In the heart of Florence’s historic centre, Portrait Firenze is on the north bank of the River Arno, a 10-minute walk from the Pitti Palace.
Florence airport (also known, confusingly, as Peretola airport) is a 20-minute drive away. 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. From the UK, flying into Pisa airport will give you more choice; there’s a direct train to Florence for €5 one way, which takes about 45 minutes.
Portrait Firenze is a 10-minute walk from 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.
With its winding streets, busy piazzas and pedestrian areas, Florence is best explored on foot. If you’re keen to venture into the Tuscan countryside, Portrait Firenze offers valet parking at a nearby car park (€35 a night). As the hotel is in the restricted central zone (ZTL), you’ll need to send staff the vehicle details in advance so they can arrange a temporary permit to avoid a hefty fine.
Worth getting out of bed for
Pack some trusty sandals and a stylish sun hat: Florence is made for walking. You’ll find a wealth of museums, palaces, churches and serene gardens on either side of the Arno – plenty of excuses, if any are needed, to browse the quaint wooden jewellers’ stalls lining Ponte Vecchio. A word of warning: if the Botticellis, da Vincis and Caravaggios at the Uffizi Gallery (+39 055 238 8651) are on your hit-list, make sure to book ahead to avoid temper-fraying queues. Head to Mercato Centrale to stock up on hams, porcinis and truffles to rustle up fantastic risottos back home. There’s always space in a bulging suitcase for a pair of butter-soft leather gloves from Madova (+39 055 239 6526), just across the bridge: the sales assistants are such old hands they can tell your glove size with just one look. Take up the challenge of a drive through Florence: once you leave the city centre, the rolling hills of Tuscany will be yours to explore.
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Just across the bridge, Borgo San Jacopo (+39 055 281 661) has memorable river views and equally scintillating dishes making the most of Tuscany’s freshest fish, meats and vegetables in artfully presented dishes. Formal and glamorous, Cibreo Trattoria (+39 055 234 1100) dishes up classic Tuscan fare from tempting terrines to towering tiramisus. Florence favours Neaopolitan-style pizzas: thick dough, slowly matured, flecked with generous toppings. Prepare to queue in the evenings at Il Pizzaiuolo (+39 055 241 171), reputedly the best in town.
After a leisurely stroll through the Boboli Gardens, make a pit-stop at Enoteca Pitti (+39 055 212 704), just across the piazza. Sample local cheeses and wine from small producers, with imposing views of the Medici’s Pitti Palace. No trip to Italy is complete without a scoop (or five) of gelato. Grom (+39 055 216 158) uses only the ripest, juiciest fruit in its seasonal menu; if you spot it on the board, the dark chocolate sorbet is quite something, too. Cosy, wood-panelled Procacci (+39 055 211 656) stocks some of Tuscany’s finest produce and wine; little has changed since the deli opened in 1885. The finger-long truffled brioche sandwiches are quite moreish and go down well with a glass of syrupy Antinori wine.
Ensconced in Smith favourite Gallery Hotel Art, the Fusion Bar (+39 055 2726 6987) has a long list of quirkily named cocktails; sip on a Framboise Bon Bon (Caldvados shaken with fresh raspberries) and take in an exhibition or live jazz session at this fashionable Florentine hangout.