Holiday in Florence
A handy guide to the must-see spots and a few suggestions
One of the most beautiful and most visited cities of the world, just like any other self-respecting nerve center of culture and beauty Florence adds something extra to its cityscapes of immense esthetic value during the Christmas holidays. Here is a handy guide to the must-see spots, activities and a few suggestions for the special appointments of the holiday season.
PLACES TO VISIT
Piazza della Signoria is the symbol of civic life and, thanks to the significance of its architecture, narrates the history of Florence. This piazza is also an exceptional open-air museum. This is the site of Palazzo Vecchio, today the seat of the city government but also a museum, and of the Loggia dei Lanzi, a gallery of sublime Renaissance sculpture among which you will note the bronze Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini and the marble Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.
The Galleria degli Uffizi, one of the most famous museums of the world and home to the famous Venus by Botticelli, where you will also find works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Beato Angelico and Paolo Uccello, is adjacent to Piazza della Signoria.
The new and spectacular Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is another must-see, not only for the works conserved there but also for the sensational design of the display.
How could you fail to cross over Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge), a few steps in a timeless setting between the workshops of the goldsmiths that overlook the Arno river. You will have a sense of returning to an eternal past until, still bewitched, you reach the “other side of the Arno”, Oltrarno as the Florentines say. The next obligatory stop is Piazza Santo Spirito, a market square in the morning and evening meeting place with clubs and restaurants frequented by the youth of the city.
You cannot leave the Florence of the future without a glance at the building that has changed the city skyline, the new opera house, Opera di Firenze. It is impressive, hyper-technological and the stage tower is artistically illuminated. Treat yourself to a concert or a show in the main hall with its stupefying acoustics, a perfect conclusion to your dream of a journey.
WHERE TO EAT
In the beginning, there was the Fiorentina, the T-bone steak, with the bone charred over wood embers (the recognized sanctuaries of its traditional preparation are Buca Lapi, Cammillo, Il Fagioli, and Il Ristoro di’ Cambi). Other famous creations include the tortino di carciofi, a mystical experience based on artichokes and eggs (Buca dell’Orafo and Sostanza), ribollita and pappa al pomodoro (vegetable stew and tomato stew, enriched with bread at 13 Gobbi, 4 Leoni, Cantinetta Antinori, Cibreo, Trattoria Mario and Sabatino).
For many years now, restaurants in Florence have also opened their doors to modern interpretations and gourmet versions of local dishes. Most of these are Michelin starred restaurants where it is worthwhile to undergo the religious experience (Borgo San Jacopo, Ora d’Aria, Il Palagio, Enoteca Pinchiorri, La bottega del Buon Caffè and Winter Garden by Caino).
The favorite cooking of the golden youth of Florence unites elegance, fine raw products and impeccable cooking, with excursions into regional and international cuisine (Convivium, Gurdulù, Fashion Foodballer, Lungarno 23 and Locale).
The same golden youth guides us to sumptuous classy aperitifs (Se.Sto on Arno, The Fusion Bar and La Terrazza del Continentale).
Good fish, as fresh as at the seaside, is to be found even in the city center (Cestello Ristoclub, Fuor d’Aqua and at Portofino).
Florence is also a place for street food led by lampredotto (a type of tripe), followed by heavenly gourmet sandwiches (Ino and Procacci) and all the treasures to be found in the historic markets of Florence (Mercato Centrale and Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio).
Some of the greatest companies of the Made in Italy brands call Florence their home, such as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Ermanno Scervino and Stefano Ricci, and their display windows line the fashion rectangle formed by the Via de’ Tornabuoni, Via della Vigna Nuova and Via degli Strozzi streets. On Via Roma, Luisaviaroma (which also publishes the leading online luxury clothing store) offers a highly refined selection of style and image.
BEAUTY AND WELL-BEING
Granting yourself a break of pure and simple well-being, without going too far, can be incredibly gratifying in an art city that you will discover by walking from dawn to dusk. At Floating Flo Firenze, they will set you afloat in the dark in a solution of water and magnesium sulfate, in a large pool shaped like a shell: this is the new cure for anxiety, stress and insomnia. The Spa of the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze even has a VIP suite for two. At the White Iris Beauty Spa of the Hotel Continentale, the leading treatment is called Sublime Feet, 110 minutes dedicated entirely to foot beauty and wellness.
The traditional Messa della Vigilia (Christmas Eve Midnight Mass) is celebrated by the Cardinal of Florence in the Duomo (cathedral), where the wake begins at 11 pm. On Christmas morning, Mass is celebrated at 10.30 am, at the same time as the papal blessing.
For years, the Capodanno fiorentino (New Year’s Eve) has been celebrated in the main piazzas of the city center where there are a variety of concerts, from classical music (Piazza della Signoria) to gospel (Piazza Santissima Annunziata). This year Piazza San Lorenzo and Piazza del Carmine will also be involved. The major rock-pop concert will be held in Piazzale Michelangelo.
Every year on January 6th, the journey and bestowal of the gifts of the Magi is reenacted with the Cavalcata dei Magi, which takes place in the city center. The reenactment, in costume, involves many people from all over Italy and it is a traditional event that merits participation if you are in the city.