A city beloved by Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Botticelli, Florence is easy to fall for and a perfect weekend jaunt in August. And when your friends get wind that you’re visiting the Italian city, the response can be overwhelming. Everyone seems to have their favorite hidden gem, whether it’s a restaurant, winding passageway, watering hole, or must-see leather shop.
Located between Venice and Rome, in the Tuscany region, Florence was Italy’s culture capital in the middle ages and the birth place of the Italian Renaissance. And it continues to be a creative hub—it is the location of Pitti Uomo, the most important men’s fashion trade show in the world, and the backdrop of countless films from acclaimed directors from Federico Fellini to Ridley Scott and Brian de Palma. From culture, to food, to shopping, and wandering, here’s a few tips for how to do a perfect weekend in Florence, the W way.
The city is as synonymous with fashion as it is with art. Visit the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, and learn how the iconic shoe connoisseur got his start, and why he called Florence home for decades. This year, the museum unveiled a new exhibition, “1927 The Return of Italy,” that gives insight into his early life in the 1920s, focusing on the themes that inspired him to start his eponymous fashion house. You cannot leave Florence without going to Uffizi Gallery, which houses the work of Italian greats such as Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello. At the end of the day before heading out to dinner, go to Il Fuligno, a fresco-adorned Baroque church that currently has a play titled “Medici Dynasty” on view until October. The historical drama tells the history of the Medici family, the famous Florentine art patrons who ruled the region for more than three centuries. The former convent was restored and reconstructed in 1601 and provides a stunning backdrop for the performance.
You cannot escape the leather shops in Florence —literally. You’ll find at least one outpost on every street corner. It’s hard to know which one to go into, but start by wandering down Via Pellicceria, the shops on the street have a wide variety of items, from suitcases, to wallets, and mini leather backpacks. If you’re not done with summer shopping, head to Francesco Da Firenze to make your own pair of custom sandals. Choose from a number of designs and colors, let the cobbler take your measurements, and pick them up in 24 hours. Florence is also a great place to get ahead on birthday and Christmas gifts for friends. Stop by La Bottega Dell ‘Olio, a shop entirely devoted to olive oil products near Piazza Del Limbo. From soaps, lip balms, lotions, and eye serums, all accessories are made from organic extra virgin olive oil. Another gift spot is Cartoleria Parione, a Florentine paperie shop where you’ll find hand dyed marbleized note books, pens, and paper. To fulfill the scavenger side in you, pay a visit to Piazza dei Ciompi to peruse the Mercato delle Pulci, a flea market where you’ll find antique ash trays, porcelain boxes, and vintage jewelry. The market takes place Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m, and make sure to bring cash and download a translation app—the shop owners speak little to no English, and credit card machines are nowhere to be seen.
For jewelry, your one stop shop should be to the studio of Florentine jeweler Angela Caputi. Caputi is a household name in Italy, known for her colorful statement earrings, necklaces, and resin cuff bracelets, which caught the eye of style icon Iris Apfel, a known avid devotee of the brand. While you’re at the store, which is located near Ponte Vecchino, make sure to check out the back room where you’ll see her team of jewelers assemble her colorful wares.
It’s hard to know where to start in a city considered to be a holy grail of food, where Florentine cuisine meets Tuscan. For a traditional meal and old world setting, try Il Cebreo, where the award-winning chef prepares exquisite traditional Florentine recipes, bringing out the best of the classic regional flavors. Besides a mouthwatering pappa al pomodoro, they have great seasonal vegetable sides like asparagus and a cannellini bean dish. Make sure to ask for the 12-inch bread, which is baked in the shape of a bone to accompany your meal, and end it with their raspberry tart. For less traditional, more inventive food, try La Menager. Located in a sprawling rustic building on a charming side street, La Menager is part restaurant, part concept store, where guests can purchase anything they see, from kitchen utensils to stationary. One of the most famous flower shops in Florence is located right in the restaurant itself, and guests can take a class in creating their own bouquet before dinner.
For wine tasting and lunch, try Cantinetta Antinori, the iconic family-run eatery housed in a mansion which dates back to the 1400s. The family makes its own wine, and will explain each bouquet as you order. Make sure to order the sole, which is light with remarkable flavoring, and comes with perfectly browned potatoes. For gelato go to Gelateria La Carraia at Piazza Nazario Sauro and order the stracciatella or nocciola—all Florentine gelaterias are open until midnight! Also, there is no such thing as an empty restaurant in Florence, especially during the summer, so make sure you make reservations at least a week in advance.
You cannot leave Florence without taking a sunset walk along the River Arno, which is populated by dozens of cafes where you can sit and have apéritifs. After dinner check out Rasputin, which is (too) closely modeled after a 1920s speakeasy, with no google map location. While google will point you to the center of Piazza Santo Spirito, the bar is actually located in an unmarked building one street over on Via Maggio. Find the gold plaque, and knock twice on the door. A dapper maître ‘d will answer and escort you inside the subterranean lounge. The bartenders are fervently true to their craft, meaning you cannot order anything besides the inventive cocktails they’ve concocted in advance.
Look no further than Rocco Forte Group’s Hotel Savoy. Located in the center of Piazza della Reppublica between the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo, the five-star hotel is walking distance from, shops, restaurants, and Florentine nightlife. The eighty-eight elegantly modern-styled suites are the perfect refuge from the bustle and noise of the city, with parquet floors and mosaic bathrooms. Try to book a room on the top floor which overlooks idyllic side streets and flower-lined rooftops. Make sure to have at least one meal at their restaurant, Irene—a Tuscan-inspired eatery (think truffles, stracciatella soup, and bistecca alla fiorentina) that has plenty of healthy options you can rarely find in Italy, such as quinoa and a hearts of palm salad. The kitchen is manned by Michelin-starred chef, Fulvio Pierangelini, and offers what is truly the best selection of bruschetta in town—order the mozzarella with truffle, you’ll never look at bruschetta the same way again.
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