On June 12, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:While tourists flock to Florence year-round, rain or shine, some times of the year are better than others to visit. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, your best bet is heading to the Tuscan city in January or February. The chilly weather tends to discourage the masses, which means you won’t have to elbow your way through the Uffizi Gallery or the Duomo. Come late February and early March, the weather warms up and the streets begin to fill with vacationers and weekenders. As spring progresses, Florence gets more and more crowded, and for good reason — the days are beautiful and the nights are lively.
If there’s one time of year to avoid Florence — and much of Italy — at all costs, it’s August. Italians usually take the late summer month off and close up shops, restaurants and even hotels.
On June 12, 2012answered the question:As the home of some of the world's greatest works of art — Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus — Florence is one of the best places to pick up artsy souvenirs. From pretty postcards and kitschy aprons sporting the body of David on the front to original artwork sold in various piazzas, the city on the Arno is brimming with art-inspired gifts. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors love Florence’s wearable art. Visit the School of Leather (Scuola del Cuoio) to see the leather-makers creating masterpieces out of beautiful hide. Whether it’s a belt, wallet or purse, a souvenir from the School of Leather is a must.
On June 12, 2012answered the question:Spending the night in one of Florence's hotels is like sleeping in a museum, since they are housed in beautifully restored buildings. You’ll find everything from intimate villas perched on a hillside to palatial hotels in the middle of it all. Here’s Forbes Travel Guide’s take on the five best places to stay in Florence:
1. Villa San Michele. Perched on a hilltop above the city, Villa San Michele resides in a former monastery. This romantic hotel dates back to the 15th century, and its 46 rooms are appropriate decorated with antique furnishings. Soak up the Tuscan sun at the swimming pool surrounded by lush gardens. Or just gaze at the seemingly endless miles of Florence’s cityscape.
2. Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. At this hotel, you get the spectacular service and accommodations that Four Seasons is known for along with a hefty dose of history and art. From the museum-like lobby lounge to the palatial Royal Suite, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is fit for a king. Whether you stay in a guest room in the 500-year-old Palazzo della Gherardesca or a room in the 16th-century convent, you’ll be seeped in history.
3. J.K. Place Firenze. This design-centric hotel is a refreshing alternative to the extravagant places in Florence. Each of the 20 rooms is chic and modern, but still retains the splendor of Tuscany. Some have four-poster beds surrounded by cream drapes, while others offer sleek fabric headboards. The intimate boutique hotel sits a few blocks away from the popular Duomo.
4. The St. Regis Florence. Overlooking the Arno River, this opulent hotel oozes Italian in its 100 guest rooms and suites. Aside from high ceilings and custom frescoes, rooms come in Florentine, Medici or Renaissance style. Each has its own personality, right down to the bedspreads.
5. Hotel Savoy. Sitting on the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica, Hotel Savoy sports contemporary Italian décor with an air of Florentine elegance. A highlight of the centrally located hotel is that all 102 rooms have distinctive artwork, from the ceramics to the mosaics in the bathrooms. If art isn’t your thing, the walk-in closets and balconies overlooking the piazza will draw you in.
On June 12, 2012answered the question:Florence is brimming with spectacular shopping opportunities — and it’s not just the top-notch designers. Along the Ponte Vecchio, you’ll encounter shop after shop filled with gold necklaces, bracelets, rings and more. This is where to buy jewelry, and there’s something for every price range.
The western Italian city is also known for its quality leather goods. Make your way to Piazza Santa Croce’s Scuola del Cuoio (School of Leather) and watch the craftsmen hard at work learning the trade. Within the school, buy everything from handmade belts to wallets. You’ll find more leather and jewelry at the nearby open-air San Lorenzo market.
When it comes to fashion, Florence’s Via Tornabuoni is unrivaled in these parts. Boutiques from legendary Italian designers like Gucci, Prada, Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli line the famous street. It’s a shopper’s paradise, so don’t forget your credit card. To get labels for less, head to The Mall, an outlet center that’s a half-hour drive from the city. Packed with shops like Tod’s, Bottega Veneta and Gucci, this is the spot to snag the deals.
On May 11, 2012Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question:There’s so much to do in Florence that even if you stayed for a month, you wouldn’t make a dent in your sightseeing list. From art to shopping, there’s something to see in every piazza. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to see and do in Florence:
1. Explore the Uffizi Gallery. It’s one of the most famous museums in the world — and for good reason. Originally built to house administrative and judiciary offices of Florence, the Uffizi is filled with masterpieces by great Italian artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raphael. Spend the day strolling through the halls and ogling the stunning works.
2. Visit the Duomo. Aside from the museums, the Duomo is Florence’s most well-known attraction. The Gothic domed structure towers over the city and is hard to miss. Its pink, green and white marble exterior is beautiful, but the interior is even better. Intricate centuries-old frescoes cover the cathedral walls. The frescoes are so intriguing that you won’t mind the tiring 463-step hike to see them.
3. Walk on the Ponte Vecchio. Spanning across the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio has stood the test of time. Sure, it has a historic element — rebuilt after a flood in 1345, it’s the only bridge that the Germans didn’t destroy during World War II —but the strip is a must for shopping. Dozens of jewelry shops line the bridge; stop off to buy a gold souvenir.
4. See the David at the Accademia. You’ve seen photos and plenty of replicas, but there’s no substitute for getting a glimpse of Michelangelo’s David in person. The 14-foot-tall white marble sculpture is awe-inspiring. At the museum’s gift shop, you can buy everything from postcards of the more than 500-year-old statute to aprons sporting David’s body on it.
5. Walk around the Boboli Gardens. The Pitti Palace’s Boboli Gardens are a prime example of Tuscan Renaissance landscape architecture and have become the standard for European royal gardens. The 111-acre garden is filled with cypress trees, sculptures and grottos. It’s a great escape from the hordes of tourists who cram the Italian city.