Where else can you find an overwhelming concentration of historical sites combined with perfect weather, dramatic geography, spectacular cuisine, and a chic cosmopolitan culture? Yet Italy is endowed with something that distinguishes it even further – the gift of Renaissance art. There is no better place on earth to experience this than in Florence. When the city was emerging as a 15th-century commercial powerhouse, a class of nouveau riche led by the House of Medici tried to outdo each other in glorifying the city with civic art. The results were spectacular – the Centro Storica became what might be the greatest open-air museum on earth. Likewise, the best way to introduce oneself to Florence is to visit Brunelleschi’s graceful Duomo, the architectural symbol of the city. I’m never sure whether it’s the beautiful symmetry of the dome or the 358 winding steps to the top, but it never fails to stimulate all of the senses. Italy is certainly a country that should be seen. More than that, it should be felt.

Beyond the Duomo, these tips will bring you to gems that capture the romance and charm of the Renaissance City.

SHOP
SCUOLA DEL CUOIO
Via S. Giuseppe 5r
The Florence Leather School: A workshop tucked inside the monastery of Santa Croce where Florentine leather artisans have been working since the 1930s. Watch them use centuries-old techniques as you browse the high-quality leather goods.

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GIULIO GIANNINI E FIGLIO
Piazza Pitti 37r
This quaint shop is owned by one of Florence’s oldest artisan families and is the city’s original marbled papermaker. Choose from an array of marbled paper made by hand, stationery and hand-tooled leather book bindings.

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EAT
BUCA LAPI
Via del Trebbio 1
Plan ahead and make a reservation at this lively subterranean restaurant located in the 15th-century wine cellars of Palazzo Antinori that attracts locals and visitors alike. Order the classic bistecca alla fiorentina.

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fratelliniI DUE FRATELLINI
Via dei Cimatori 38
Owned by two brothers, this quick and casual sandwich nook serves up some of the best paninis in Florence on their freshly baked bread. Choose from a wide array of fillings, everything from Tuscan porchetta to truffle pecorino and arugula, for a delicious made-to-order lunch.

VISIT
MERCATO DI SANT’AMBROGIO
Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti
An intimate indoor and outdoor food market where the locals actually go to do their daily shopping. Try local cheeses, cured meats, an array of olive oils and balsamic vinegar, and feel like a true Florentine.

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LUCCA, TUSCANY
About a 1-hour drive from Livorno
Take a day trip to this medieval Tuscan village to experience the best of the region without crowds of tourists. Discover its unique Renaissance-era walkable walls, browse the shops along Via Fillungo and relax at one of the historic cafés with a glass of local wine.

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Explore five exciting cruises to Florence:

Marina | Barcelona to Rome | 14 Days

Sirena | Barcelona to Venice | 10 Days 

Insignia | Rome to London | 15 Days 

Riviera | Rome to Barcelona | 7 Days

Riviera | Rome to London | 14 Days 

 

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