Florence, Tuscany

Florence at a glance

Dear Travelers,

In all these years – as guests and passionate explorers of the city of Florence – we have been collecting information and tips about this beautiful and historic jewel of central Italy.

It was time to put all this information into a dynamic guide which we will constantly update in the hope of making your explorations even more enjoyable.

Feel free to write your comments, suggesting other places and providing new descriptions. We would love to hear about your experience in Florence.

Good reading and… good adventures!

The HaH team

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Florence with the eyes of a “glocal traveler” – The HaH Guide

To an outsider, Florence may seem like a big place with an impressive and long list of sites and museums to visit, but the reality is that the city is actually quite small and provincial in feel.

As the “capital city” of Tuscany, it is home to roughly 380,000 inhabitants (compare that with Rome’s 3 million!). But what the city lacks in size, it more than makes up for in beauty and culture. It is famously the birthplace of the Renaissance and continues to be one of the top fashion cities of the world. The list of accolades may get a bit overwhelming as you begin to explore the city, but, above all, do not forget to take the time to notice the day-to-day details of life in this bustling place.

The city’s small size is an advantage as you can roam freely on foot or by bike between most of the sites. Make sure you take a break for a gelato or coffee, and post up in one of the many piazzas; some are grand and bustling, others small and quite.

Make sure you give yourself some time to soak in the beauty that is the Florentine day-to-day: impeccably dressed men and women riding to work by bike; groups of old men standing at the bar, chatting over coffee; women of all ages strolling the cobbled streets in beautiful heels; and young, hip, artsy folk from all over Italy and the world, hanging out in piazzas, restaurants, and bars at all hours.

 

Markets

There is no shortage of beautiful stores and things to buy in Florence. If you are looking for something

indicative of the city, keep your eyes open for paper stores and leather shops and stalls (especially shoe and bag makers). However, we would suggest you to drop into the local markets for a more “authentic” adventure…

San Lorenzo: The San Lorenzo market is an outdoor market full of stalls selling leather, clothing and souvenirs. It runs from the Church of San Lorenzo along Via Ariento all the way to Via Nazionale. This is the most touristic market of Florence. Not the cheapest and not the best (in quality)… surely, though, one of the most characteristic. Open from 9am to 7pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

Central market: The “Mercato Centrale” is mainly a food market. Butchers, fishmongers and delis are on the main floor, while fruit and vegetable sellers are on the top floor. This is as much a place for locals to do their food shopping as it is for a quick lunch spot for local workers looking to chow down a tripe sandwich or two. If you’re visiting be sure not to miss out on Perini’s delicatessen, on the Via Ariento side of the market. Specialising in salumi (they have a particularly impressive selection of proscuitto, including proscuitto of wild boar, goose and venison), cheese and everything that goes with it (homemade sauces, chutneys, 12-year-old balsamic vinegar and infused oils, for example), you can try everything before you decide what you’d like to take home with you. Open from 7am-2pm, Monday to Saturday.

Sant’Ambrogio: This slightly smaller market is much like the Central market, although decidedly more for locals than tourists. With stalls outdoors and indoors, any time of the year, it is a colorful place to get a taste of Florentine life as you mix with locals buying artichokes or fresh pasta, household items such as cheese graters, plants or cheap clothing. Open from 8am to 2pm, Monday to Saturday.

“Porcellino”: The “Porcellino” market lies in the center of town in Piazza del Mercato Nuovo, 2 mins away from Piazza della Signoria. The goods sold in this daily market are generally leather and knick-knacks with the quality being slightly more selective than that of the San Lorenzo market. Its name derives from the wild boar statue that sits on one end of the square. Open from 9am to7pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

Piazza Ciompi: Located not far from the Sant’Ambrogio market, this little piazza houses the flea market of Florence, open daily. The quiet little stalls sell all sorts of rummage-worthy things from antique postcards to lace to chandelier pieces. The last Sunday of the month finds the flea market expanded, filling the entire piazza and surrounding streets – a definite must for any bargain hunter in search of something unique, vintage or collectable amongst the stalls of hats, magazines, books, trinkets, bags, clothes, jewelry and furniture. Open from 9am to 7pm, Monday to Saturday.

Santo Spirito: This oltrarno neighbourhood has a quiet daily market for the locals – fruit and vegetables, household items, clothing… but once a month on the second Sunday of the month, the entire piazza and surrounding streets turns into a lively and bustling outdoor market featuring a mixture of antiques, food and handmade goods. The daily market is open from 8am to 2pm, Monday to Saturday, while the antique market is usually held on the 2nd Sunday of the month.

Flower Market: If you’re in town on a Thursday, be sure to swing by the flower market along the portico outside of the post office in Piazza della Repubblica. The colors, smells and sights are dreamy to say the least. The spirit of Piazza della Repubblica really shines through when markets set up shop. Open every Thursday from 10am to 7pm.

Santo Spirito market on a sunny day

Santo Spirito market on a sunny day

 

Restaurants & Cafes

Florence is known, first and foremost, for the Florentine steak: a giant (usually no less than 1kg) cut of Italian-raised T-bone. If you are not a vegetarian and have a hearty appetite, you must give the steak a try. The city, however, has of course countless other amazing traditional dishes…

Dinner restaurants:

Trattoria Sostanza – Via del Porcellana, 25 red

Trattoria Vivanda – Via Santa Monaca, 7

La Beppa Fioraia – Via dell’Erta Canina, 6r

Trattoria Il Barrino – Via Gioberti, 71 red

Buca dell’orafo – Via dei Girolami, 28 red

Ristorante Cibreo – Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 8 red

Lunch spots:

Osteria Vini e vecchi sapori – Via dei Magazzini, 3 red

Da’ Vinattieri – Via Santa Margherita, 4 red

Caffè Dogali – Viale Malta, 5

Serre Torrigiani in Piazzetta – Piazza dei Tre Re, 1

Trippaio Mario – Piazzale di Porta Romana

Aperitivo spots:

Caffè Letterario – Piazza delle Murate

Sesto on Arno – Hotel Westin Excelsior, Piazza D’Ognissanti, 3

Dolce Vita – Piazza del Carmine, 5

Easy Living – Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, Arno beach (summer season only)

Chiosco il Tempio – Lungarno del Tempio, 1x (very casual)

For other valuable suggestions, click here.

Sunday brunch:

Il Palagio – Four Seasons hotel, Borgo Pinti 99 (October to June only)

For other valuable places click here.

 

Museums & Sites

There is no doubt that you must pay a visit to the Uffizzi, Accademia, Duomo, Cappella Brancacci, Palazzo Vecchio, etc. while you are in Florence. But, if you have some free time or are willing to skip the classics, lucky for you, our favorite museums and sites do not require a 1 hour wait! We recommend visiting…

The Church of San Miniato al Monte: Via delle Porte Sante, 34. Escape the crowds in Piazzale Michelangelo and climb an extra quarter mile to this Romanesque church with its spectacular view of Florence. Try to time your visit for vespers (4:30pm in winter; 5:30pm in summer) to catch the haunting Gregorian chants of the resident monks. Artistic highlights include the rare mosaic adorning the exterior and the magnificent pulpit inside, both from the 13th century.

Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten

Gucci MuseumPiazza Signoria, 10. Florentines are very proud of their local famous designer who has been in fashion for over 90 years, and the museum’s prestigious location near the Uffizi Gallery sets the tone for what is a most certainly a very classy affair. Opened in 2011, organized by theme, you can get lost in the different eras of Gucci’s famous designs. Don’t forget to stop by the cool adjacent café to recharge with a coffee or a glass of wine after being transported into the fascinating world of Gucci fashion.

The Rose Garden: Viale Poggi, 2. Constructed in the 1800s when Florence was the capital of the newly formed Italian nation, the Rose garden is a welcome refuge on your way to Piazzale Michelangelo. The Garden is a great spot to check out the view of Florence. May is definitely the best month since the flowers are in full bloom; the view, though, will not disappoint you in any month of the year. Don’t miss the Japanese section in one hidden corner – this place is made for picnics!

Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria NovellaVia della Scala, 16. One of the oldest pharmacies in the DSC_0015_3world, founded in the 1200s by Dominican friars. Most people would just walk past this (free) gem of a museum/working pharmacy due to its unpretentious location on the street. However, when you enter inside be prepared to be wowed by its decor (and products) which is anything but ordinary. Their most famous product is the Rose tonic, but they sell any kind of fancy product such as scented soaps, honeys, liquors, etc.

The Monastery of San Francesco & the Roman Theater in Fiesole: Town of Fiesole (15 mins driving from Florence). Get in the car and drive up to the little town of Fiesole to discover the historical ruin of a Roman amphitheater, scenic views of the countryside and the 14th-century Franciscan monastery with its small ethnological museum and relics.

 

Events & Nights Out

Nightlife in Florence is not restricted to the confines of bars or clubs. To find the best place for a drink, dancing, or even just people watching, simply take a stroll “Oltrarno” through Piazza di Santo Spirito, or wander around the Piazza Santa Croce neighborhood any time after midnight. People of all ages flow out of bars and into the streets, forming one big social gathering.

For a list of bars and clubs click here.

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