Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Florence, for a Couple of Nightingales

Gentle Readers, I have a couple of friends who are taking their first vacation together (she an architect, he an art director). They have settled, they think, on Florence. I have never visited and while it remains Mrs. E.’s favourite city, it has been a while since she closed her Baedeker’s and wandered astray to discover the charms of the city.

This worked so well for our friends who visited London that I thought to ask you again. Do you have any tips for places to stay, restaurants to frequent, sites to be seen? Remember, they are young and very much in love!

Many thanks on their behalf.

14 thoughts on “Florence, for a Couple of Nightingales

  1. I have not been personally, but I have heard excellent things about the Pharmacy at Santa Maria Novella. It is part boutique store with amazing home goods, and part museum for the monks that make the products. From what I hear the tour is interesting, and I can personally attest that their products are second to none.

    I seem to remember a post about you being a wet-shaver… The shaving soap and pre/post treatment from Santa Maria Novella are absolutely phenomenal. You’ll pay dearly for the quality, but it is worth every penny, even on a poor graduate student’s budget.

  2. Dip cantucci (almond biscotti) into vin santo (dessert wine) after dinner
    Ghirlandaio frescos at Santa Maria Novella church.Then go out and see if you don’t see the same Italian faces in the street.
    Gelati— anywhere anytime.
    Tickets to Uffizi must be gotten beforehand
    DO NOT even THINK of driving a car in Italian cities. In the countryside it’s perfectly OK.
    Think spring and fall.
    Accademia (Home of David), Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and Santo Spirito can be uncrowded when the cathedral and the Uffizi are packed with tourists.
    Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery outside the cathedral
    Getting off the beaten track can mean only a detour of a block or two.If shopping for leathergoods definitely get off the beaten track.

  3. I spent 6 wonderful weeks in Florence last summer and left feeling I barely scratched the surface! I would recommend walking up to the beautiful little church of San Miniato al Monte, not only is it an architectural gem but you will have stunning views over the city. However long you have to stand on line to get into the Uffizi it’ll be worth every minute. (I waited 40 mins in early June, didn’t bother paying extra for pre-booked tickets) I have always been facinated by the Leaning Tower of Pisa and it was a great day trip – about an hour on the train. Did serious research into gelato – Florentine gelato is considered the best in Italy by Italians, you’d be unlucky to get a bad one – my favourites were Grom on via del Campanile near the Duomo, Vestri, 11 Borgo Arbizi – especially the chocolate flavours! – Vivoli on via Isole delle Stinche lived up to the hype – for me at least – and Gelateria Carabe, via Ricasoli 60r makes excellent granita, the best thing for when it’s hot. I enjoyed Lampredotto for lunch several days, quintessential Florentine experience (if you like tripe!) Coffee at Caffe Gilli on the Piazza Repubblica for people-watching. Your friends are so lucky to be going!

  4. Florence is a beautiful city…I can’t for the life of me remember where we stayed. Of course, we were much younger and quite a bit poorer, although my husband did buy me a gorgeous bracelet for our anniversary from a sweet little jewelry store in Florence. Hope your friends have a fabulous vacation.

  5. Aside from the endless and obvious Renaissance sites here are a few MUST visits:
    1. Cantinetta Antinori, http://www.antinori.it for lunch or dinner and of course the best wine in Italy.
    2. http://www.bencista.com great reasonable hotel overlooking the city from Fiesole.
    3. Villa San Michele, http://www.villasanmichele.com if you can’t stay there, you will never forget lunch or dinner overlooking the city – don’t miss fresh white peach bellini
    4. The architect will appreciate Fiesole, 15 minutes from center of town where Frank Lloyd Wright lived on
    Via Guiseppe Verdi, overlooking the city

  6. I second George’s tip on Pharmacy Santa Maria Novella..I too am enamored with the shaving products. I recommend the small guided tours of the David and the Uffizi gallery given by doctoral students studying in Italy. I’m not sure of the company since our travel agent booked it but as one who normally eschews tour groups I was very pleased with this one. Listen to the guidebooks regarding making reservations for things like the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi…you will be glad you did. We were privileged to take a cooking class from Faith Willinger in her home in the Santo Spirito neighborhood in the Oltrarno. Faith is a American who married a Tuscan and has lived in Italy for 30 years. She’s well known within the food world in Italy and the US and has written several books on food in Italy. In fact you should purchase her book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. It’s part travelogue part cook book and is a lovely book. The Pitti Palace should not be missed and one should eat gelato at every opportunity.

  7. I am one of the friends in question, and these are all terrific suggestions. Thanks a million!

    Perhaps I should add one more wrinkle to the Elegant introduction: this trip is also for my dear L’s birthday. Any recommendations for the perfect surprise would be welcome.

    Cheers, all.

  8. We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in Florence last year. The highlight a morning spent with Touring 500 club in a vintage Fiat 500… our guide was wonderful and the car was treated like a celebrity on the city streets. We’ve never had such fun… wonderful views of Florence and scenic panaramas in the countryside.

  9. Before I began a degree in architecture I spent six weeks one summer at Syracuse U.’s wonderful program in Florence. The best trip of all was to the Certosa del Galluzzo south of Florence, built as a Carthusian monastery in the 14th-16th centuries. It’s the monks’ quarters which are the most fascinating. This excursion is worth whatever effort it requires to get there. Supposedly, this very place was very inluential on Le Corbusier, and you will never forget it either! Check out the website below.

  10. I happened to watch Room with a View last night (for the umpteeth time) and your friends should see it before their trip!

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