Markets usually take place in the mornings before the afternoon siesta, selling a range of local produce from fresh fruit to bottled antipasti and fruity olive oils. In the city of Florence, the historic Mercato Centrale market - in operation since 1874 - is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike for its fresh meats, fish and cheese. It's open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 2pm.
Florence city centre has an abundance of shops to rummage around in, from master perfumer Sileno Cheloni's shop in the vaulted stabled of a 15th-century palazzo, just off the Piazza Santa Croce, to the elegant ceramics hand-crafted by local Tuscan potters. Marbled paper and stationary are also Florentine specialities and can be found in the many intimate shops and boutiques in the streets slightly further away from the centre.
Florence isn't the cheapest of cities, but if you want high-end fashion and antiques, you're in the right place. Here you can pick up handmade leather handbags, wallets and shoes, as well as big-name Italian brands like Gucci, Armani, Versace and Prada. Most of these designer brands are found on either the Via de' Tornabuoni or the Via della Vigna. If you're feeling extra indulgent, you can even book an appointment at the family palace of Emilio Pucci – the creator of the palazzo pants (a style of loose-fitting ladies trousers) – to shop his extravagant 60s clothes.
A relaxing evening is easy to achieve when you're staying in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cypress trees and breathtaking sunsets. Enjoy a laid-back dinner and 'cheers' the views with a glass of local wine.
As our hotels are pretty spread out within the Province of Florence – chosen for their harmony with nature – you won't find much in the way of lively nightlife nearby. However, you will find a lot more atmosphere in Florence city, if you wait around long enough. For some of the best views in the city, head up to La Terrazza Rooftop Bar, located in the Hotel Continentale. There are cosy, white sofas and impressive views of the glistening Arno River. For something more authentic, try Procacci, located on the prestigious Via Tornabuoni, for a glass of Chianti or spumante. You may need to flip a coin on designated driver, though.
The Florentine cuisine has peasant roots, meaning that the majority of dishes are based on meat. An antipasti speciality, for example, is the crostini toscani - a chicken liver-based pâté on a slice of crispy bread. You'll also find the ever-popular Bistecca alla Fiorentina on many a menu. This large T-bone steak is from the Chianina breed - an ancient Tuscan cow - and is cooked over hot charcoal and served very rare. If you're into your cheese, you'll have to try a Crespelle alla Fiorentina. This traditional pasta dish is the Italian version of a crêpe, stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, and covered with parmesan and a creamy béchamel sauce.
With hundreds of acres of vineyards surrounding the city of Florence and its smaller towns, it's not hard to find (and enjoy) a good glass of wine. Before you sit down to dinner, though, why not order a local tipple of Campari, Cinzano or the artichoke-based Cynar. Once you're finished eating, cleanse the palate with a shot of limoncello, or round off your meal with some grappa.
Stock up on delicious Italian goodies - for lunch or to take home with you - at the enormous Eataly, just north of the Duomo in the city of Florence. Over three floors you'll find everything from pizza, breads, salami, olive oil or balsamic vinegar, to cookery lessons and over 700 types of wine. The town of Montaione, just a short drive from the city, is home to 15 restaurants and pizzerias, five of which are located in the historical centre. If you're in the mood for a fancy lunch, book a table at I'Ciampa. This first-class establishment, run by the Ciampalini brothers, has a rooftop terrace and tasty dishes with ingredients from both land and sea. It's also worth noting that, in August, Tuscans tend to head to the seaside, so you might find that some restaurants and bars may be closed during this period.
The Province of Florence is vast, spanning across miles of luscious, hilly countryside, so walking between the towns, villages, cities and vineyards is almost impossible. However, while some of the roads and pavements within the towns and villages can be steep, it's a great way to explore their medieval heritage. The city of Florence is also ideal for exploring on foot, through its narrow alleyways and grand piazzas. And as the city is fairly compact, lots - if not all - of the major sights are only a short walk from each other.
From both of our hotels in the province, it'll take you less than 90 minutes to drive to the city of Florence. Though due to its historic nature, the city centre isn't designed for modern traffic. Most of the attractions are located in the Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZTL), so a permit is needed to park here. You can, however, park on the outskirts of the city and walk or take a bus into the centre. Pisa, Siena and Florence's coastal beaches are also easy to get to by car, with smooth journeys lasting just over an hour.
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