Florence, Italy

Notching up more past glories than the average continent, Tuscany’s capital still leads from the front: between its fairy-tale squares, centuries-old churches and sprawling palaces run streets alive with energy, style and irresistible shopping. It’s luxury goods galore on Via Tornabuoni, artisan jewellers on the mediaeval Ponte Vecchio and delectable deli fare everywhere – the riches on offer are enough to get the most ardent anti-capitalists scrabbling for the plastic. The city centre is architecturally breathtaking, and compact enough to stroll in an afternoon; follow heart-stirring glimpses of the gingerbread-hued Duomo and its frosting-pale Campanile down narrow streets, and eat Italian soul food in a simple trattoria.

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When to go

Florence is packed with tourists throughout the summer, when it’s also very humid; go in early spring or autumn if you can.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Florence airport (www.aeroporto.firenze.it) is a 20-minute drive from the city centre; an official taxi into town should cost no more than €30 max. You can also fly into Pisa airport, from where a direct train takes just shy of an hour and costs around €6 (trenitalia.com).
  • Trains

    The main station (Firenze SMN) is behind Piazza Santa Maria Novella, with high-speed connections to other cities in Italy and Europe.
  • Automobiles

    Having a car in Florence can be a hindrance – in fact, it’s next to pointless. Driving through the restricted central zone (ZTL) can result in hefty fines. If booking a hire car, it's essential to send the vehicle details to the hotel (and give reception an estimated arrival time) so they can arrange a temporary permit for you. However, it's much more hassle-free to go on foot in the city and save driving for the surrounding Tuscan countryside, where a vehicle is essential.
  • Taxis

    You can’t hail a cab on the street; go to a designated fermata di taxi. The major ones are manned 24/7; most operate 7am–1am. Socota is one of the biggest cab firms (+39 055 4242; radiotaxifirenze.it).

The gourmet gadabout

The gourmet gadabout

Fling some dough under the expert, private tutelage of chef Stefano Santo (formerly of two-Michelin-starred Square in London) at Borgo Santo Pietro in Italy. He’ll teach you classic Tuscan dishes for a lifetime of contented munching. And if you need more, consider a foodie-friendly tour of Italy, across Florence, Tuscany and the Amalfi coast. 

Affresco Suite at Il Salviatino, Florence, Italy

Affresco Suite at Il Salviatino, Florence, Italy

Seductive and unforgettable, set high in the hills above Florence, Il Salviatino has all the atmosphere you’d expect from a lavish 15th-century palazzo turned boutique hotel. None of its rooms disappoint, but the spectactular Affresco Suite is the kind of place you can imagine silver-screen villains and vixens padding around in silken robes, admiring the 19th-century Bruschi frescoes from the vast chesterfield, and luxuriating in the remarkable carved sarcophagus bath tub.

Find out more about Il Salviatino
Florence's rooms with a view

Florence's rooms with a view

Head up to leafy Fiesole and look down across the entire town from Il Salviatino. Gaze across those iconic terracotta-tiled rooftops and the Duomo itself below while you dine at its La Terrazza restaurant (+39 055 904 1111). Or just appreciate the views over the Italian gardens and the green green hills of Fiesole from the bedrooms at this magnificent hotel.

Il Salviatino in Fiesole, up in the hills overlooking Florence.


Like a side of history with your summer sunshine? Italy's portions are generous. Get an education in Renaissance art by strolling round Florence's glorious galleries, then skip forward a few centuries at fashionable Fifties-fitted retreat, Portrait Firenze. Gaze at the Colosseum over red snapper steak at Hotel Palazzo's rooftop restaurant. Explore the recently restored Villa dei Misteri and the rest of Pompeii's ruins from an Amalfi Coast base like the artsy Capo la Gala. And if you're all Roman-ed out, southern Spain's colourful past has left a trove of treasures to explore. Staying in an 18th-century marble-columned palace like Seville's Palacio de Villapanés should get you in the mood. 

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It’s one of the world’s most romantic cities – a love affair of culture, commerce and good living – and a swoon-worthy starting point for a honeymoon. Your choice will be confirmed the moment you arrive at the sleek Continentale Hotel, a high-fashion, Ferragamo-designed retreat overlooking the ancient Arno River and medieval streets below. It won’t be easy, but do tear yourself away from your sumptuous suite to wander the fairy-tale squares, tour centuries-old churches, and peruse astonishing stashes of artwork or fine leather markets with exclusive Mr & Mrs Smith-arranged outings. Take an insider-shopping trip to the Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo, a labyrinth of produce vendors, butchers and specialty olive oil, wine and spice stalls. Or, skip the snaking queues at world-famous museums with an intimate guided tour of Michelangelo’s masterpieces and breath-taking works by Botticelli. Consider it your backstage pass to this stunning city. What’s not to love?

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Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Start your artsy adventure with three nights in Florence, the city at the heart of the Italian Renaissance, home to the likes of Da Vinci and Brunelleschi and their contemporaries. Make the fresco-filled Villa Cora your palazzo for your stay; a love letter written in art and architecture, the late-19th-century mansion just south of the river feels just as decadent and opulent as it did when a baron first built it for his baroness.

Worth getting out of bed for
– Wander the museum-filled halls of the Pitti Palace
– Take a private tour of the Uffizi Gallery
– Go on an architecture-themed walking tour of the city

Learn more about Villa Cora
Villa Cora

Villa Cora

In the 1870s, Baron Oppenheim built Villa Cora, close to Florence's city centre, for his wife. He certainly put his heart into it: armies of statues, frescoes and rose motifs show a love for embellishment equal to that for his spouse. He may have tried to burn the villa down later, when he thought his spouse had been unfaithful, but it's still a lovely gesture… Lavish canopied beds beckon for drama-seeking twosomes and the hotel also has the only outdoor heated pool in Florence, and manicured gardens for arm-in-arm strolling.