous example of 15th-century Florentine architecture, it’s also a dynamic cultural foundation whose show-stopping lineup features collections like “Radical Utopias” (a design and architecture movement from the late 1960s; exhibiting through January 2018) along with blockbuster ringers like Bill Viola and Ai Weiwei.
For a blast from the past, visit Museo di San Marco, a former Dominican convent-turned-museum with an extensive collection of in situ Fra Angelico frescoes, and the Museo del Novecento, a gallery dedicated to 20th-century Italian art (“Revolution 9999,” which looks back at the history of a radical architects group, shows through January 28, 2018).
Florence offers shoppers so much more than popular areas like Via Tornabuoni and the Ponte Vecchio. For years, those in the know have been championing for the Oltrarno, the river Arno’s left bank. The literal other side of the tracks is home to the city’s historic and invigorating artisan community.
For a taste of the city’s creative side, stop by & Company, a beautifully curated boutique for design lovers where you can find vintage furniture, handcrafted stationery, Blackwing pencils and original creations by calligrapher and co-owner Betty Soldi.
Other favorite stops along the Oltrarno include Officine Nora, a working studio for a collective of jewelry makers; Il Torchio, a bookbinding shop filled with luscious handcrafted volumes; Jane H, a restoration and woodworking workshop with original artisan pieces; and Albrici, a historic antiques store with a wing devoted to vintage clothing and accessories.
Where you rest your head in Florence is just as important as what you do. For a stunning Renaissance-meets-modern stay, head to Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. This gorgeous urban resort complex features two refurbished buildings in which you can drift off to sleep — the 15th-century Palazzo Della Gherardesca or the former 16th-century convent, the Conventino.
Five-Star Hotel Savoy is Florence’s grande dame, whose timeless elegance yet au courant chicness redefines the meaning of “historic.” Savoy’s enviable Piazza della Repubblica location puts in the very center of everything.
Four-Star Hotel Brunelleschi captures the best of Florentine architecture in a labyrinth of Renaissance-era palaces and medieval towers. And if it’s good enough for an overnight stay for Robert Langdon, Dan Brown’s prolific The Da Vinci Code protagonist, it should be an adventure.
Write your own dramatic tale this fall and winter with the hotel’s Tasting Florence (three-night stay, daily breakfast, three three-course meals) or Love Escape (two nights, welcome aperitif, complimentary wine, late checkout) packages.