Italy is fast becoming my favourite country in Europe. Last year, I visited Venice for a quick city break and my most recent trip was fabulous Florence.
It can be hard to switch off on a mini-break, with recent research by luxury holiday specialist Hayes and Jarvis finding it takes 75% of Londoners as long as four days to kick back and relax.
Well, I managed to nail total relaxation in three days. Here are my recommendations for a short trip to Firenze (Florence, to you and me)…
FOR A BUDGET
STAY… at Dimora del Centro
Our first night was at a lovely BnB in the Piazza della Repubblicana, right in the centre (as the name would suggest) of the city. The building was built in 1890 and from the location, you can see Brunelleschi’s Dome.
The decor was homely and simple. Our hosts Claudio and Silvia also welcomed us with prosecco, which was a lovely touch.
Breakfast was included, giving two options of cafes in Florence. We went to Alfieri by Ponte Vecchio and ate in the sun, overlooking the canal.
PRICE: Prices start at £65 per night for a double room with breakfast, you can book here and check them out on Facebook here.
EAT… at All’Antico Vinaio
This place came highly recommended by so many people and it did not disappoint. Sandwiches are the lunch of choice in Florence and you can pick incredible subs up almost anywhere with fresh meats and cheeses.
I had mine with cured ham, cheese and truffle cream, a local delicacy and absolute must eat – it was heaven. The sandwich was huge, so I’d recommend sharing if you’re just having it for lunch.
PRICE: Sandwiches cost around €5. Visit their website here.
FOR THE AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE
STAY… at Palazzo Galletti
Palazzo Galletti calls itself a “boutique B&B” but honestly, it is like sleeping in a museum/film set/art gallery.
The walls of the rooms are covered in original frescos and each room has its own gorgeous furnishings and character.
Martina, our host, has put so much effort and love into the place. Each room is named after planets in the solar system (and the sun and the moon), we stayed in the Cerere suite.
The photos tell it better than I can but from the chandelier to the gold-plated detail in the ceiling 16 ft above the bed, this suite transports you to a bygone era.
Nearly every room has a balcony too which was great for having a drink (Peroni, natch) and writing some postcards while soaking in the local area.
PRICE: Rooms begin at a very reasonable €100 per night, the Cerere suite starts at €259 per night. Rates include breakfast and you can book here.
EAT… at Il Latini
From the outside, Il Latini looks tiny – there are just five or six tables visible. Inside, it is like Aladdin’s cave.
You’re led off into a side room packed with tables of people. We met a couple there who had been visiting the restaurant for 13 years. They told us when they first came, you didn’t order, you were just brought a home-cooked four-course meal straight from the kitchen.
It’s traditional, with a selection of pasta and salads for your first course and meat for your second.
The house wine (€10) was very drinkable, the food was great and the atmosphere was lovely.
PRICE: €24 for two, but only because we couldn’t manage a second course! Find out more here
FOR A SPECIAL TREAT
STAY… at Canto Degli Scali
Canto Degli Scali is a group of apartments on Via delle Terme, bang in the middle of the shopping district. We stayed in the Aranci which was total interior design goals. It is what I’ll base my home on (when/if I ever have the time and the money!).
Two brothers run the apartments, and they pay attention to every tiny detail. In our apartment, there was a bathroom with a lovely rainfall shower, a four-poster bed in a large bedroom, a kitchen and even a small hidden bedroom with a single bed, for when you want to send your other half to the dog house.
On arrival, were given a bespoke map with their personal recommendations of places to eat and drink. It was nice having the whole place to ourselves and freedom to cook and wander whenever we wanted.
PRICE: Prices begin at €180 per night and you can book here.
EAT… at Il Vezzo
This was my birthday treat and it did not disappoint. Il Vezzo is an unassuming little restaurant, tucked away down a side street with only eight tables and one, really friendly and attentive waiter.
The cosy atmosphere was beaten only by the food. To start we had a platter of Italian meats and cheeses with a bottomless basket of freshly baked bread. YUM.
For my main, I had perfectly pink roast beef served with green beans, wrapped in bacon and (of course) rosemary roast potatoes. My tummy is rumbling as I write this.
The OH had crispy octopus with mash which was also delicious.
We really, really wanted to try dessert but, honestly, couldn’t manage it. Next time, I’ll have to prepare.
PRICE: €80, with a bottle of prosecco. To book, visit their website here.
And whilst you’re in Florence, you probably want to get up to some sightseeing.
One thing that would have saved us a lot of time was booking our tickets before we came to Florence. Queues can take a few hours, so I recommend planning beforehand!
Most importantly, beware of the ticket touts!
They pose outside cultural locations in official-looking suits and clipboards selling tickets at more than 10 times the price. These companies buy up all the tickets in advance, so they are sold out on the day. Try to always book online or from inside the place!
Another handy tip, if you’re a journalist (like me) you can get into a lot of the museums and galleries for free with a press pass.
CLIMB… The Duomo
Just 463 steps and you’re in paradise. The climb was entertaining in itself and not too strenuous. You get to stop midway and look at the stunning ceiling…
At the top of the Duomo, you get the most beautiful view of Florence, right to the Apennines. I’ll admit, I felt a little dizzy but it was so worth it.
PRICE: €15, including entrance to the Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistry and Musem
The Accademia Gallery a lot of art and sculptures but Michelangelo’s David is, really, the only one you’ll care about. He was so impressive, with every detail sculpted into the 17ft hunk of marble.