Emma Hughes visits the Tuscan capital.
What comes to mind when you think of Florence? Art, of course. The Tuscan capital’s cobbled centre is home to an embarrassment of Renaissance riches: you could spend a weekend here doing nothing but looking round galleries and still barely have scratched the surface. However, although the past is front and centre, this is a city with its eye on the future, too – the likes of Alessandro Michele (who’s turned Gucci around since taking the reins in 2015) and shabby-chic design guru Riccardo Barthel have sprinkled their modern-day magic over it. Belissima!
Take it all in
Earlier this year, there was a stampede of fashionable feet to the new Gucci Garden, a three-storey palazzo given over to the house’s history near the Palazzo Vecchio. The displays of dresses, accessories and video installations are glorious.
Get to the Uffizi early for a clear view of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and brave the queue at the Galleria dell’Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David. Also well worth a visit is the Boboli Gardens.
Florence is beautiful whichever way you look at it, but there’s something special about viewing it from a height. Steel yourself for the 463 steps (there’s no lift) to the top of the Duomo, the city’s loftiest point, and dodge the souvenir vendors to gaze across the entirety of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Sleep in style
The stately Hotel Helvetia & Bristol is a 19th-century palazzo that’s a biscotti’s-throw from the Palazzo Strozzi. Service is five-star, but it still has the feel of a private residence and no two rooms are alike. Bar Bibendum is where stylish Florence comes to while away aperitivo hour – order the Bubble Chianti (like an Aperol spritz, but with red wine).
Classic Collection Holidays offers three nights at Hotel Helvetia & Bristol from £879 per person, based on two sharing, including private transfers and return flights from the UK (0800 047 1066; www.classic-collection.co.uk).
Good food and design are Florence’s twin passions and they join hands at Desinare. Part showroom, part salvage yard and part cookery school (really), it’s the sort of place you want to move into. Sigh over the beautifully curated selection of linens, maiolica tiles and antique lamps downstairs, then head up for a pasta-making or baking class in the state-of-the-art kitchen.
Shop for black truffles while you munch on zucchini fritti at the Mercato Centrale and order a hot chocolate you can stand your spoon up in at Caffè Gilli.
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