48 hours in Florence Italy

48 hours in Florence Italy

Get away for a short break to recharge your batteries without the hassle of planning a major holiday, says Daniella Soave.

Lucky us. According to research by TravelSupermarket, 44% of Brits enjoy one main holiday with shorter breaks dotted throughout the year.
Almost a third of those mini-vacations are taken as city breaks – a couple of days exploring the streets, shops, restaurants and museums of an unfamiliar city and the prospect of heading home revived and refreshed.In the coming months I’ll be suggesting UK and European destinations that make a perfect 48-hour escape, starting with my favourite Italian city, Florence.

Why Florence?

It’s perfect for a mini-break because you can walk everywhere and discover enchanting gardens, mysterious medieval streets, museums bursting with world-famous works of art, mouth-watering food, shops to die for.

Just avoid high summer when it’s far too hot and very busy.

Shopping

Fans of vintage couture clothing can do no better than visit the oddly named Street Doing, Via dei Servi 88r, where they’ll find 50s, 60s and 70s Gucci, Pucci and Valentino among others. .
For bargain hunters there are two designer outlets, with regular buses running to each. These allow you to indulge Italy’s great passion for fashion, without the eye watering price tags. The Mall, Via Europa 8, Leccio Reggello, stocks last season’s Gucci, Fendi and Valentino as well as Burberry, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen among others, while Barberino Designer Outlet, Via Meucci, Barberino di Mugello includes Prada, D&G, Missoni, Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss.
At the other end of the scale visit the flea market at Piazza del Ciompi all week long, for bric a brac, antiques and vintage finds that often prove to the bets best bargains of your trip.
For jewellery, head for the medieval maze of streets between Piazza Potto and Via Maggio where you’ll find many artisan workshops such as Angela Caputi Via di Santo Spirito 58, and Alessandro Dari, Via San Niccolo 115r.
Of course, shopping isn’t just about what to wear.
This city is renowned for its handmade marbled paper. You’ll find plenty at fourth-generation bookbinder and restorers Alberto Cozzi, Via del Parione 35r, as well as leather bound journals and a cornucopia of stationery.
Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica de Santa Maria Novella Via Della Scala 16, one of the oldest perfumeries in the world. You can purchase perfumes, scented candles, skincare and herbal remedies, but mostly it’s just a joy to wander through or take a tisane in the tearoom.

Florence on a budget

Of course, one of the wonderful things about Florence is how you can live the dolce vita and not spend a fortune.
When looking for accommodation consider pensioni or alberghi – these are family-run, smaller hotels and B&Bs often found in enchanting courtyards and ancient palazzo buildings.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to watch the world go by either: enjoy an Aperol Spritz at one of the many street cafes in the atmospheric Piazza della Signoria and admire its awesome statues (and don’t forget to rub the ose of the life-size bronze boar for luck, a Florentine custom). And while you can marvel at luxury fashion stores in the Via de’ Tornabuoni, head over to Via Del Corso for a bargain. For hoarders of handbags, belts and accessories, no visit to Florence is complete without a visit to one of the biggest leather markets in Italy, open daily 9am-7pm, in Via del Canto De’Nelli and its neighbouring streets.

Exploring

To paraphrase that Bangles hit single of the Eighties, may I suggest you walk like an Italian? There’s no better city in which to wander by foot.
A walk over the iconic Ponte Vecchio is a must, not forgetting to prize your eyes away from the rip-off jewellery shops to look upwards to the famous Vasari Corridor, a 1km medieval walkway linking the Pitti Palazzo with the Uffizi.
If you fancy a longer stroll, pick up the Via de Belvedere outside the San Miniato Gate, where you can wander by the medieval wall and head to the Forte di Belvedere. After taking time to explore this 16th century military monolith, continue onwards along grassy banks swaying with wildflowers, to the enchanting village of Arceti.

Culture

As the Renaissance capital of Italy, if not the world, Florence boasts an astonishing collection of old masters in its many museums and galleries. Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Botticelli, Titian… You could spend a week on art alone and only see a fraction of what is on offer.
If you want to see, for instance, Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi at the Uffizi or Michelangelo’s La Pieta at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, you’ll have to put up with crowds. Go early, and feel smug.
Apart from ticking off the must-sees, spend your precious time heading for the less busy attractions.
The top of Giotto’s bell tower is a breath-taking (pun intended) panorama of the city below. But, for me, the best way to absorb the essence of Florence is to walk around the Duomo area at night. Emptied of crowds, the streets are artfully lit to reveal the magic of their architecture.

Eating

Florence’s culinary specialty is something you probably don’t want to eat – tripe. That aside, it is a food lover’s paradise. Truffles, spicy green olives, porcini mushrooms and tender, juicy steak: it’s impossible to go wrong.
Even modest establishments offer very good cooking, so you don’t have to pay a mint to guarantee a good meal. The humble trattoria or osteria is usually family-owned and offers regional specialties at realistic prices. It’s where you’ll find Italians dining.
But if you want to push the boat out, I’ll start you at Enoteca Pinchiorri, Via Ghibellina 87r. Tuscan cuisine gets the French treatment in this three-Michelin-starred 16th century palazzo.
A hip, happening and decidedly cheaper experience is Tamero Tamero, Piazza Santo Spirito 11r, where freshly made pasta is cooked in the open kitchen and salads, salami and cheese are served in giant portions. A DJ sets the tone from 10pm at weekends.
Or, how about a venue where the famous Florentine T-bone steak has been served since 1550? In that case, head for Trattoria 4 Leoni Trattoria 4 Leoni, Via de’Vellutini 1r, where you can eat al fresco in the summer.
And I couldn’t finish without mentioning ice cream. My top tip is the oldest ice cream parlour in Florence, Vivoli, Via dell’Isola delle Stinche 7, with its mind-boggling selection of flavours that include chestnut, pear and rum, pistachio as well as the more usual varieties. Bliss, sheer bliss.

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June Birthday in Florence

brendaplummer 07/06/2016

I would absolutely love to visit Florence - now both the children have grown up and have gone to university I never want to go to another theme park again on holidays!!! this is my time now to visit the beautiful sights of Florence, sip on a Italian coffee or some red vino and watch the world go by... bliss..

Next on my list

Hopegirl 29/05/2016

Florence sounds perfect for me. I would love the art galleries, museums and sightseeing on foot. I would even try the tripe! I'm going to research Florence for my next trip. Thanks Victoria xx

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