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We’ve done the work for you! Are you looking for a charming Florence hotel? We’ve got them here! Not too many, just a small but perfect selection of apartments, and wonderful retreats for a getaway in Florence. Before all of that, though, we wanted to provide a short introduction to Florence itself as well as a few top tips for things to do in this wonderful city.
Secretplaces’ Top Florence Tips and Hints:
• You must try a gelato from Vivoli (7, Via Isole delle Stinche, one block west of Piazza Santa Croce, closes Mondays) One word: Incredible.
• If you want to visit either the Uffizi or Accademia museums (both close Mondays), book and avoid the long, long queues. Telephone (+39) 055 294883. You pay 3 Euros more but in busy periods it is absolutely worth it!
• Housed in a beautiful Domencian Convent, the Museo San Marco is smaller, more personal and far, far less crowded than the others and includes some stunning frescoes by Fra Angelico. (Piazza San Marco, 3 – close to the Accademia, closes 2nd and 4th Mondays, 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of the month)
• The few streets that make up the core of the city centre ie around Piazza della Signoria are so beautiful it’s basically an open-air museum. By night it’s also like a museum – great to look at but hushed, awkward and utterly dead. Head across the Ponte Vecchio to Piazza di Santo Spirito where Brunelleschi’s beautiful church seems almost Mexican in style but sets off this piazza wonderfully – a great destination for an aperitivo towards 8pm (young-ish kind of crowd). Restaurants generally more authentic in this area too – try here and Via dei Serragli for a few good trattorie.
• A classic but absolutely worth it for the stunning views over the city – walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, again on the Oltrarno side of the river. The best way to really understand just how big that cathedral is. (More authentic restaurants too in the little quarter at the base of the hill, try the streets Via di San Niccolò and Via di San Miniato).
• Get a bottle of wine, some prosciutto, pecorino cheese, Tuscan bread and a few tomatoes from the Central Markets in the quarter of San Lorenzo and head to the Boboli Gardens behind Palazzo Pitti – the Medici’s last “house”. You need to pay but the views from the top of the gardens across those rolling hills with olive trees, cypresses….. (the gardens close the 1st and 4th Mondays of each month).
• Lampredotto. The Florence peasant dish par excellence. Very slowly cooked tripe with spices, bit of tomato thrown between a crusty bun. You’ll find it in the Central Markets (San Lorenzo) and a few of the more authentic piazzas away from the cathedral, Uffizi area.
• Don’t complain about the bread. Yes it’s tasteless and dry but it’s supposed to be like that – Tuscan bread has no salt in it (a few hundred years back it cost too much but the fashion stuck) and they say that the locals live a year longer than the Italians because of it. But then they say lots of things.
• Our selection of hotels in Florence are based not just on the accommodation themselves but also on the areas where they’re situated – as far as possible we’ve opted for authentic, real quarters of the city. Explore these zones; Florence is a strange city in one way in that it has such a high concentration of tourist landmarks, probably more than Rome when you take its size into account that you need to search the authentic quarters out. Hopefully we’ve done some of the hard work for you but essentially an inquisitive, exploratory traveller in Florence will be blissfully rewarded
• The street market around in the San Lorenzo quarter – very lively, lots of fun and handily next to the Central Markets for a lunchtime lampredotto sandwich. Gastronomy For an Italian interested in eating, Florence means meat. The huge Bistecca alla Fiorentina is considered by Italians to top the list for those enamoured with steak. The lampredotto which we mentioned above is part of the cucina popolare – good, solid, energizing food but most importantly, cheap and hence favoured by the working class a few hundred years back. This and other, similar, dishes have worked their way into the collective imagination of Florentine cuisine.
Two other examples of these traditionally poor dishes are panzanella and pappa al pomodoro both vegetarian options. Despite their humble origins they are wonderfully refreshing and perfect for the summer. Both are based around tomatoes and bread, the panzanella is in fact a salad of bread – sounds strange but throw in plenty of those wonderful Italian tomatoes (are they the only country that still produces tomatoes that taste like tomatoes?), garlic, extra virgin olive oil, a dash of vinegar, some onion, plenty of fresh basil and chunks of 2-day old bread and it’s a winner.
Pappa al pomodoro is not too dissimilar in its origins but the ingredients are thrown into a pan and sweated down together with some carrot and celery. The bread is soaked in water, drained well and then added to the rest of the ingredients. Often served cold in the summer it’s light and full of Mediterranean flavours.
History Florence was a Roman city but didn’t really feature as the Empire’s key concern, more a military camp than a significant investment in culture. It took the Renaissance to really put it on the map; an explosion of economic wealth funnelled to the arts. There are, or course, other explanations but the main reason a small town should burst into a vastly powerful state leaving one of the finest cultural legacies in the world is economic.
Banking and textiles generated such enormous surpluses that guilds, rulers and would-be dictators were driven to showing-off competitions. Everything that remains is the result of a Medici or trade guild employing the very best artists of the time to immortalize their names and institutions. It worked and if you wanted to, you could pass a month in Florence and still not see all the city has to offer. Its beauty is breathtaking, its piazzas divine – perfect for a glass of Chianti and sweet, pure relaxation.
Culture Florence has preserved its masterpieces and great works of architecture over the centuries. The most important collection of paintings in the world is offered by the Uffizi Gallery; visitors can enter the very interesting Designs and Print Room; the collection of self-portraits. Great paintings can be seen in the Gallery of Palazzo Pitti, with Tiziano’s and Raffaello’s masterpieces.
Florence also has the Museum of the Costume and the Museum of the Carriages; the beautiful Italian gardens can be admired in the Giardino di Boboli. In the Museum of the Opera del Duomo one of Michelangelo’s "Pietà" can be admired. Then, there are the Bargello museum and the Accademia with the original of David. Activities You should have a few ideas by now of what to do and where to go.
Florence is ideal for exploring – it is completely flat and cars are banished from almost all of the city centre so wander in undisturbed peace. If you want to take a day trip, Pisa is easily reached by train, Siena by coach and local buses drive up to Fiesole, a beautiful town above Florence with a wonderfully preserved Roman theatre. Rome too is easy to get to – just one and a half hours on the Eurostar.
You are in a very beautiful city in the centre of a very beautiful country, enjoy it! We hope this information has been useful, of course if you have tips or suggestions you would like to make, feel free to send us an email or get in touch by phone. We’ve put a lot of effort into our hotels in Florence and we hope you enjoy them too.
Boutique Hotels and Places to Stay in Florence
- Antica Dimora Firenze
- Antica Dimora Johlea
- Helvetia & Bristol
- Hotel J K Place
- J and J Historic House Hotel
- Le Stanze di Santa Croce
- Marignolle Relais & Charme
- Mr My Resort
- Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo
- Relais Grand Tour & Grand Tour Suites
- Residence Palazzo Belfiore
- Residenza Johanna
Romantic & boutique hotels by city in Florence
Places to stay in Florence
Tips from Travellers
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