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Giada de Laurentiis Travel Guide to Florence
Giada de Laurentiis Travel Guide to Florence

Guide to Florence

The capital of Tuscany, Florence is a marvel of sublime art and architecture surrounded by a rugged, fruitful countryside that has produced some of the true icons of Italian culture. From the Tuscan fields we get cucina povera, the art of making culinary gold like pappa al pomodoro and ribollita out of meager ingredients. Those fields also provide grazing land for the flavorful breed of cattle known as chianina, from which we get decadent bistecca Fiorentina and fine leather goods. All these and more can be found in Florence, making it a destination for some of the most hearty, satisfying meals in Italy. 

Built on the banks of the Arno river, Florence was a center of international trade as the European capital for fine wool cloth. All that money coming in and out set the stage for powerful merchants like the Medici family to shape the city into a powerhouse of wealth and privilege. The Renaissance began here as artists and philosophers found wealthy patrons to sponsor their artistic innovations. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and countless others all made their home here, and their works can be seen all over town, but especially at the can’t-be-missed Uffizi Gallery. Whichever side of the river you choose for your home base, expect to spend plenty of time crossing back and forth on the city’s famous bridges! 

Getting Around

Florence is home to a small international airport officially called Amerigo Vespucci airport, but commonly known as Peretola. It can be reached from a number of European destinations, including London, Paris, and Barcelona. If you’re arriving from within Italy, train travel is the best way to go, as the train station is well-located near the Santa Maria Novella church. Most everywhere you’ll want to go can be reached by walking (and many narrow streets in the historic center of town can only be seen by foot!), and taxis are available at stands near many of the major piazzas. But if you want to see more of the city, or if long walks aren’t an option for you, the city has a wide bus network with nearly 100 lines that reach the outskirts of town in all directions.

Eat

   All’Antico Vinaio

all’Antico Vinaio

Back in the day, Florence was a workers’ town, where cheap, filling food like sandwiches was in high demand. The panini here are still the best in Italy, both for their variety and the speed with which they’re constructed. Get the la Favolosa here, piled with salami and a pecorino cheese spread on freshly baked schiacciata bread (like focaccia, but risen longer for more flavor).

Via Dei Neri 74R
+390552382723

   Arà: é Sicilia

Giada de Laurantiis at Arà é Sicilia in Florence

Get a sweet taste of Sicily at this small shop that specializes in two of the island’s greatest grab-and-go foods: arancini and cannoli. The crisp, substantial arancini come with a variety of fillings, while the cannoli are made to order and topped with your choice of chopped pistachios, almonds, or candied orange peel.

Via Degli Alfani 127R
+39055292548

   Alla Vecchia Bettola

Alla Vecchia Bettola

This hidden gem is tiny and always packed with a lively crowd, so be sure to call ahead for a reservation. The house pasta is to die for, as are the bistecca Fiorentina, veal chop, and chicken. 

Via Vasco Pratolini 3
+39055224158

   Caffé Gilli

This local institution, open since 1733, makes Giada’s pick for the best espresso in Florence. They also have great pastries and bagged biscotti and candies, which make nice souvenirs to bring home.

Via Roma 1
+39055213896

   Cibrèo Teatro del Sale

Cibrèo Teatro del Sale

Fabio Picchi is one of Italy’s most well-known chefs, and he has three restaurants on this little square. This is the most unique of them, tucked away in a members-only theater club. Pay a nominal “membership fee” to get in the door, and a delicious three-course meal is just the start—you’ll also get a live performance of either music, drama, or comedy, depending on the night. 

Via dei Macchi 111R
+390552001492

   Buca dell’Orafo

All of Florence feels ancient, but there’s nowhere that feels quite as outside of time as the stone-lined cavern that is Buca dell’Orafo. The restaurant is built into a 13th century stone castle that was once home to goldsmiths, but since 1945 has been dishing out delicious Tuscan food.

Via Dei Girolamo 28
+39055213619

   Buca Lapi

Giada de Laurantiis at Buca Lapi in Florence

This Tuscan restaurant in a former wine cave is plastered with hundreds of vintage travel posters all across its arched ceiling, creating a magical out-of-time atmosphere. The bistecca fiorentina is amazing, and the fondant chocolate cake for dessert can’t be missed.

Via del Trebbio 1R
+39055213768

   Babae Wine

Giada de Laurentiis at Babae Wine

This wine bar operates one of Florence’s most picturesque traditions: a wine window! From a tiny arched opening on the side of the building, you can order a glass of wine to enjoy on the street the way Florentine citizens have done for centuries. There are a few of historic holdovers still operating around the city, but this one is Giada’s favorite.

Via Santo Spirito 21R
+390556144429

   Ditta Artigianale

Giada at Dittta Artigianale

Coffee in Italy can be a very traditional affair; for a more modern approach, this coffee shop owned by an award-winning local barista feels like a little slice of Brooklyn, complete with hand-roasted, single origin beans. 

Lungarno Soderini 7R
+390553874550

   Golden View Open Bar

They’re not kidding about that view! Golden View has been a favorite for years, both for its gorgeous, art filled interior and its great view of the Ponte Vecchio. The tomato bruschetta (listed as “croutons” on the English menu) is amazing.

Via de' Bardi 58/r
+39055214502

   Gelateria Dei Neri

This little gelato shop has a rainbow selection of gorgeously fresh flavors like rose, gorgonzola and walnut, and green apple. Make sure to try Giada’s all-time favorite, the ricotta with fig. 

Via dei Neri 9/11
+39055210034

   Gelateria La Sorbettiera

Giada de Laurentiis at Gelateria La Sorbettiera

This artisanal gelateria specializes in modern, creative flavors like lemongrass-coconut milk and New England 1776, with maple syrup and candied bacon. A little off the beaten path, it’s often less crowded than other gelato shops in the city.

Piazza Torquato Tasso 11R
+390555120336

   Il Latini

Dinner at Il Latini is always a party - tables are long, banquet style arrangements, so you'll almost definitely be seated with strangers who'll quickly become friends. And while you can order a la carte, it's best to put yourself in the kitchen's hands and go with the set menu. You'll end up with 5-course meal served family style that is crowned by a glorious bistecca Fiorentina that's bigger than the plate it's served on.

Via dei Palchetti 6R
+39055210916

   Il Santo Bevitore

When a restaurant is lined with wine bottles, you know it’s going to be good. Il Santo Bevitore delivers on that promise, with a great wine list, plus locally grown vegetables, creative meat dishes, Santo Bevitore and brilliant pastas. This neighborhood restaurant is a favorite with young locals, so be sure to call ahead for a reservation.

Via Dei Santo Spirito 64/66
+39055211264

   Il Santino

If you couldn’t get a reservation at Il Santo Bevitore or if you’re just waiting for your table, grab a drink and a snack at its sister bar down the street. The 20-person spot is more than a little cozy, but the wine, cheese, and bruschetta more than make up for it with their delicious variety. 

Via Dei Santo Spirito 60
+390552302820

   La Terrazza

One of the best ways to see Florence’s stunning geography is from up high—that’s why rooftop bars are so popular here. The relaxed lounge atmosphere at La Terrazza is much nicer than the high-pressure scene at some of the other bars in town.

Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli 2R, in the Continentale Hotel
+3905527265987

   Le Volpi e L’Uva

Locals in Florence stop in at little wine bars like this one for a bicchiere or two of wine and a snack before going out for dinner. The wine list here is fantastic—lots of lesser-known French and Italian varieties—and the staff is super helpful and ready to provide recommendations. 

Piazza dei Rossi 1
+390552398132

   Trattoria Cammillo

Trattoria Cammillo

For a special night out, there’s no place better than Cammillo. Giada filmed the Florence episode of Giada in Italy right near this very traditional trattoria, and it became hands-down her favorite restaurant in town. She loves the chicken curry (really!), fritto misto, and all the pastas. 

Borgo San Jacopo 57R
+39055212427

   Trattoria Sostanza

This homey trattoria with a truly tiny kitchen where the chef cooks over live coals has been a local favorite since 1869. They specialize in deliciously simple dishes made with expert care, like their luxurious signature dishpetti di pollo al burro(chicken with butter) and the incredibletortino di caciofi, an artichoke frittata that’s unlike any other. Don’t skip dessert if the chocolate chip meringue with wild strawberries is on the menu!

Via del Porcellana 25R
+39 055212691

   4 Leoni

This trattoria on the Piazza della Passera has a big outdoor patio that gets lovelier as dusk falls. They are famous for their fiocchetti di pera (pasta with taleggio and pear).

Via de’ Vellutini 1R
+39055218562

Do

   Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens in Florence, Tuscany

Behind the Palazzo Pitti are these highly landscaped gardens designed for the Medicis, dotted with fountains, statues, and grottoes. When they were built in the 16th century, the gardens’ strikingly open design inspired copycats across Europe, including the gardens at Versailles. If you’re visiting in spring, make sure to seek out the newly restored camellia garden to catch the gorgeous flowers in bloom.

Piazza de' Pitti 1

   Carousel at the Piazza della Repubblica

Giada at Carousel at the Piazza della Repubblica in Florence

This antique wooden carousel is more than 100 years old but still operates regularly in the large piazza, to the delight of local children and visitors alike. Owned by the Picci family, it’s beautifully maintained and painted with colorful scenes of different Italian cities. 

Piazza della Repubblica

   Duomo di Firenze

Giada de Laurentiis at Duomo di Firenze in Florence, Tuscany

Originally built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the dome of this stunning cathedral can be seen from far across the city. Inside, that dome is painted with an incredible fresco by Renaissance master Giorgio Vasari. That masterwork, combined with the incredibly ornate, multicolor marble façade added in the 19th century, make the Duomo a must-visit for art-lovers.

Piazza del Duomo

   Galleria dell’Accademia

Galleria dell’Accademia in Firenze, Tuscany

The gallery of the city’s Academy of Fine Arts is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Michelangelo, including his iconic David, housed in its own specially constructed domed room. Don’t miss the tucked away museum of musical instruments on the ground floor behind the special exhibition hall; it holds the Medicis’ private collection of historic pieces including the world’s first upright piano and a perfectly preserved Stradivarius viola.

Via Ricasoli 58/60
+390550987100

   Gucci Garden

Gucci Garden

Inside this unassuming-looking palazzo is a vibrant collection of experiences from the boundary pushing fashion house, including a delicious osteria from Michelin starred chef Massimo Bottura. Be sure to walk through the boutique to the museum, which showcases the house’s innovative designs from 1921 through today. The adjoining book store is a great place to pick up a stylish souvenir without the luxury-brand sticker shock!

Piazza della Signorina 10
+3905575927010

   LuisaViaRoma

For a department store experience, you can't get better than this well curated destination founded in 1929, which stocks all the coolest designers of men's and womenswear, plus accessories and home goods.

Via Roma 19-21R

   Madova

Madova Leather Goods in Tuscany, Florence

Leather goods are a Florentine tradition—fitting for a city that specializes in beef! There are many quality glove makers in town, but this 100-year-old institution at the base of the Ponte Vecchio is the best of the best. Let the experts measure your hands to find the perfect fit, and on't leave without trying a pair made from cinghale, wild boar leather, which feels like unbelievably soft suede.

Via Guicciardini 1R
+390552396526

   Mercato Centrale

Giada de Laurantiis at Mercato Centrale in Florence

This stunning two-story food market was built in the 1870s and still serves as a daily shopping stop for many Florentines to get fresh produce and wild-caught seafood. Stroll the upper-level food court to sample a variety of Florence’s favorite street food, including rich porchetta and hearty lampredotto, as well as pizzas, wine, and even sushi.

Piazza del Mercato Centrale
+390552696173

   Musée Salvatore Ferragamo

Musée Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, Tuscany

Shoe lovers can’t miss a stop at this museum dedicated to the designer who created iconic footwear for movie stars from the 1920s until his death in 1960. The cozy museum packs in thousands of pairs of gorgeous shoes from the company’s archives into its nine rooms.

Piazza di Santa Trinita 5R
+390553562846

   Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella

This may the oldest existing pharmacy in the world, established by the monks of the Church of Santa Maria Novella in the 13th century. It’s like no other pharmacy we know, specializing instead in perfumes, herbal products, and skincare (Giada’s beauty go-to is their rose water spray). The shop, which doubles as a museum, is absolutely stunning, adorned with ceiling frescoes and ancient details like soap-making equipment from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Via della Scala 16
+39055216276

   Ponte Vecchio

The best-known and oldest of Florence’s bridges, the Ponte Vecchio is the only river crossing that was not destroyed during WWII (the others were rebuilt after the war ended). It’s easy to spot thanks to the enclosed Vasari corridor that runs over top of the roadway, once a private escape route for the Medicis. Long a location for merchants to set up shop, the bridge is now known for the tiny wooden jewelers’ shops that line its sides.

Ponte Vecchio

   Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery in Florence Tuscany

You can’t come to Florence and not spend at least a little time admiring some Renaissance art! The first modern museum, the Uffizi was built in the 16th century as an office building for Cosimo I de’ Medici, who filled it with artworks that could be viewed by the public on request. All of the masters of the era can be found there—Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Giotto, and many more. The Uffizi is reliably busy; your best bet is to buy a ticket online in advance (tickets can be purchased up to six months ahead) for entry first thing in the morning to avoid the worst of the crowds.  

Piazzale degli Uffizi
+39055294883

Stay

   AdAstra

Tucked into a lavish mansion, this 14-room boutique hotel overlooking the Torrigiani gardens makes a perfect retreat from the busy city. The rooms are charmingly eclectic and elegantly decorated, and each is outfitted with its own espresso machine for your morning caffeine fix.

Via del Campuccio 53
+390550750602

   Brunelleschi Hotel

Named for the Renaissance painter who once lived here, this boutique hotel is partially housed in a historic circular tower that was built in the 6th century. In addition to comfortably outfitted rooms, many of which have views of the Duomo, the hotel has its own archeological museum displaying the remains of the Roman baths that were found underneath the tower.

Piazza Sant’Elizabetta 3
+3905527370

   Hotel Lungarno

On the livelier side of the river, the Portrait’s sister is just as thoughtfully luxurious with a more classic vibe. Blue-and-white houndstooth and stripes give a slightly nautical feeling, as do the sweeping views of the river from the public spaces and many rooms. Keep your eyes open for the incredible 20th-century art collection, including Picasso prints in the Picteau Bar.

Borgo San Jacopo 14
+3905527261

   Portrait Hotel

One of two sister properties that flank the Arno river owned by the Ferragamo family, this hotel is just as stylish as you would expect. Rooms are sleek and minimal, filled with luxurious touches like cashmere blankets and a high quality hair dryer and straightener in the bathroom.

Lungarno degli Accaiuoli 4
+3905527268000

   Helvetia & Bristol

The first five-star hotel in Florence, built in 1885, this grand property in the heart of the city housed over two buildings offers different experiences for those who prefer a more traditional or modern feel. Either way, guests have access to a massive spa with two swimming pools, a location of the beloved Cibrèo restaurant collection, and luxurious touches in every room.

Via dei Pescioni, 2
+39 055 26651
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