Early summer is a wonderful time to visit Florence, before the languid heat sets in. This year is a particularly opportune moment with the streets and galleries still free of the usual crowds and the many small businesses open and ready to welcome you back.
Florence is a city that you can really get lost in – eminently traversable on foot, which is the very best way to discover something new with each visit. The major galleries are often congested with fine-tuned timetabling essential so as not to lose all enthusiasm in a queue. This year, however, it is possible to visit the Uffizi Galleries in virtual solitude by booking the first available entrance at 8.15am, allowing yourself a moment of tranquillity amongst this outstanding collection.
The same goes for the Accademia where the sculptures of Michelangelo tower over and enliven the senses. Located in Piazza della SS. Annunziata, not far from the Duomo, the works of Michelangelo will leave an imprint on your memory forever.
A few steps away is the church of S. Marco, once home to the ascetic friar Girolamo Savonarola and the Dominican monk and painter Fra Angelico whose profound frescoes adorn the monastic cells and chapel, taking you on a journey back to the 1400s.
For lunch, we highly recommend La Menagere with its inventive seasonal dishes. Set behind a flower shop, it is a wonderful reprieve for the foot-sore offering a modern take on Italian classics. If a traditional trattoria is more your style, we suggest Coco Lezzone, which is a Florentine institution, full of gossip, bustle and an unchanging (why would you?), classic menu. Another favourite is Todo Modo, a book shop / enoteca where one can while away time with a book, a light lunch, and a glass of (local) wine.
When you stride out over the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the river (known as the Oltrarno), the pace slows noticeably. In this world, you find crafts, artisans at work wedged haphazardly in doorways, independent boutiques, sourdough, longer coffees, and louder beats. Classicity you still find in abundance and there are many essential stops such as the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine adorned with works of Masaccio and Filippino Lippi. For a great, understated lunch or dinner stop on this side of the river, a firm favourite of food and wine loving locals is Le Volpe e L’Uva Enoteca, or try Il Santo Bevitore or one of its offshoots.
And if you are in search of a decent gelato, we recommend the amazing Gelateria La Carraia at the foot of the Ponte alla Carraia.
But when your ears and eyes have been sated, it’s time to wander down to Chianti Classico to complete your sensory tour of Tuscany. Come and taste with us at Montecalvi!