Florence - a fascinating city



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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.

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Florence boutique hotels

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

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. 
• 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.
• 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.


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.

Travel inspirations, itineraries and best places to stay

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