As a New Yorker, it’s fairly easy to navigate most any other city to which you travel. London, Rome and Paris are on most travelers must-go lists but I personally prefer the scale and intimacy of smaller cities like Florence.
Part of my affection for Florence may stem from the fact that the city is built on an ideology of great design and creativity. Florence is the founding city of couture. It has wonderful food and walking the streets never gets boring.
I was fortunate to be able to travel to Florence, this year, for the third year in a row. After several requests, I am now listing my favorite places to stay, eat and shop while visiting Firenze. I’ve also added an assortment of personal pictures in the jump. I hope to continue sharing travel experiences and recommendations. Feel free to add your personal favorites in the comment section. XXoo– Lila
Where to STAY:
I have found that my fashion style translates to many other aspects of life, including travel. Certain hotels resonate the same way a great pair of shoes knaws at the soul. JK Place and Portrait Firenze are two properties that are different in texture but the experiences are similar. Staying at both hotels I as exciting as buying your first Chanel bag. The resemblance may lie in the fact that the famous Italian architect and interior designer, Michele Bönan, was the mastermind behind both properties.
Both hotels are rather small and the lobbies are quite untraditional. In place of a step-up registration counter, the hotel staff greets you at the door and essentially welcomes you into a lounge area that’s set up like a chicly designed living room.
Portrait Firenze is owned by the Ferragamo family and *I think* it’s safe to assume the the family was very involved with every detail of this property. You can easily imagine Massimo Ferragamo rolling up to the hotel and his family comfortably spreading out across the rooms and public spaces. The rooms are spacious and the finishings perfectly balance tradition and modernity.
The JK Place is equally as wonderful but has a more feminine touch. There are lots of light white interiors and common spaces to amplify your hotel room accommodations. Breakfast is served daily in a large dining room setting with fresh juices and delicious fresh fruits. The cappuccino is particularly outstanding.
You can’t go wrong with either of these hotels. We suggest going with whichever has space. Both hotels are on the small side and they tend to fill up quickly with stylish travelers.
Where to EAT:
I never go to Florence and miss a meal at Trattoria 4 Leoni. My favorite dish is the Fioccetti de Pera in salsa di taleggio e asparagi. It’s essentially a dumpling filled with pear and parmesan cream joined by a bit of assparigus. It melts in your mouth. Make sure to order your own. You’re not going to want to give up even one bite.
I usually make an effort to avoid tourists– even in New York. There is seldom an occasion where I would purposely subject myself to crowds and subpar service. Trattoria Za Za is the unicorn of touristy restaurants. It is smack in the middle of the busy Piazza del Mercato and draws crowds from all over the world. The thing is that Za Za is so good that even locals will tolerate the fannie-pack crowds.
After four days in Florence, you can easily tire of the traditional pasta and trattoria fare. Il Santo Bevitore takes a traditional Florintian food and adds a modern twist. The space is simple but elegant and is buzzing seven nights a week. Reservations are a must (unless your hotel concierge has major pull). All the produce is sourced from local green markets and the menu changes seasonally. Save room for dessert, because you would be horribly remiss to pass on the cinnamon crème brûlée. It’s one of those dishes you will dream about far after you leave Italy.
Where to SHOP:
For fabulous room fragrances, head to the Antica Officina del Farmacista where Dr. Paolo Vranjes works his magic producing perfume essences inspired by Florence’s long, rich history. We fell in love with these fragrances after a stay at JK Place where the room defusers are strategically placed to surprise you fragrant pleasure.
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is the world’s oldest pharmacy and it’s hidden in a rather unassuming entrance but it is a treasure. Once inside you will feel like you’re in a palace surrounded by the world’s most wonderful elixiors and fragrances. The prices are moderate and the experience is priceless.
Museum gift shops are always the best part of looking at great art. All the more so at the Gucci Museo, in Florence. Put aside 30 to 40 minutes to appreciate the archives from one of fashion’s most illustrious brands. Afterwards you can sit in the fabulously chic cafe and shop limited edition items and rare fashion books.
It would be painful to go to Florence and not take an afternoon to go to the Prada Outlet. The trip is a 40-minute train ride from the center of Florence and then a 10 euro cab ride to the designer’s factory and outlet. (Make sure to get your taxi driver’s card so that you can call him to pick you up once your done shopping.) Inside you will find past season merchandise and samples reduced 30% to 90% off retail. The bags and leather goods are usually the least discounted. Shoes can be found for as little as $100 and if you’re lucky you can find a few skirts for about $50. You can click here to read a full report from one of my past trips to the Prada outlet.
|Cappuccino at JK Place
|Truffle pasta at Za Za
|Breakfast at JK Place
|Yes, Cappuccino at JK Place
|Cappuccino and macaroons at Portrait Firenze
|Drinks at JK Place
|Drinks and the mixologist at JK Place