For fashion addicts who want to really get to know the stories behind the names in fashion, two stops are a must: the Gucci Garden in Piazza della Signoria (from the name of its Restaurant), on two floors of the former Palazzo della Mercanzia, tells the history of the maison through its immense archive of historical advertising campaigns, clothing, accessories, objects and memorabilia.
Not everyone knows that the activity of this now international brand began as a saddle and luggage shop that Guccio Gucci opened in 1921 in Via della Vigna Nuova: Gucci’s trademarks will always be traced back to the equestrian sphere, with the saddles and stirrups, and the green and red colours common on saddle girths.
Guccio Gucci was born in Florence and returned to Florence.
Salvatore Ferragamo, for his part, chose Florence as an Italian reference because of the elegance, beauty and charm that Florence has always had in the world, when he decided to have an Italian headquarters: after becoming famous in California as the “shoemaker to the stars”, he returned to Italy, married a girl from his hometown near Avellino, bought a villa outside Florence and, in the 1930s, continued the business, first with a small shop in the suburbs, but then in the 1950s, when Florence took off as the undisputed centre of Italian fashion with shows in the Sala Bianca of the Pitti Palace, to Palazzo Spini Feroni, at the beginning of Via Tornabuoni, where he established his Florentine headquarters and where his fame as a shoe artist continued to grow; and here is the Ferragamo Museum, two rooms dedicated to the exhibition of his artistic (today we would say design) productions, the others to temporary exhibitions.
Just three steps further up our street is the Bardini Garden: it can be visited in less than an hour and offers fascinating glimpses of the City; a little further up, outside the San Giorgio Gate, is one of the entrances to the Boboli Garden, adjacent to the ramparts of Forte Belvedere: it will be a relaxing break while visiting the City, with its avenues, lawns and monumental pools.
The closest Gelateria is at Pontevecchio (via dei Bardi) one of several locations of La Strega Nocciola, a very trendy artisanal gelateria; also in the area (in piazza della Passera) the winner of many awards, Gelateria della Passera (opposite the restaurant of “signature” tripe and lampredotti).
The “best in Town” (but rankings are wasted) Ghibellina in the center, Badiani on viale dei Mille, dei Servi on via dei Servi, Gelateria la Carraia, this side of the Ponte alla Carraia, La Sorbettiera in piazza Tasso, tiny place , Sbrino (“peasant ice cream shop”) on via dei Serragli.
Or the historic ones like Perchè no? on via dei Tavolini, Vivoli on via Isola delle Stinche, Santa Croce area, but these are on all the Guides and we are not telling you anything new.
You will find typical Tuscan dishes like peposo, ossobuco and the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina (a treatise could be written here) everywhere.
Let’s talk about the places in the center, limiting ourselves to a shortlist, based on the taste of the hosts, with an eye on value for money: Trattoria Gozzi Sergio, san Lorenzo Market area, feels like entering a garage… but the steak is memorable.
In San Frediano, Pandemonio on Via del Leone.
Very close to the Duomo, Trattoria dall’Oste, in Borgo San Lorenzo, Natalino, in Borgo Albizi, behind the Duomo, in a deconsecrated church, I’Tuscani, in piazza san Pancrazio, in the tangle of narrow streets behind via Tornabuoni, Trattoria Mario in via Rosina behind Santa Croce… and we limited ourselves to the center, to walk there.
There are many street food options, starting with the ground floor, the fried food stall, or lampredotto and tripe at Nerbone’s, Lory’s famous schiacciatine (flatbread), amidst the classic meat, fish, cheese and vegetable shops; a bit like a bazaar, but the colours and smells fill the senses; upstairs, themed stalls, fresh pasta, pizza, burgers, barbecues, sweets and ice cream, truffles and bars: we order, sit at a table and are called when our plate is ready.
Smaller but closer, the Mercato di S.Ambrogio, with the same souk-like feel, only one option for seated eating but many alternatives for standing or take-away.
If you have to shop in a supermarket, the closest is Conad al Ponte Vecchio: for around 5 euros it will take your groceries home, including 6 bottles of mineral water.
Perhaps the closest, Le Volpi e L’Uva in Piazza Santa Felicita, with outdoor tables: very select cheeses and cured meats, rich dishes accompanied by a collection of special wines.
Another little place that smells of cheese already when you open the door? Formaggioteca Terroir on via dei Renai, with tables also outside.
Or classic trattorias in San Niccolò, Antica Mescita inside the old Gate, or Fuoriporta, precisely, outside, both with simple but excellent quality dishes.
There is not only the Antico Vinaio, on Via dei Neri, rightly famous for the quality of its schiacciata, hot and crunchy, and the variety of its fillings: you will recognise it by the long queue of people waiting to be served….
The smallest place in Florence where they serve other sandwiches inside the schiacciata or rosetta? I Fratellini, in Via dei Cimatori, in the shopping area (a side street of Via Calzaiuoli).
Another small place where you can get great quality bread with a nice fantasy of fillings ? Semel, in Piazza Ghiberti, opposite the Mercato di sant’Ambrogio.
So far, all sandwiches to be eaten standing up: at INO (in Via dei Georgofili, near the Ponte Vecchio) with a bit of luck you can sit in the small room, you can put your glass on a table and the schiacciata, as crispy as the others, seems even better.
A defect, in our opinion, common to almost all, lies in the fillings that are a little too ‘overlapping’: the advice is to make a first taste with only two ingredients in the sandwich, for example finocchiona and a delicate cheese, such as burrata, that would enhance each other.
If you add too many ‘side dishes’ such as aubergines, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, all strong flavours, the primary ingredients are somewhat mortified, and you no longer understand what you are eating.
If you have at least 5 full days, we can recommend a programme that will allow you to enjoy Tuscany and Florence to the fullest.
Would you also like to go on an excursion in the surrounding area, perhaps to the Chianti, accompanied by a driver/guide who will tell you something about this famous wine, on the way, before arriving at a farm for a tasting?
Are you a “young explorer” (young….. it is enough to be young in your mind) and would like to take a Vespa ride?
Or incurable romantics who would love a ride in a boat, slow and silent, on the Arno at sunset?
Ask Max: he will have a thousand suggestions…..one more intriguing than the other!
Exploring small places serving very typical dishes, with an authentic “toscanaccio“, a DOC Florentine, a great connoisseur of all the city’s gastronomic secrets? firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember that it is very important to book well in advance: the best Guides are always very busy!
Our suggestions (in alphabetical order); contact them by mentioning our name and they will give you special treatment:
Angelo, even with van, out of town www.florencelimotours.com
Constanza, tailor-made trips www.florenceandtuscanyguide.com
Leonardo, really passionate email@example.com
Nicola, a true lover of Florence firstname.lastname@example.org (whatsApp) 0041 798994771
Silvia, a Catalan/Florentine email@example.com
All are available for Uffizi and Accademia and more: the visit of these two museums does not exceed a couple of hours and you will be sure to have seen the most important things; but the Guide will also know how to show you less famous aspects of the city.
There are tickets that include several sites, from museums to gardens, lasting 3 days, but before buying one do your research well: they are not always worth the (rather high) cost, and it is often not possible to visit all the sites included in the ticket price.
Which are many and very rich: also very famous, so the first suggestion is to plan to visit!
Want to visit the Uffizi?
get your ticket online well in advance (perhaps on the official website www.uffizi.it so you don’t have to pay agency fees), so you’ll avoid wasting time in line.