Concierge Recommendations

Florence, Italy

Aug 2, 2012
Florence Skyline and Arno River at Sunset, Italy
One of the most scenic times to stroll along Florence's historic Ponte Vecchio is at sunset.
Photography Thinkstock

Florence, often celebrated for the many artistic treasures that remain from the Italian Renaissance, continues to thrive as a vibrant centre for the arts, music, fashion, winemaking and traditional crafts. To make your stay in this romantic Italian city even more memorable, we asked Chef Concierge Paul Lydka at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze to share his top travel tips—from handmade crafts and designer shopping to Tuscan wineries and savoury Italian cuisine.

Florence fashion

It may not rival Milan in terms of resident design houses, but Florence lives and breathes fashion nonetheless. And Via de’ Tornabuoni, located just 2 km (1.2 miles) from the Hotel, is a virtual alphabet of high-end Italian designers, from Armani, Bulgari and Cavalli all the way to Ermenegildo Zegna. You’ll also find Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a shoe collector’s heaven, with more than 10,000 pairs in its archives. Or visit Galleria del Costume in the Pitti Palace’s Palazzina della Meridiana to marvel at centuries worth of fashion history, before taking a stroll through the adjacent Boboli Gardens.

The Gucci Museum is another must for fashion lovers. See original designs from throughout the years on display—from clothing to shoes, bags to crockery and cutlery, saddles and even a Gucci Cadillac. Be sure to stop by the gift shop to browse a collection of items available only at the museum, and pick up an exclusive Gucci accessory to take home.

Culinary experiences in Florence

From the internationally famous Chianti wine and the local olive oil production, to the numerous types of pecorino cheeses, Tuscan proscuitto, and exquisite seasonal white and black truffles, there is something for every taste in Florence’s San Lorenzo Market. The inside of the emblematic building—known as Mercato Centrale—hosts two floors of market stands with the most unusual local ingredients, making this a paradise for food lovers. Arrive before midday, walk the corridors and have lunch in one of the trattorias. Afterward, browse the outdoor area of the market for authentic leather goods and souvenirs.

Perfume ateliers of Florence

Established in 1612 by Dominican friars, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is best known as a luxury perfume brand. In fact, you’ll find a range of bespoke products at the Hotel Spa produced especially for Four Seasons. Most of its collection—perfumes, creams, powders, etc.—is still made according to the friars’ original methods. Find your new scent at the original workshop on Via della Scala. Beyond the shop is a little museum (visits by appointment) that contains apothecary’s bottles—some of which, it is said, were designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The Hotel’s guest rooms are stocked with toiletries by Florence’s other great perfumer, Lorenzo Villoresi, whose similarly atmospheric atelier can also be visited by appointment.

Nearby Tuscan wineries

Tuscan wines are justly revered, and given how crowded and hot the city can sometimes seem, a tour of the region’s vineyards is a great excuse for a day in the countryside. (Room service can rustle up a picnic.) Among those most worth visiting: Badia a Passignano, not least for its sublime setting; Castello di VerrazzanoCastello di Fonterutoli; Capannelle; and Casa Emma. There is also a very good organic vineyard located just 15 km (9.3 miles) from Florence called Fattoria di San Michele a Torri. In addition to vino, the vineyard also produces excellent olive oil.

Authentic leather goods

Florence has long been celebrated for its leather industries and Il Bisonte is one of the best local brands. Shoppers looking for unique leather goods should head to the back of the great Santa Croce church, behind the apse by the cloisters, to visit the Scuola del Cuoio or “leather school,” that sells handcrafted wallets, handbags, briefcases and more in calfskin, ostrich, stingray, nappa and snakeskin, by craftsmen you can see at work. The standard of work is very high, but the prices are a fraction of what you would pay for designer brands.

Dining at Four Seasons Firenze

With its garden setting and palatial, chandelier-lit dining room, the Michelin-starred Il Palagio at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is one of the most elegant restaurants in the city. The seasonal Italian menu features exquisite scallops carpaccio, regionally inspired pasta and risotto dishes, and equally outstanding fish and meat secondi piatti. Dessert, too, is an absolute must—so innovative, so delicate are the creations of Pastry Chef Domenico Di Clemente. The wine list features an extensive collection of modish Super Tuscans, and a chat with any of the sommeliers will leave you better educated about Italian wine. On a warm evening, there is nowhere lovelier to dine than on the restaurant’s garden-facing terrace.

Florence art museums

Of course, everyone should see the Uffizi, with its peerless collection of works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, da Vinci and Michelangelo, but even out of season you’d be advised to book ahead. It’s impossible to avoid the crowds completely, especially in summer, so consider visiting it on a Tuesday when it is open until 9pm. The Accademia Gallery, home to the iconic David, is also open until 10pm on Tuesdays and 11pm on Saturdays during the summer. There are many other rewarding places to see art, such as the Loggia dei Lanzi, a building accompanying the Uffizi, which contains a remarkable collection of Roman and Renaissance sculptures.

A perfect day in Firenze

After a delicious breakfast at Il Palagio, and perhaps a spin around the idyllic Giardino della Gherardesca on the Hotel grounds, head to the Duomo to admire Brunelleschi’s architecture. Pause by Ghiberti’s bronze reliefs on the Baptistry doors. Depending on what’s on, it might then be worth taking in an exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, a magnificent Renaissance palace. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, Trattoria Gargani is a great eatery that just happens to be housed in a 14th-century palazzo close to Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. After lunch, wander across the Ponte Vecchio—it’s always packed, but don’t miss it—and explore the area known as Oltr’Arno, literally “the other side of the Arno” and Florence’s rive gauche, where you’ll find the majestic Boboli Gardens. Hail a taxi back to the Hotel for a massage in the Spa before a Bellini and a memorable dinner at Il Palagio.



10 Comments about Florence, Italy

  1. We have planned a stay during March and would like to make arrangement for a tour of some local vineyards. Do we need to make plans in advance? Please let me know. Kind regards, Pam

    • Elyse Weidner says:

      Dear Pam,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I’ve forwarded your request onto Four Seasons Hotel Firenze so that the Concierge can be in contact directly about scheduling your visit.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Robert Marye says:

    To the Concierge,

    My wife and I are staying in the Four Seasons Florence March 3-10th and have been advised to purchase museum and train tickets in advance of our trip. We want to take a few day trips – to Rome and Pisa and also want to take in a tour of Tuscany and visit the local wineries and enjoy a great meal. My question – do we need to schedule these things in advance or will you be able to assist us and make those reservations on our behalf after our arrival?

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    Robert Marye

    • Kelly Neubeiser says:

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve forwarded your request onto Four Seasons Hotel Firenze so someone should be following up with you directly.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Mrs ELizabeth Bisson says:

    My husband and I are coming next week to stay with you – he is at a conference. I shall arrive a day before him on Wednesday 2nd October and would appreciate help in finding a restaurant nearby where I can eat on my own on Wednesday evening. I am also interested in visiting the Ferragamo factory shop on either Thursday afternoon, or Friday morning, and wonder what is the best way to do this.

    Can’t wait to see Florence again.

    Best regards
    Liz Bisson

    • Kelly Neubeiser says:

      Hi Liz,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve forwarded your request onto Four Seasons Hotel Florence so that they can work on getting you a direct answer.

      Thanks for reading,

  4. joanne handler says:


    My husband and I and our best friends, the Hutners, will be staying with you at the end of July. It is our 2nd Anniversary and we cannot wait to celebrate at your hotel.

    I like to plan ahead!! so I am looking for restaurants to go to for dinners. We will definitely be having breakfast and lunch at the hotel but would like to explore a little for dinner. Can you recommend a few restaurants that are not touristy (maybe some secret places that the Florentines want to keep secret!!).
    I saw in one of your magazine articles that you recommend Trattoria Gargani for lunch. What do you think about it for dinner? Also, what do you think of Ristorante Alle Murate? Anything else special that you would recommend?

    Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Best Regards,
    Joanne Handler

    • Kelly Neubeiser says:

      Dear Joanne,

      Thanks for your comment! I forwarded on your request to Four Seasons Hotel Florence so someone should be in contact with you directly.

      Thanks for reading,

  5. Nancy O'Malley says:

    My wife and I will be staying with you September 28 to October 4 and would like your recommendations regarding the “must visit” winery and how to accomplish it from your hotel. Also, I’d love to have your expert outline of the “must do” itinerary for the short stay. We are ,of course, looking forward to fully enjoying your spectacular hotel. Thank you, in advance.

  6. John Clarke says:

    To the Concierge

    My wife and I are having a short break at the hotel on the 3rdOct through to the 6th
    We arrive in Pisa
    So I would apreciate some help on finding the best possible to get to the hotel
    Do you have a Limo service and if so could you please submit the cost of such a service.

    Best Regards
    John Clarke

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