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

We asked Chef Concierge Paul Lydka at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of other local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. Florence, known for the many artistic treasures from the Italian Renaissance, continues to thrive as a vibrant centre for the arts, music, fashion, winemaking and traditional crafts.

Get Style With Fashion Designers—and a Museum

It may not rival Milan in terms of resident design houses, but Florence lives and breathes fashion nonetheless. And Via de’ Tornabuoni is a virtual alphabet of high-end Italian designers, from Armani, Bulgari and Cavalli all the way down 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 Palazzina della Meridiana, accessible via the Boboli Gardens.

The recently inaugurated Gucci Museum, celebrating its 90th anniversary, is a must for fashion lovers. Original models from throughout the years are on view—from clothing to shoes, bags to crockery and cutlery, saddles and even a Gucci Cadillac. Another attraction is the fact that the museum has some unique articles made just for it, which cannot be bought anywhere else in the world—in other words, it’s the perfect place to acquire a Gucci bag or wallet that no one else has.

Culinary Experiences for Every Taste

From the internationally famous Chianti wine, passing through the local olive oil production, to the numerous types of pecorino cheeses, Tuscan salami, and exquisite seasonal white and black truffles, there is something for every taste in Florence’s San Lorenzo Market. The emblematic building hosts market stands with the most unusual ingredients, making this a paradise for food lovers. Arrive before midday, walk the corridors and have lunch in one of the trattorias.

Exceptional Scents at Perfume Ateliers

Established in 1612 by Dominican friars, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is best known as a luxury perfume brand. In fact, it makes the products used in the Four Seasons Firenze Spa. Many of its products—perfumes, creams, powders, etc.—are still made according to the methods the friars used. Beyond the shop, there’s a little museum (visits by appointment) that contains apothecary’s bottles—some of which, it is said, were designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Incidentally, the products in the guest room bathrooms at Four Seasons are supplied by Florence’s other great perfumer, Lorenzo Villoresi, whose similarly atmospheric atelier can also be visited by appointment.

Explore Nearby 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; Verrazzano (pictured); Castello di Fonterutoli; Capanelle; and Casa Emma. There is also a very good organic vineyard close to Florence called San Michele a Torri—as well as wines, they also produce excellent olive oil, and their homemade cold cuts are delicious.

Shopping for Exquisite Leather Goods

For obvious reasons, Florence has long been celebrated for its leather industries—Il Bisonte is one of the best local brands. At the back of the great Santa Croce church, behind the apse by the cloisters, the Scuola del Cuoio or “leather school” 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.

Elegant Dining at Il Palagio Restaurant

With its garden setting and palatial, chandelier-lit dining room, Il Palagio at Four Seasons Firenze, recently awarded its first Michelin star, is one of the most elegant in the city, offering a classic Italian menu—exquisite carpaccios (of fish and meat), outstanding pasta and risotto, and equally outstanding fish and meat secondi piatti. Dessert, too, is an absolute must—so innovative, so delicate are the creations of the chef pâtissier. The wine list features a remarkable 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.

Itinerary: A Perfect Day

After a delicious breakfast at Il Palagio and perhaps a spin around the gardens, 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 the exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, a magnificent Renaissance palace.

By now you’ll be hungry. Trattoria Gargani is a great eatery that just happens to be housed in a 14th-century palazzo close to 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.

Best Time to Visit the Art Museums

Of course, everyone should see the Uffizi, with its peerless collection of works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, da Vinci and Piero della Francesca, 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 10:00 pm. The Accademia Gallery is also open until 10:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are many other rewarding places to see art, such as the Uffizi Loggia, which contains a remarkable collection of Roman and Renaissance sculptures.

 

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8 Comments about Florence, Italy

  1. 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.

    Regards,
    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!
      Kelly

  2. 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,
      Kelly

  3. joanne handler says:

    Hi,

    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,
      Kelly

  4. 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.

  5. 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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