It’s been well over a century since Florence spent a brief five-year spell as Italy’s capital. Today, Rome may take centre stage but Tuscany’s beating heart has never felt so captivating. While the city has one foot rooted in Renaissance splendour, the other strides out into a future filled with some of the world’s finest food, music and fashion.
IT'S FITTING that Stendhal syndrome, which causes sufferers to grow faint at an overwhelming concentration of beauty, is more commonly known as Florence syndrome. Words can’t do justice to this ethereal riverside city; like a well-cut diamond, she gleams from many angles.
The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence oozes historic, artistic and cultural allure. It was the stomping ground of Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo. Pieces by Raphael and Titian line the galleries. Today, its features read like a who’s who of the world’s most iconic sights: the Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Brunelleschi’s Dome (our guests have access to the cathedral’s exclusive terraces). Small surprise that UNESCO declared the city a World Heritage Site in 1982.
But the delights of the so-called Athens of Italy extend far beyond museums. It’s a cosmopolitan metropolis with a cultural scene that embraces opera, classical music and contemporary art. Even stalwarts such as the Uffizi—famously the home of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus—now has a Modern Art Gallery. Belmond’s pioneering collaboration with Florence’s top street artists allows guests to take a cycle tour of the city’s latest installations.
Yet Florence doesn’t have to be all cultural checkboxes. There’s plenty to be said for simply losing yourself in this open-air museum. Amble around the city’s narrow vias and bustling piazzas on a balmy summer evening. Peer into artisans’ workshops in the Oltrarno quarter. Grab a bite at Mercato Centrale before walking the Ponte Vecchio. Ever wondered how Florence earned its moniker as the City of Lilies? Take a stroll around Giardino di Boboli. Belmond guests have a chance to discover Florence from a different angle with the help of expert rafters who’ll steer you along the Arno.
In the fashion stakes, Florence rivals Milan as Italy’s capital of vogue. Mingle with the fashionistas as they cut a bella figura along Via Tornabuoni. You’ll find flagship boutiques of Gucci and Cavalli–both designers having been born in the city.
Florence’s food and wine is of such high repute too, that the ‘Fiorentina’ label has become synonymous with quality. Dine in salt-of-the-earth trattorias or acclaimed osterias such as the three-Michelin starred Enoteca Pinchiorri. Cool off with a some of Italy’s finest gelato—we recommend Vivoli near the Santa Croce—before discovering fine wines at Il Santino. Everything is well within walking distance of the Piazza della Repubblica. A 15-minute courtesy shuttle runs here from Belmond Villa San Michele throughout the day.
More than a cradle of art, Florence is a shrine to the art of living well. Come and discover la dolce vita.