Aida Mollenkamp—our aperitivo-loving Editor-In-Chief and one-time Florence expat—invites us along as she heads out on One Perfect Day in Florence, Italy.
I know Paris is the place for lovers, but, when it comes to romance and a city, I’ve always preferred Florence. From the ancient frescos to cobblestoned streets and the parks with phenomenal panoramas, it has my vote. It’s a small city so it’s easy to feel at home and most people visit the centro storico or historic city center. The right time of year—Fall and Spring are my favorites—means fewer tourists, so that you can almost feel like you live there, even if you only have One Perfect Day.
8:00 AM: Breakfast at Rivoire
Rivoire is such a Florentine institution that I imagine the characters of Room With A View would’ve snacked there. Its decor and pastries rival the best cafes on Paris’s Rive Gauche and its location on Piazza della Signoria means you have jaw-dropping views of Palazzo Vecchio and the open-air Loggia dei Lanzi sculpture gallery.
Only problem? The location means it becomes tourist central once the day gets going, so head there in the morning. Grab a light colazione (breakfast)—say a cappuccino, orange juice, and a cornetto (an Italian croissant)—by standing at the counter. You’ll pay a fraction of the price you would if you were to sit down and you can make nice with the old-school locals and debate politics and last night’s soccer match.
Rivoire Piazza della Signoria, 5
Photo: David Martin Clavo
8:30 AM: Walk to Piazzale Michelangelo
Head up to Piazzale Michelangelo before the crowds set in, because, like Rivoire, it can easily get overrun. Yes, you can take a cab or Uber, but I prefer to go by foot so I can peek the city as it wakes. To get there, cross Ponte Vecchio then take the (slightly hidden) Costa San Giorgio, which gives you a chance to escape the crowds. The steep (but brief) walk rewards you peeks into two of the city’s most famous landmarks — Boboli Gardens and Forte di Belvedere — and some pretty gorgeous views.
From there, head up Via di Belvedere toward the Giardino della Rose then take the short staircase to the Piazzale Michelangelo. The view back toward Ponte Vecchio is a classic photo op, but head to the relatively unknown church of San Miniato al Monte for an even more stunning view.
Photo: Sarah Lalone
9:45 AM: Mid-morning break at Ditta Artiginale
After that walk you’re going to at least need another coffee, if not a mid-morning snack, so head to Ditta Artiginale. This local roaster has chic cafes with everything from classic cappuccinos and cornetti to avo toast and flat whites and has become so popular that there are now two locations.
Ditta Artiginale Via dei Neri, 32/R OR Via dello Sprone, 3/5R
Photo: Sarah Lalone
10:00 AM: Shop Mercato Sant’Ambrogio
People will tell you to check out Mercato Centrale because it’s the best known market, but recently it’s become more of a slick food court than a true local market. That’s why Mercato Sant’Ambrogio is forever and always my favorite. It’s a little quieter, calmer, and has gems like the premade pastas and pestos that are so good, you’ll wish you could ship them home.
Mercato Sant’Ambrogio Piazza Ghiberti
Photo: Tania Ho
12:00 PM: Light Lunch at Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano
Tucked in the middle of the centro storico this bustling bakery and cantina is one of my all-time favorite places in Florence. Yes, it’s owned by the Verrazzano winery and only serves their own wines, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or unoriginal. The white wines are stellar but I go for the dizzying array of little focaccie, crostini and trammezzini.
Cantinetta Dei Verrazzano Via dei Tavolini 18-20/r
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp
1:30 PM: Stock up on local gems at Pegna Grocery
This local grocery store is just behind the Duomo but it’s easy to miss since it’s tucked down a quiet side street. There are plenty of mainstream stores to get your everyday groceries that are far more affordable, but Pegna has specialty products and ingredients you can only find in Italy including some of my favorite local candies and my all-time favorite biscotti by Antonio Mattei.
Pegna Via dello Studio, 8
Photo: Matt Locke
2:00PM: Visit Il Bargello Museum
It’s kinda hard to find a corner of Florence that doesn’t have awesome art, but I’m a sculpture nerd so I love the lesser known sculpture museum, Il Bargello. When the weather is nice, I just hang out in the courtyard and pretend for a moment that I’m a distant relative of the nobleman who originally lived there.
Il Bargello Via del Proconsolo 4
Photo: Giuseppe Moscato
3:00 PM: Shop Local Boutiques
Honestly, it’s not fair to have to choose just one area to shop in Florence. I love so many different things — the classic stationary stores, the hand-woven scarfs, the gourmet food stores, and the endless shoe stores. But what I really dream of is having a shopping spree at the fabulously-curated A Piedi Nudi nel Parco and Luisa Via Roma. Yes, Florence may be a city of classics but these stores prove that the fashion here can be decidedly cutting edge.
Photo: Good Vibrations
4:00 PM: Afternoon Snack at ‘Ino
In case you didn’t eat enough at lunch, you can swing by ‘Ino for one of their amazing sandwiches. It’s hard what to say for certain makes a perfect sandwich – the condiment, the ingredients, the bread – but what is for certain is that ‘Ino has cracked the code.
‘Ino Via de’ Georgofili 7/r
Photo: Aida Mollenkamp
5:00 PM: Spa Session At The Spa
It’s been a whirlwind of a day so we deserve a little spa session, right? Sure, you can go to a Four Seasons in almost any major city, but the Four Seasons here is a very special place. It’s a little oasis on the edge of the historic city center with a garden and pool all its own.
The Spa at The Four Seasons Borgo Pinti, 99
Photo: Peter Vitale
7:00 PM: Aperitivo With A View
Aperitivo (aka happy hour) is so dialed in it might as well be a sport in Italy. Many places, like Golden View, have spreads so extensive you could happily skip dinner but I try to hold out and just have a cocktail (or two) while I watch sunset over the nearby Ponte Vecchio.
Golden View Open Bar Via dei Bardi 58/r
Photo: Kirstin McKee
8:00 PM: Dinner in Oltrarno
For dinner, head across the river to Il Santo Bevitore. This is not one of those super classic Florentine restaurants serving bistecca and crostini al fegato but it still does an awesome job paying homage to those flavors. I’ve adored this place since the day it opened almost 8 years ago and love that it only gets better every time I go.
Il Santo Bevitore Via Santo Spirito 66
Photo: Il Santo Bevitore
11:00 PM: Drinks in Oltarno
Since we’re already on the other side of the river in Oltrarno, I’d end the night by heading to Piazza Santo Spirito for a drink. During the warmer weather, everyone is sitting everywhere from the church steps to the square’s fountain, but I prefer to grab one of the piazza-side seats at the at Volume Bar grab a classic drink like a Negroni and toast the day. If you’re seeking to get a taste of the Italian craft beer scene, head to nearby Archea Brewery.
Photo: Sarmale / Olga
Get A Taste Of Florence
To get a taste of Florence without leaving your home, make this Sostanza Brown Butter Chicken from the classic Florentine trattoria.