CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Florence | Art & CultureJuly 1, 2010

Greetings from “La Magnifica”

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Giotto found the kindling, Fra Angelico, Brunelleschi and Donatello built the fire. Massaccio and Verrocchio struck the match, then Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael threw gasoline -- the result was the greatest blaze of art the world has ever seen.

Dour and medieval from the outside, Florence is so steeped in the fabulous Renaissance that it's easy to mistake that she's actually rather a stylish little kitten. So go on get art and about.

Exquisitely walkable, Florence is divided nicely down the middle by the Arno River, the north side of which is home to most of the main monuments and museums; The tourist-swamped Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi and Centro Storico (World Heritage UNESCO) at dead center. Santa Maria Novella and label-land Via Tornabuoni to the west, the Duomo and San Marco to the north, and Santa Croce due east. The south side of the Arno, Oltrarno is the city Rive Gauche, packed with artisan shops and atmosphere.

Here are some tips in case you decide suddenly to visit; by the way, you'll need to know only two Italian phrases: Ciao Belloccia/Belloccio (Hello Gorgeous) and Vien Via, andiamo (come on, let's go)

The Restaurants

Enoteca Pinchiorri: Serious occasion dining, calls for 3 Michelin stars, a 150,000 - bottle cellar, over 200 wines by the glass, abundant crystal and pale pink linen and tasting menu that starts st 225 Euros. Via Ghibbellina, 87 r Santa Croce +39055242757

BSJ: Designed by Mr. Bonan (a darling of Ferragamo's) the chic-temporary whites and dark woods, pictures window over the Arno, and tiny, two table terrace (perfect for moon spooning) make for a relaxed sophisticated eve. Lungarno Hotels-Borgo San Yacopo. 62r Oltrarno/ +39 055 281661

Trattoria 4 Leoni: Teal and tiles and orange tablecloths inside, but snag a parasol table on the delightful piazza terrace and hoover the classical local treats, divertimento. Via de Vellutini,1r (piazza della Passera) Oltrarno /+ 39 055 218562

Coffee, Cake & Chocolate

Rivoire: My favorite, this peach tablecloth and woven chair haven of artisan cacao and scandalous pastries serves probably the finest hot chocolate (cioccolata con panna ) in the world. Via Vacchereccia, 4r/ Piazza della Signoria /+39055 214 412

Dolci e dolcezze: Assuming no responsibility for your figure after visiting. Disgracefully decadent, ultra-dense, fudgy chocolate cake, made with fine Swiss and Belgian ingredients and creamy Maremma butter, the best in town. Stay away at all cost! Piazza Beccaria, 8r/ Sant' Ambrogio +39 055 234 5458

Ice-cream

Forget the fluorescent dollopy rubbish you see all over town, the fresh, additive-free, handmade ice-creams you will find at the emporium below, are the finest in the city.

Badiani: Take the best Vanilla ice cream you've ever tasted multiply it by eight, and you have patented 'Buonvalenti' flavor. The taxi you need to taste it is well worth it...Viale dei Mille, 208 / +39 055578 682

Sites, Museums & Activities

Florence has no museum pass system. This pathetic state of affairs can be seriously deleterious to your enjoyment unless you are organized. Two words, book ahead -- you'll reduce your queueing time considerably. Have your passport or driver's license if you wish to hire an audio guide or better yet, hire a personal one! This city is literally one huge, glorious, easily walkable treasure chest. Here are the favorite, big, small, famed and lesser so. Have yourself your very own Renaissance but do not try to do everything at once. After all it took more that 60 years for an artist to accomplish one single door.

The Uffizzi: Despite being poorly laid out and presented, with its perilously 'organized' entry queueing system, it's nonetheless completely unmissable. Piazzale degli Uffizzi ,6/+39055 294883

Accademia: The David is one of those unique life moments, and while Michelangelo was the classic ADD artist, even his unfinished work amazes -- the prisoners emerging from their blocks of stone are haunting. The plaster gals in the Bartolini Gallery are destined to be forever wallflowers. Via Ricasoli, 58 /+39055238609

Santa Croce: Giotto's divine 14th Century Bardi Chapel frescoes, the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo, the soothing serenity of the Pazzi Chapel, and the Museo dell'Opera accessible from inside the complex in the Leather School. Piazza Santa Croce /+ 39 055 246 61 05

Bardini and Boboli Gardens: The Bardini's manicured tiers provide prime peeps of the city and the ticket price include the entrance to the adjoining Boboli Gardens, the Pitti Palace costume museum and glitzy Medici treasury. Enter Bardini at Via dei Bardi /+39 055 265 1816

Shops I Like

Borsalino: 150 years of making hats and still way ahead of its time for flawless panamas and smoking motorbike helmets. Via Porta Rossa, 40r Centro / +39 055 283 354.

Loretta Caponi: "Aristoctratic embroidery" Not bad right? The softest silk and cashmere classic lingerie, bed, bath, trousseau and even baptismal gowns. Piazza Antinori, 4r Centro + 39 055 213 668

The Mall: The outlet for Gucci, Pucci, Valentino, Armani, Hogan and other made in Italy brands Via Europa 8, Leccio/Reggello /+39 0558657775

Simone Abbarchi: Made to order, custom-measured men's shirts using Italian silks, Irish linens and Egyptian cotton from 100 Euros. Borgo San Frediano, 143r/ +39 055 210 552

The perfect Travel Guide: Luxe City Guides/ Florence from which I have been inspired and my precious source for this post.

Divertitevi! (have fun!)

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