Florence City Guide

Today’s Florence City Guide update comes to us from five women that are fortunate to call the birthplace of the Renaissance home! This international group of women — American web designer Kate Hash, Texas-raised social media maven Georgette Jupe, Danish photographer Birgitte Brøndsted, Canadian writer and art historian Michelle Tarnopolsky, and Italian UN-worker-turned-entrepreneur Emilia Mugnai — have compiled their guide with different types of travelers in mind so that you can plan a trip to Florence that’s a perfect fit for you. Thank you ladies for such a wonderful tour around this historical city! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

Florence, photo by Birgitte Bronstedphoto by Birgitte Bronsted


Kate is a bloggerweb designer, and young mom living la dolce vita in Florence. She spends her days blogging on La Vita e’ Bella Blog and toiling away on website and blog design projects. When she’s not working, she enjoys exploring her beloved city with her husband Rob, daughter Livia and pup Winston.

In a beautiful, historic city like Florence there is no shame in wanting to see the touristy spots. This section is the baseline guide for the gal (or guy!) interested in hitting the must-see tourist sites in Florence, but with a fun twist.


The Uffizi
Piazzale degli Uffizi 6 – Little introduction is needed for this gorgeous jewel of the Renaissance. Give yourself at least a half day to explore the artwork in the Uffizi. If you can snag it, try to hop on a tour of the Vasari Corridor. These special tours are only offered in Italian, but worth it for an insider’s look at the Medici family’s special walkway through the city.

Via Ricasoli 58-60 – The Accademia is well-known for being the home of the famous David sculpture (and many stop in only to see it), but travelers who slow down to look around the gallery will also find an impressive selection of sculptures by some of Florence’s most important artists. Tip: the line tends to ebb and flow quite a bit, so if you walk by and the line is down the street, consider trying again later in the day.

Palazzo Pitti
The collections in Palazzo Pitti are immense and magnificent, so if you have the time, this museum should really be explored over the course of two days. The ticketing structure makes this a cost-effective approach too, since they group the collections into a few subgroups. On day one, check out the Palatine Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. On day two, visit the Costume Gallery, the Silver Museum and the Porcelain Museum.


Santa Maria del Fiore (aka the Duomo)
Along with the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo is one of the lasting images travelers associate with Florence.  The Cathedral and the dome itself are a testament to the briliance of the Renaissance. Be sure to wear comfy shoes if you decide to climb to the top of the dome (acrophobics and claustrophobics should wait at ground level for their friends).

Ponte Vecchio
The famous Ponte Vecchio is full of jewelry shops, many of which have been in the hands of the same families for generations. Although overpriced, there are some wonderful pieces to be found. If you want to get a great photo of the Ponte Vecchio, walk down to Ponte Santa Trinita and snap away.

Boboli Gardens
These gardens are “hidden” behind Palazzo Pitti and are a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city center. Take time to explore the entire garden — perhaps entering from the far entrance on Via Romana — as many of the sections of the gardens are untrodden by most tourists and therefore quiet and peaceful.

Piazza Signoria
With the Palazzo Vecchio, the Gucci Museum, the Uffizi and other “must-see” spots anchoring this piazza, it’s a visual feast for visitors. With the open-air sculpture loggia, David replica and huge fountain, tourists will find this one of the most photo-friendly spots in the city.


Flower Market, Piazza della Repubblica
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.

San Lorenzo Market
In the area around San Lorenzo is a street market boasting a huge selection of leather goods. Be picky, as the quality definitely varies from vendor to vendor, as do the prices. Don’t be afraid to haggle! Personally, I prefer to buy bigger ticket items — such as leather coats — from smaller, more reputable shops, but the market is great for smaller gifts and items.

Mercato Centrale
Via dell’Ariento 87r – A huge indoor market full of Italian meats, cheeses, spices, fruits and veggies, including imported fare too. In addition to locals doing their daily grocery shopping, it’s a great place to pick up a made-to-order lunch plate.

Restaurants + Cafés:

La Rinascente Rooftop Café
Piazza della Repubblica 3-5 – A little expensive, sure, but the view from the top of La Rinascente (a popular department store) is not to be missed, particularly on a beautiful spring or summer day.

Cucciolo Bar & Pasticceria
Via Corso 25r – Smack in the middle of the historic center and only a minute from the Duomo, this cute little café is the perfect place to get a quick drink and a bite to eat. Unlike many cafés in this part of town, the prices are fair. The bar serves famous Bomboloni (doughnut/krapfen style fried sweets).

La Cantinetta di Dante e Beatrice
Via del Corso 27/R – Another good lunch option if you find yourself hungry in the city center. It’s run by a warm and friendly family. It’s all good, but the daily specials are often great.

Via de’Bardi 58 – Its location near the Ponte Vecchio means it can be full of tourists during the busy season, but you can’t beat the views — or the live jazz that starts after 9pm. To hang with locals, make a reservation for after 9 or 9:30.

Pitti Gola
Piazza dei Pitti 16 – Sip wine al fresco at this small but exceptional wine bar in one of the city’s most beautiful piazzas. Wine connoisseurs will appreciate the owners’ love of unique and special wines, and wine newbies will find the staff knowledgeable about what’s best to try.


Georgette is a social media consultant and girl-about-town with a passion for food, travel and discovering her adopted country one glass of wine at a time. On her blog, Girl in Florence, Georgette finds, shares and often translates into English details about events, festivals and must-see spots in Florence.

For the social butterfly, no trip to Italy is complete without rubbing elbows with the locals. Armed with a sense of humor, a dose of patience and perhaps a few proseccos, Italy can be your temporary adopted home and hopefully you can make a few friends along the way.


Museo Salvatore Ferragamo
Palazzo Spini Feroni, Via Tornabuoni 2 – The name says it all. An entire museum dedicated to the fashion genius of Salvatore Ferragamo. In addition to a permanent exhibit, they often feature special collections and installations. This is a must-see for fashion-lovers.

Gucci Museum
Piazza Signoria, 10 – A new museum by Florentine standards, opened in 2011. Florentines are very proud {rightfully so} 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. 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 Italian fashion.


The Rose Garden
Viale Poggi 2 – Constructed in the 1800s when Florence was the capital of the Italian republic.  Devoted to roses, this is one welcome refuge on your way to Piazzale Michelangelo. The Rose Garden is one of my personal favorite places to check out the view of Florence. The best time go to is May, when all of the flowers are in full bloom. Don’t miss the Japanese section in one hidden corner – this place is made for picnics!

Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella
Via della Scala 16 – One of the oldest pharmacies in the world, 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 – the decor is anything but ordinary. You can pick up presents such as scented soaps, honeys, liquors and the most famous product – their Rose Tonic.

Loggia dei Lanzi
Located in Piazza della Signoria next to the Uffizi museum, this is the best place to people-watch. This open-air sculpture gallery is where you can check out Perseus by Cellini, showing the hero holding Medusa’s head, and the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna. As a popular place for artists to congregate, you will likely spot local students sketching inside the Loggia, or those just meeting friends in front of Medusa.


Santo Spirito Organic Market
Back in the trendy artisan quarter of Santo Spirito, every third Sunday of the month, Piazza Santo Spirito hosts organic producers from all over Italy. Pick up spices from Chianti, special soaps and oils and don’t forget to stop by trendy Volume café for a caffè afterwards!

Santo Spirito Antique Market
Every second Sunday of the month the piazza transforms into a haven for lovers of antiques. People come from far and wide to browse through the old furniture and trinkets. This is a must-see for those looking for unique pieces for their apartment. 9am-1pm.

Restaurants + Cafés:

Rex Caffè
Via Fiesolana 25/r – This would be better described as an aperitivo or pre-dinner drinks bar than a typical café. Very trendy among hip locals and those looking for a unique place to get a good drink, it’s a bohemian dream. I recommend going earlier rather than later to avoid the crowds!

Touch Florence
Via Fiesolana 18 – Pretty much in front of Rex, mentioned above, this new restaurant is the place to dine if you want NYC-bistro-meets-Tuscan-cuisine innovation. Food is ordered using an iPad (tasting menus are available and recommended) and the food is seasonal and creative. It’s not the cheapest option on the block–factor in around 30 euro a person.

Trattoria Cibreo
Via de’ Macci 122r – Located in the Sant’Ambrogio area of Florence, this place is famous among lovers of good food who don’t mind dining in Cibreo’s less pretentious sister restaurant. They don’t take reservations for this tiny space and you might have to wait for a table, but the quality of the food and price will be well worth it.

Teatro del Sale
Via dei Macci 111r – Owned by the same proprietor as Cibreo, this place is considered more a dining ‘event’ than just your average restaurant. You have to sign up for a membership (an affordable 7 euros for one ‘season’ ) so you can then be entertained before digging into what will surely be a scrumptious buffet.

Via del Corso 50R – For those looking to emulate local style, this store has all of the textures and colors that locals love. Comfortable-meets-classy. Think sheath dresses and cool belts. This place has awesome sales and you can find several locations dotted around town.

Francesco da Firenze
Via Santo Spirito 6R – Handicraft sandals and shoes made to order in the heart of the Oltrarno ‘other side of the river.’ This is the place to get your leather sandals made. They size them to your feet and you can pick from a variety of colors and textures.

Il Rifrullo
Via San Niccolò 53 – Perfect for a before- or after-dinner drink along with a scrumptious buffet for an affordable price. Mingle with friends in a cool, comfortable bar in one of Florence’s hottest districts – San Niccolo.


Michelle is a writer, art historian, blogger and translator who has called Florence home for over ten years. On Maple Leaf Mamma she blogs about the adventures and challenges of navigating motherhood and feminism in the traditional, macho country that is Italy. Florence is where art and history lovers come to die; an open-air museum where every cobblestone is well-worn by centuries of illustrious protagonists.

This section is for those ultra-cultured types who wish to scratch the surface and find lesser-known jewels, both ancient and contemporary, amid this Renaissance crown. These are some personal favorites and therefore should by no means be taken as an exhaustive list.


The Magi Chapel in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi
Via Camillo Cavour, 3 – This little jewelry box of a room is a lushly decorated private Renaissance chapel on the second floor of the original 15th-century residence of the powerful Medici family (later bought by the Riccardi family) designed by Michelozzo. Benozzo Gozzoli made his name with this richly detailed fresco cycle that feels like a tapestry in paint, wrapping around the entire space. When you step inside this self-contained world see if you can pick out the especially naturalistic faces representing portraits of famous Florentines.

San Marco
Piazza San Marco, 3 – This convent-turned-museum was once the headquarters of fiery 15th-century Dominican preacher and Bonfire-of-the-Vanities instigator Girolamo Savonarola, whose cell is open to visitors and includes the whip he used to flagellate himself daily. Contrast this gruesome image with the unimaginable calm that reigned supreme in the surrounding individual cells of his fellow monks, each with his own private Renaissance fresco mimicking the actual windows of the building to visually aid spiritual contemplation.

Strozzina Centre for Contemporary Culture
Piazza degli Strozzi – In a city that typically lacks concerted didactic effort when it comes to its museums, the Strozzina’s regular contemporary art exhibits are a breath of fresh air. The museum’s curators cater to everyone from the amateur to the aficionado with their helpful, accessibly written labels—a boon to anyone who’s ever felt alienated by abstract or conceptual art. They even offer free entrance on Thursday evenings.


The Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine
Piazza del Carmine – Masaccio’s gut-wrenching image of Eve being banished from paradise on the left-hand side of this chapel’s entry arch will remain branded on your memory long after you’ve gone. While admiring the gorgeous, vividly colored Renaissance fresco cycle decorating the space, imagine a precocious Michelangelo here getting his nose broken over some youthful bravado (“I could do that”) while assiduously studying technical achievements that changed the course of Western painting.

The Capponi Chapel in the Church of Santa Felicita
Piazza di Santa Felicita, 3 – Pontormo was arguably the star of the radical 16th-century art movement known as Mannerism, which turned the classical ideals of Renaissance painting on their head. And the main altarpiece that Pontormo painted inside this chapel, whose subject is debated precisely because of its psychedelic style—Entombment? Deposition? Pietà?—is the exemplar of the movement.

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.

Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo
Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini, 6. Yes there are actually two private chapels commissioned by the Medici on my shortlist. This banking family’s name is impossible to ignore considering their role in creating the reason tourists will always flock to Florence. In typical fashion, Michelangelo never finished decorating this enigmatic funeral chapel entombing four Medici family members. I personally believe the still-missing river gods (whose design you can see at the Casa Buonarroti) represent the rivers of paradise.


Via dei Vagellai, 18 – Escape the crowds and soothe your Stendhal syndrome in this lovely contemporary art bookstore/restaurant tucked on a side street behind the Uffizi. Brac’s unassuming exterior belies the smart-person oasis inside, with book-lined walls and plant-filled back courtyard. You don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate the delicious organic dishes, which feature exotic twists on traditional Italian fare.

Via Borgognissanti 140r – Serving classical Tuscan cuisine, including delicious pappa al pomodoro and some of the best bistecca alla fiorentina around, this warm and inviting trattoria is a regular haunt for stars of the nearby opera house. In fact, the walls are covered with their autographed photos along with lovely paintings by local artist Luca Rafanelli.


Le Giubbe Rosse
Piazza della Repubblica, 13/14r – Think you can’t afford a cup of coffee in a fancy café in a major Florentine piazza? Think again. All you need to do is act like a local and drink it standing up, at the bar, and it’ll cost you the same as anywhere else. This counter-intuitive Italian practice may be traced back to Mussolini, who apparently outlawed sitting in cafés to prevent people from forming revolutions. He might have even been referring specifically to the Futurists, that rebellious band of modern artists who drafted their manifesto around tables at this very venue, named after the red coats donned by the wait-staff.

La Cité
Borgo San Frediano, 20 – The French name of this library/café in the San Frediano neighborhood is apt, since it feels like something straight out of the Left Bank in Paris; a bobo sanctuary where Macbooks share space with spoken-word poets. It’s also great for families with its children’s corner, soft couches and cozy, informal atmosphere.


Rooftop Wine Bar of Hotel Torre Guelfa
Borgo Santi Apostoli, 8 – Located atop a medieval family house tower, this delightfully intimate wine bar is the perfect way to hit three Florentine birds with one stone: history, wine and beauty. Walk in the footsteps of noble family members escaping their arch rivals, Romeo-and-Juliet-style, as you make your way up the narrow stairs to the top. Toast to far less violent times with yummy local wine against a gorgeous backdrop, and imagine how different this skyline must have looked during the dark ages when it was dotted with as many as 200 of these tall, defensively-built homes.

Art Bar
Via del Moro, 4 – Anyone will tell you the best thing about this tiny, relaxed cocktail bar is the mound of fruit they serve with their drinks. They’re also generous with their accompanying salty snacks. Return customers are rewarded with constantly changing art exhibits on the walls.


Leonardo Sarubbi
Sdrucciolo dei Pitti, 11r –  A handmade fine art print makes one of the best mementoes of Florence, especially when it comes from a workshop in the heart of the city’s artisan district, the Oltrarno, where craftspeople have been practicing their trades for centuries. The Sarubbi family has been making their exquisite antique-style lithographs using cotton paper and aluminum plates here since 1968. Behind the name is also the story of a scrappy single working mom, Viviana (Leonardo’s mom), who refused to let her business die with her late husband.

B&M Books and Fine Art
Borgo Ognissanti 4r – This charming little bookstore has been serving Florence’s Anglo community since 1961 and was recently bought and tastefully renovated by Swedish writer and photographer John Werich. Regular art exhibits combine with gorgeous coffee-table tomes and Turkish rugs to make you feel like you’ve just stepped into the living room of a tony art historian. Link:

Florence, photo by Birgitte Bronstedphoto by Birgitte Bronsted


Emilia has lived and worked all around the world in her career with the United Nations (she and her husband met in Kabul). She recently returned to her native Florence to launch Family Nation, an online storefront for parents who appreciate style, substance and responsibly-sourced products for their families.

Rediscovering Florence after several years living abroad was a pleasure full of surprises. Not only can I better appreciate the beautiful sights and proportions of my hometown, but I found many new exciting places to discover and explore, both individually and with my family and kids. Here are my favorite old classics and new entries.

Bars and Restaurants:

Quelo Bar
Borgo Santa Croce 1-31 – Just off Piazza Santa Croce is this little gem of a bar run by Katia, Claudia and Francesca, three native Florentines who recently set up their own joint after managing other bars in Florence. The Quelo girls serve up refreshing fruit shakes and juices, crostoni and meat/cheese platters (at lunch or dinner) and zesty cocktails by night, many of which are themed on fresh seasonal ingredients. Go twice and the returning clientele will start treating you like you are one of them!

Circolo Aurora
Piazza Tasso – Hosted in a tower of the old city walls, il Circolo Aurora has been up and running since the last world war, first as a local café, then as a very local ‘sports club.’ Recently, it has taken on a whole new life with concerts and other events particularly in the summer, when it opens an outdoors area. Organic and local food is served at lunch and dinner. Exact address: V.le Vasco Pratolini, 2 and the corner of Piazza Tasso.

Caffetteria delle Oblate
Via dell’Oriuolo, 26 – The café on top of the Biblioteca delle Oblate has the best views over the Duomo, and there is something magical about eating on top of a public library located in an old cloister! Particularly pleasant on warmer days when you can eat or have a coffee on the terrace. Also great for families with kids as they can run around and take a break in the children’s section of the library. Look out for concerts and events during the summer.

ZEB Gastronomia
Via San Miniato, 2r – ZEB is run by a mother-and-son team who cook simple and perfect Italian/Florentine fare from high-quality ingredients. Modeled after a grocery store, the place is very simple and seating is at a bar overlooking the food options available that day. You can also buy wine, oil, jams, preserves and other delicacies. Perfect for lunch (every day) or a light dinner (on Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Closed on Wednesdays.

Fast Food, Florence-style.
Piazza San Ambrogio (near the market) and Piazza Dei Cimatori (near Dante’s house) –  Florentines don’t like excessive comforts and on most days prefer the frugality of a sandwich and a glass of wine consumed standing up to a lavish lunch. The traditional Florentine ‘fast food’ option is not for the faint of heart: cooked beef tripe (trippa) and intestines (lampredotto) served in a bread roll with a spicy sauce and/or herbed salsa verde. If you have the stomach for it, you can join the crowd of suited lawyers, constructions workers and students mixing at the stalls.

I Fratellini
Via dei Cimatori 38 – For a less adventurous option try a panino (sandwich in a round roll, untoasted, usually filled with cured meats, cheese, sauces etc. — there are lots of lovely options) at this literal ‘hole in the wall.’

Pizzeria del Caffé Italiano
Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 11r. A very small and simple pizza place without clear signposting (it’s tacked onto the Osteria del Caffé Italiano) and serving delicious, genuine Naples-style pizza. Better to get there early (before 8:30 pm) to avoid waiting in the queue (you can’t reserve). The pizza dough is slightly thicker than in many other establishments with a crispy crust, and the sauce and mozzarella are top notch. The menu is limited to the traditional pizza varieties: Margherita (tomato and mozzarella di bufala), Marinara (tomato, oregano and garlic) and Napoli (tomato, mozzarella di bufala, capers and anchovies). If the Tiramisu is available, don’t miss it!

Sweets and Ice Cream:

Dolci di Patrizio Cosi
Borgo degli Albizi, 15r – Few establishments can claim to be as popular with Florentines as Patrizio Cosi, the pasticceria and café. Lovely pastries and coffee in a low-key environment, perfect for an Italian-style breakfast or a snack. Also famous for its ultra-rich and flavorful dark chocolate pie.

Gelateria Vivoli
Via dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7r – YES this is in all the guides, but for good reason, and it remains a favorite of Florentines. The ice cream is made from seasonal ingredients and no other place works their magic with fruit in quite the same way (including pear, quince, and persimmon in the autumn). Try the ‘rice’ flavor or my personal favorite ‘Festina Lente’ (Latin for ‘hurry slowly’–basically take things one step at the time), a slightly eggy vanilla infused with fresh ginger.

Viale Del Mille, 20r – If you can be dragged outside the walled city center, a few very nice surprises await you. The Badiani ice cream shop, located in the residential Campo di Marte area, is very famous in Florence. Packed full on a summer evening. Their most famous ice cream is Buontalenti, created in honor of the Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti. A cross between cream and custard, its richness and body make it irresistable.


Via Dell’Oriuolo 27r – Paola Ermini is a Florentine designer whose flattering draped jersey numbers (dresses, trousers, skirts and jumpsuits) have been a staple with the women of Florence for several years now. Affordable yet unique clothing set out in a lovely shop near the Duomo. Staff is also genuinely nice and helpful.

I Falsi Gioielli
This shop, whose name translates into ‘fake jewels,’ sells handmade custom jewelry in two very central locations (Via de Ginori 34r and Via dei Tavolini 5r). Charm bracelets adorned with suits of cards, mega ‘pearls’ strung with straw, ‘mod’ style perspex cuffs and hair clips or ‘barrettes’ (my personal favorite) are just some of the treasures you’ll find in these two fun shops founded by a local designer. Even the gift wrapping is artistic!

La Fenice
Via Santa Reparata, 8B – Classical and jazz music buffs check out this shop, which offers carefully selected editions in a very supportive and warm environment. A family run store tucked away on a small road in the center that is surviving the mp3 era thanks to the expertise and friendliness of its staff and the charm of the overall experience.


Piazza dei Ciompi
The area around Piazza dei Ciompi hosts a permanent flea market but on the fourth Sunday of every month the area around the square and the neighboring roads also fill with stalls selling antiques and ‘flea’ items including vintage clothing and accessories, book, records, furniture and art.

Mercato delle Cascine
Every Tuesday morning a large number of Florentines go to shop at this market situated along the Arno river in the Cascine park, the biggest park in town. Its numerous stalls attract both down-to-earth and well-heeled Florentines with its offering of cheap and cheerful clothing and the potential of a great vintage find.


Palazzo Vecchio Family Museum
This museum, housed inside Florence’s town hall, offers great tours for families. You can rent a kit in the shape of a backpack filled with activities to do with kids and book a special themed tour (in English) of the palace with explanations on life in the Renaissance. You can also combine the tour with celebrating a kid’s birthday. Our kids and their friends loved it.


If you want to take in the magic of Florence’s landscape away from the crowds, hop on a bus to get to one of the surrounding hillside villages. I would forego Fiesole for the lesser-known Settignano, which is closer to town with a better view and few tourists. Hop on bus number 10 and get off at the last stop. Walk down to Piazza Desiderio, the piazza panoramica named after Renaissance sculptor Desiderio da Settignano. Take in the view then walk back up and through the main village square, turn onto Via Del Rossellino and walk to Villa Gamberaia. Visit the gardens (by appointment) or just take in the view, then walk back to the main square and treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Enoteca la Sosta del Rossellino, which serves the best Italian wines by the glass or the bottle, platters of cheese and full-scale dinners in a small and cosy environment (it used to be an alimentari shop).


Birgitte is a Danish expat blogger, photographer and translator living in Florence with her two-year-old daughter. Birgitte calls herself a city explorer and on her photography blog, A DUSTY OLIVE GREEN, she  shares her favorite places in the three cities that have captured her heart, and where she has lived most of her life: Copenhagen, Florence and Rome.

Florence has so much to offer in terms of photography, but the secret is to find the less ordinary, more (even for Italians) authentic places. Here are some of my favorite places in terms of photography (but not only).


Aria Art Gallery
Borgo SS Apostoli 40r – Located inside a small courtyard and surrounded by green palm trees, beautiful plants and a little fountain, this is probably the most charming art gallery in Florence. The place hosts art and photo exhibitions, and entrance is free.

Fratelli Alinari
Largo Fratelli Alinari 15 – The world’s oldest museum of photography is situated in Florence. A must see for all photo enthusiasts. A permanent exhibition tells the story of photography and the museum hosts changing exhibitions with contemporary photographers.


Early morning in Florence, Arno and Oltrarno
Ponte Vecchio/Piazza della Passera/Piazza Santo Spirito – When visiting Florence it’s worth the effort to wake up early and go for a walk in the streets, before the Florentines start heading out for work and the tourists invade the city. This is the absolute best time for taking photos. Streets and piazzas are empty of people and sellers, the light is perfect and the silence makes you feel like the city belongs only to you. Walk along the Arno, cross one of the bridges and explore the little streets in the Oltrarno area. Don’t forget to visit Piazza della Passera and Piazza Santo Spirito, which are two of the most beautiful squares in Florence.

The Botanical Garden
Via Pier Antonio Micheli 3 – The botanical garden in Florence is a perfect little oasis when you need to get away from the city and be around nature. Big greenhouses are filled with palms and other beautiful plants and the gardens include cherry, lemon and orange trees, a fountain and a few lazy cats.

Giardino dell’Orticoltura
Via Bolognese 17 – A lovely park with a gigantic empty, but still beautiful, greenhouse. This park is especially worth a visit during summer when the outdoor café is open and you can enjoy a smoothie, an ice cream or even a dish of pasta, while relaxing in the shade. The park is located just a little outside the center, and it also has a great playground for kids.

San Niccolò
Piazza San Niccolò, Via San Niccolò, Via dell’Erta Canina – This charming and very photogenic area is located on the Oltrarno side of the river. Small cozy streets, a lovely piazza and lots of restaurants and enoteche (wine bars). Don’t forget to pass through the ancient city wall, head up the hills and go for a walk along the beautiful Via dell’Erta Canina, which will lead you up to the lovely park and playground called Giardino della Carraia.


Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio
Piazza Ghiberti – This is without a doubt the most authentic and colorful food market in Florence, located in one of the most charming areas of the center, Sant’Ambrogio. Vegetables and fruits of all colors are waiting for you to be eaten (or just photographed).

Flea market at Fortezza da Basso
Giardino della Fortezza da Basso – Every third weekend of the month sellers put up their tables around the artificial lake near Fortezza da Basso to sell all kinds of things. Here you can find old books, postcards, watches, cameras, bird cages, furniture, clothes and much more. It’s great fun to look at, and it’s easy to find something special to bring back home. Definitely one of the best markets in Florence.

Restaurants + Cafes:

5 e Cinque
Piazza della Passera 1 – This little restaurant serves organic, mostly vegetarian food. The interior is gorgeous with lots of pastels and old black-and-white photos of Florence on the walls. There is a very relaxed atmosphere, service is great and prices are fair. Don’t miss out on the specialty of the place, the cecina, a kind of fried crepe made with chickpea flour that can be eaten as is or with different fillings.

Il Santo Bevitore
Via Santo Spirito 66r  – This place is a classic, cosy, romantic Italian restaurant with a modern twist with delicious, beautifully presented food and fabulous wine.  At Il Santo Bevitore you get it all without costing you a fortune.

Caffè degli Artigiani
Via dello Sprone 16r/Piazza della Passera – This cozy little café with its bohemian atmosphere is one of those places where you feel like sitting in a corner for hours to write in your Moleskine, or where you wish you were a regular on a first-name basis with all the staff. The café is situated in the beautiful Piazza della Passera, and when the weather allows it, you should choose a table outside.

Caffè Letterario
Piazza delle Murate – Caffè Letterario is located within the former prison of Le Murate, which was closed down years ago and later redesigned by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The area is a great example of new Italian architecture and really worth a visit. The café is found in the middle of the big courtyard. Here you can have a great time on warm summer nights, grab a cup of coffee or enjoy some of the many cultural events that the place offers.


Via de’ Conti 4r – ub is a fun and beautiful shop selling and restoring vintage objects and furniture from the 50s, 60s and 70s. But that’s not all. In the back of the shop you are met by an impressive sight: hundreds (thousands?) of rolls of old carta da parati (wallpaper) covering the walls from floor to ceiling. In fact, this used to be an old Florentine wallpaper shop, and if you look up to the right you can see the old sign from the shop with the words carta da parati. If the door is open, then remember to peek into the charming courtyard, which belongs to the shop.

Boutique Nadine
Via de’ Benci 32r – Boutique Nadine is a concept store selling a mix of new designs, vintage clothes, jewelry and other objects such as notebooks etc. The interior is amazing with beautiful wooden floors and white ceiling beams. The objects are placed on old vintage tables and in beautiful china cabinets. A perfect little universe.  +39 055 2478274 / Lungarno Acciaiuoli 22r. T.


Via Lambertesca 18r – A beautiful minimalistic place selling delicious homemade ice cream made only from the ingredients of the season. Try some of the more special flavors such as extra virgin olive oil, beer, wine, Campari, and…cheese! It sounds crazy, but it’s not. Among the fruit flavors are fig, melon and kiwi. Besides selling ice cream, Carapina also offers delicious cookies, chocolate and other goodies.

Dolcissima Firenze
Via Maggio 61/R – An amazing experience awaits you as soon as you enter this shop. The bell welcomes you with a pleasant sound, and you feel like you’ve entered another world. White and gold are the dominating colors, the place is elegant, and the delicacies are lined up in the beautiful glass montrés, which are full of cakes, sweets and chocolate. Everything is homemade, and you can enjoy your sweets in the shop or bring them home with you.

Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni, Via Tornabuoni 1
Florence View B&B, Piazza di San Giovanni, 2
Hotel Savoy, Piazza della Repubblica, 7
Hotel Paris, Via dei Banchi, 2
Hotel Santa Maria Novella, Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 1
Hotel Helvetia & Bristol, Via de’Pescioni 2
Strozzi Palace Hotel – Via dei Vecchietti 4
Villa Landucci Bed & Breakfast, Via Landucci 7
Hotel Dante, Via San Cristofano 2
Plaza Hotel Lucchesi, Lugarno della Zecca Vecchia 38
Home in Florence, Via Santa Maria 21
Pucci Suites, Via Romana 61
Giglio Bianco, Via Romana 28
Palazzo Guadagni, Piazza Santo Spirito 9
B&B Bonsignori, via Maggio, 19
Hotel Davanzati, Via Porta Rossa, 5R
Hotel Brunelleschi, Piazza Sant’Elisabetta, 3


A short note of advice about addresses — in person and online —  in Florence…
In the center of Florence, the numbers on residences and businesses can be quite confusing. You will see both “red” and black numbers. Sometimes there is an “r” added after the red numbers and/or the number itself is red. So, what’s the difference between red and black? The general consensus is that private residences, some offices and hotels are typically numbered in black. Businesses, such as restaurants, stores and bigger offices, are usually numbered in red. Ready to be even more confused? The numbers don’t always go in numerical order — either as a group or independently by color.

When it comes to websites, many businesses in Italy still don’t have them. Don’t assume because a business doesn’t have a website that it’s not worth visiting. You can typically check out TripAdvisor or Yelp to get the inside scoop on places still without a home on the web.

Art Lovers
If you are a diehard fan of art, we highly suggest checking out the Tuscany Arts Blog before you visit. From events and exhibits large and small, this blog never misses a thing. Plus, they cover all of Tuscany, which means you might find the perfect excuse for a daytrip to a smaller town in the countryside!

The most important thing to know about restaurants in Italy is that each one has but a handful of dishes (sometimes just one or two) that are considered “house specialties.” Whether you visit one of our favorites listed above or venture out on your own, be sure to ask about the “house specialty” to experience the restaurant at its finest.

Interior Design
This city is ripe with furniture, antique and interior-design shops. Two streets in Florence stand out as places to browse and window-shop — Via Maggio in the Oltrarno area and Via dei Fossi on the edge of the historic center near Santa Maria Novella. On both of these streets you’ll find stores full of furniture and accessories from every design era between the 1700’s and today. What’s more, the store windows are nothing short of art installations — prepare to be wowed.

  1. Sara says:

    Great guide! Thank you Kate. I know This was written a couple of years ago, so I’m a little late to the conversation but unfortunately there are a few places on this list that have since closed. :( such as Pitti vintage and officina vintage and there are a couple of other places as well. I know it’s a lot of work putting this together so great job. I’ve lived in Florence for 13 years now and I discovered some new places from this little guide!

  2. I would just add another restaurant to the list – La Maremma close to Santa Croce. I always eat there when I’m in Florence and the food is fabulous. I ate there last month, and it didn’t disappoint.

  3. ~Heather says:

    I’d love to find out more clothing shops that are stylish and affordable.

  4. I am so happy to have had the chance to contribute to this awesome blog post. Florence is one of the best cities in the world and I am so very proud to call it my home!

  5. Hannah says:

    I thought I was a pro on Florence but am learning so much reading this! If you’re a penny pincher like me check out http://www.florenceforfree.wordpress.com for tackling the city on a budget.

  6. Angela says:

    Thank you for “If you want to get a great photo of the Ponte Vecchio, walk down to Ponte Santa Trinita and snap away”. Although it’s great fun to wander around and find one’s own look at things there are certain iconic images I always hope to shoot while traveling and it’s nice to have someone point me in the right direction.

  7. I loved making this guide together with the other girls, and I really hope you will find it useful. Ciao from Florence, Birgitte Brøndsted (The photographer :-))

  8. Michelle says:

    I too feel blessed to live here and really enjoyed sharing my favourite things to see and do in this wonderful city.

  9. Anthony says:

    “the whole of the elegant and little street of Via Santo Spirito for shopping and dining (Quelle 3, Aprosio & Co, Studio Puck, Il Santino)”

    Aprosio & Co. has since moved to Via della Spade! Lots of new and interesting shops on that tiny street.

  10. Gina says:

    I’ve been following Kate’s blog for a couple of years now and started when I was going through the process of getting dual citizenship. Your collaboration is perfect with this guide because I’m returning to Italy in October with a friend and while I may want to explore taking photos she may want to see more museums and this guide will be so helpful! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  11. Gregory says:

    Great site for planning my return to Florence. It has been 10 years. My wife and I purchased a piece of art by Giovanna Calzolari at her and her mother Ida’s gallery located at 16 Via Dè Guicciardini. Can anyone tell me if it still exists? I can’t find a website or any current listings for the gallery.

  12. Ted Jones says:

    Congratulations and thank you! So comprehensive I hesitate to mention my favourite resto on the assumption I must have missed it – but it’s La Birraria on Via Cimitero. Brava.

  13. Donna S says:

    Will be there in about 4 weeks. Thank you for such good info. First trip & so excited!!

  14. Hannah says:

    such a perfectly balanced picture of florence ladies! if you’re planning a stay in florence and looking for the perfect neighborhood that will fit your travel style, check out a break down here to get you started on your travel plans. I’m sure after reading what these ladies had to share about this great city you’re dying to go! http://www.travelsages.com/2013/11/15/florence-by-neighborhood/

  15. Natalie R says:

    This guide is fantastic. Does anyone know of a similar guide for Venice? Planning a trip to Florence and Venice and this guide takes care of most of my planning for Florence, but now I need insider info on Venice. Any tips?

  16. Audrey says:

    This is really cool. Thank you. I’ll be going to Italy this summer, and there’s a good chance that my family and I will stop by Florence sometime. I’m interested in the history there, especially regarding the Italian Renaissance. Do you know of any ancient places in Italy? I might just visit Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. That sounds great!I do have one concern, however. Does anyone know if the language and cultural gap would be much of an issue?


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