Hidden Gems of Florence
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
I first lived on my own in Florence three decades ago when I decided to take a year “off” before matriculating to college. Much has changed since 1992 in this quintessentially Renaissance city, yet so much has remained - hidden gems of every sort, from hole-in-the-wall restaurants and a treasured art supply store founded in the 1800s to a bespoke luxury stationer preferred by Popes.
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Where to stay in Florence
Hotel Savoy Florence
In a prized location next to the Duomo, Florence’s grande dame is a bucket-list treat of designer interiors, world-class cuisine and exceptional service.
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Daily Buffet breakfast for two guests per bedroom
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Posh property along the Arno river with sophisticated, art-decorated rooms and suites.
Complimentary one-way private airport transfers.
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Gallery Hotel Art
Refined Florentine architecture and gallery with an inviting lounge library and Eastern cuisine.
A bottle of wine and Salvatore Ferragamo bath products.
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Things to do in Florence
A wonderful time to explore the city is early morning when pastry shops are receiving their deliveries and streets are otherwise quiet. Take a walk across the Ponte Vecchio, bear left and follow Costa S. Giorgio Walk across the Ponte Vecchio to Forte Belvedere. It is a rigorous, uphill walk, but one that will lead you to stunning views. For an even more challenging walk and scenic, panoramic views of the city, follow one of the many “paths” up the Piazzale Michelangelo.
A few of my favorite small, lesser known museums: Ferragamo Museum, Perfume and Apothecary Workshop of Santa Maria Novella (and its gorgeous shop selling its namesake scents), the Michelangelo Museum and the Hospital/Museum of the Innocents (featuring works by a young Bottecelli, Della Robbia, Ghirlandaio).
A few of my favorite small workshops and boutiques (a few hidden on small side streets):
Pinedier (Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli) is THE place for artisanal luxury stationary. Founded in the 1700s, this elegant store also sells beautiful leather briefcases, card holders and wallets. One can spend hours creating a customized plate for engraved invitations, letterhead and personal stationary. They adhere strictly to their select type treatments and offer guidance on the best combination of ink and paper color. Pinedier will save your plate into perpetuity, allowing you to re-order years (and decades!) later. It’s no wonder that it is the chosen stationer of dignitaries, celebrities and the papacy.
Madova (Via Guicciardini, a few paces from the Ponte Vecchio) has been selling leather gloves since 1919. With an amazing, colorful array of gloves for both men and women, the clerks will size you right with a buttery soft pair (or pairs!).
Zecchi Colori Belle Arti, “Zecchi” (Via dello Studio, a block from the Duomo) has served Florentine artists since the 1800s. This truly unique shop specializes in materials used since the Renaissance, and a vast wall of pigments is sensational. Pop in for watercolor blocks, brushes, speciality paper and more. Zecchi is truly a treasure chest for any artist.
Il Torchio (Via dei Bardi, Oltrarno) is a bookbinding and marbled paper workshop with an endless selection of journals, stationary, frames and bags. Handmade paper covers leather-bound books - each more special than the next. In true Florentine tradition, Il Torchio uses traditional Florentine techniques and can even customize a special piece for you.
Places to eat & drink in Florence
Trattoria Mario (Via Rosina, next to the Central Market): Serves homestyle, traditional Tuscan fare to local craftsmen, artists, and students alike taking a lunch break. Da Mario has been around since the 1950s, passed down from father to sons. Daily lunch specials serve up dishes like ribollita, bistecca alla fiorentina and sautéed spinach. You may have to share a table, but that’s the best part. I used to pass by this trattoria every morning on my way to school. It’s a special place that is Florentine to its core. And give a big "CIAO!" to Fabio!
Forno Sartoni (Via dei Cerchi): Hand’s down the city’s best morning pastries (they open at 7:30AM) and afternoon savory focaccia and pizza by the slice. There is no seating here as it’s a “grab & go” kind of a place. Pop by here before a morning walk or when you need an afternoon snack!
Pegna dal 1860 (Via dello Studio, a block from the Duomo): A specialty grocery store that puts EATALY to shame. An original since 1860, you’ll find Tuscan specialities like truffle spread, Chianti, and prosciutto sliced specially for you - a wonderful place to pick up picnic treats or gifts.
Trattoria Bordino (Via Stracciatella, Oltrarno): This cozy restaurant will delight you. Enjoy hearty Tuscan fare in their candlelit rooms. One of my favorite places for a long dinner with friends and family. Save room for juicy meats, incredible pasta and sumptuous tiramisu.
Borgo Antico (Piazza San Spirito): My choice for pizza in Florence. Don't miss the Quattro Stagioni and try to get a table outside during the spring and summer months.
Cantinetta dei Verrazzano (Via dei Tavolini, a few blocks from the Duomo): An easy place for a wonderful glass of wine and sandwich.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.