The nearest airport is Florence (Amerigo Vespucci) – also known, confusingly, as Peretola Airport – which is about 20 minutes’ drive from the Continentale. A taxi will cost you €20; or, for €6, you can hop on the airport bus, which leaves every 30 minutes for Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station, a short stroll from the hotel. Alternatively, you can fly into Pisa, (Galileo Galilei) Airport (a greater number of airlines fly here, giving you more choice) and take the direct train to Florence for €5 one way. The train journey will take about 45 minutes.
The hotel is within walking distance of Florence’s main train station, Santa Maria Novella, which can be found just behind the piazza of the same name. Trains go from here to Milan, Naples, Pisa, Rome and Siena, as well as Nice and Vienna. You can get to Rome in under two hours by high-speed train, and to Milan in about three hours.
Explore Florence’s winding streets and piazzas by foot, or (when your legs get tired) hail a taxi, or catch one of the bright orange buses that operate throughout the city centre. You can buy bus tickets in advance from vending machines or tobacco shops. If you do decide to drive – and a car will be essential if you plan to venture further afield into the surrounding countryside – the Continentale offers valet parking for a charge. Be aware that 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. For the ultimate in four-wheeled style, rent a vintage car in which to explore the Tuscan hills (see www.bellinitravel.com for more details).
Cantina Barbagianni on Via Sant’Egidio (+39 55 248 0508) is in an ancient cellar; ideal for dinner à deux, or head there for their great value two-course lunch. Cibreo on Via de’ Macci (+39 55 234 1100) may be the most famous trattoria in Italy; it’s formal and glamorous. La Congrega on Via Panicale (+39 55 264 5027) is a quaint traditional trattoria for lunch or an informal but unforgettable dinner. Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri on Via Ghibellina (+39 55 242 777) is set in a Renaissance palace, where Giorgio Pinchiorri himself helps you choose from his 150,000-bottle cellar; jacket and tie required. Olio & Convivium on Via Santo Spirito (+39 55 265 8198) is a delicatessen and restaurant specialising in olive oils, native wines and local cheeses. ll Latini on Via Palchetti (+39 55 210 916) can be hit or miss – but get there on a good night (ie: not full to the gills with tourists) and it’s great fun. The kitchen decides what you’ll be eating – you just name the colour of wine you prefer, and whether you want fish or meat. Il Parione is a cosy trattoria on Via del Parione (+39 55 214 005), great for candlelit dinners. Roses on Via del Parione (+39 55 287 090) is a café during the day and a sushi bar/Japanese restaurant in the evening.
Many restaurants close on Sunday or Monday; check first.
Overlooking Michelangelo’s David in Piazza della Signoria, Caffè Rivoire is a people-watching hub. Caffè Pitti (+39 55 239 9863) becomes a restaurant at night, specialising in truffle dishes. The Roberto Cavalli-owned Giacosa (+39 55 277 6328), linked to his shop on Via della Spada, is a busy, fashiony place for breakfast, lunch, coffee and cocktails. Look for JK Place's sister establishment, the Lounge, on Piazza Santa Maria Novella (+39 55 264 5181).
Capocaccia on Lungarno Corsini is perfect for pre-dinner mojitos. Pop across the road for some of the finest cocktails in town in the Fusion Bar in the Gallery Hotel Art. Café Rivoire, overlooking Michelangelo’s David in Piazza delle Signorie, serves superb hot chocolate, cocktails and aperitifs, and is great for watching the world go by.