PRINT PREVIEW
send to printer

Concierge.com

Florence 2009 - restaurants and museos

Florence 2009 - restaurants and museos

By marylynn35
Destinations: 
Europe,
Florence,
Italy

Want to see changes since last visit 30 years ago.

ITEMS

ALT HERE

See + Do

Cappella Medicea, Italy

6 Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 238 8602

Attached to the church of San Lorenzo, this complex of three rooms is the final resting place of Medicis great and small. Minor family members were relegated to the crypt, while Cosimo I turned the Cappella dei Principi, with its lashings of marble, into a bombastic exercise in self-glorification. But Michelangelo's Sagrestia Nuova is the real draw. Fresh from painting the Sistine ceiling in Rome, the returning prodigal son produced some of his most original sculptural works in the two finished Medici tombs that dominate the space. The tomb of Giuliano, youngest son of Lorenzo de' Medici, is crowned by twin reclining statues of Night and Day, while that of Lorenzo's eponymous grandson, Lorenzo Duke of Urbino, is capped by figures of Dawn and Dusk.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 8:15 am to 5 pm, plus second and fourth Monday and first, third, and fifth Sunday of each month.

See + Do

Cappella Brancacci, Italy

Piazza del Carmine
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 276 8224

The Brancacci Chapel, inside the Oltrarno Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, is where the Renaissance started. Commissioned by a local silk merchant, the fresco cycle that adorns the walls of the chapel is one of the most important in Florentine art. It was the work of three great Renaissance painters: Masolino da Panicale, his pupil Masaccio, and Fra Filippo Lippi. One of the most memorable works is Masaccio's Expulsion of Adam and Eve. The frescoes were celebrated from the outset for their use of the new rules of perspective and their chiaroscuro (light and shade) effects, and artists such as Michelangelo came to study them. Note that admission is by a separate entrance at the side of the church and is strictly limited to 30 people per 15-minute slot. This means that, except at very quiet times of year, it is worth ringing ahead to book.

Open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 1 to 5 pm.

See + Do

Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Italy

4 Via del Proconsolo
Florence 50022, Italy
Tel: 39 055 238 8606; advance tickets 39 055 294 883

The Bargello occupies a rather forbidding building that was once the city jail; the romantic Gothic courtyard was the site of the gallows and chopping block. Today, the museum houses a fabulous collection of sculpture by Michelangelo, Donatello, Benvenuto Cellini, Giambologna, and others. On the ground floor, don't miss Cellini's bronze bust of Cosimo I, Giambologna's famous Mercury, and Michelangelo's Pitti Tondo. Upstairs, look out for Donatello's St. George and his androgynous bronze David.

Open Tuesday through Saturday 8:15 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. Also open (same times) first, third, and fifth Monday of month and second and fourth Sunday.

See + Do

Museo di San Marco, Italy

1 Piazza San Marco
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 238 8608

A testament to the work of painter–monk Fra Angelico, this museum is housed in the Dominican convent of San Marco. Fra Angelico was arguably the most spiritual artist of the 15th century, and his paintings can be seen in the setting for which they were intended. One of his most famous works, the Annunciation, is at the top of the main stairs on the first floor, while his great Last Judgment altarpiece is in the Pilgrim's Hospice. He also painted the frescoes in the corners of the cloister of Sant Antonio and, with the help of various assistants, those in the small monk's cells.

Open Tuesday through Friday 8:15 a.m. to 1:50 p.m.; Saturday 8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m.; first, third, and fifth Monday of month 8:15 a.m. to 1:50 p.m.; second and fourth Sunday 8:15 a.m. to 7 p.m.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Giardino di Boboli, Italy

Piazza Pitti
Florence, Italy

The only park in the center of Florence, the Boboli Gardens (behind Palazzo Pitti) provides a green oasis in the midst of the city's dense Renaissance architecture. Laid out by Buontalenti in the 16th century, it is a wonderful space where you'll come across fountains, statues, secret pathways, lawns, formal gardens, and a thriving population of stray cats. Look for the Neptune Fountain, the beautiful Giardino del Cavaliere at the top of the gardens, Buontalenti's fantastical, newly restored grotto, and the statue of Cosimo I's chubby dwarf astride a turtle, just before the main exit.

Open daily 8:15 a.m. till one hour before sunset. Closed the first and last Monday of each month.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Galleria dell' Accademia, Italy

58–60 Via Ricasoli
Florence 50122, Italy
Tel: 39 055 238 8612; advance tickets 39 055 294 883

The vast majority of the people in the mile-long line outside this former art school are here for one reason only: to ogle what is probably the most famous nude sculpture in the world, Michelangelo's monumental David. The statue, finished in 1504, was carved from a single, particularly long and narrow piece of marble and is top-heavy; the artist intended it to be placed on a high plinth. The hands and feet are huge; other parts famously aren't. It's awesome, nonetheless. Besides David, don't neglect Michelangelo's other masterpiece, the nonfiniti ("unfinished") or Slaves. There are also some fine Quattrocento and Mannerist paintings and a magnificent collection of musical instruments that includes several Stradivari. It is possible to reserve tickets beforehand by calling the advance tickets telephone number, but the museum won't accept reservations more than two months in advance.

Open Tuesday through Sunday 8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Galleria degli Uffizi, Italy

6 Piazzale degli Uffizi
Florence 50122, Italy
Tel: 39 055 238 85; advance tickets 39 055 294 883

The greatest collection of Renaissance painting in the world is housed in the former administrative offices of Cosimo de' Medici's court, a 16th-century building designed by Vasari. The gallery contains enough great art to keep you busy for a whole day, but it may take half a day to get in at peak times—unless you book ahead. A small allocation of next-day tickets are available on the door. Alternatively, call the advance booking number and reserve a ticket, you can pick it up at the museum's reservation desk which has a shorter line. Highlights of the first nine rooms include the three glorious Maestà altarpieces by Giotto, Cimabue, and Duccio in Room 2, Gentile da Fabriano's action-packed Adoration of the Magi in Room 5, Piero della Francesca's famous portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino in Room 7, and a collection of Fra Filippo Lippi's in Rooms 8 and 9. The gallery's most famous paintings, the Botticellis, are in Rooms 10–14; here the crowds gather around such masterpieces as The Adoration of the Magi, Primavera, and The Birth of Venus.

Open Tuesday through Sunday 8:15 a.m. to 6:50 p.m.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), Italy

Piazza del Duomo
Florence 50122, Italy
Tel: 39 055 230 2885

Florence's massive green and white cathedral and its wedding cake facade dominates the center of the city. Building began in the 1290s under the direction of Arnolfo Di Cambio, and the structure was designed to supersede all other churches in size and sheer magnificence. The celebrated dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was built in the 15th century after the engineering conundrum of how to construct such a huge cupola without it collapsing under its own weight was solved (even today, this remains the largest masonry dome in the world). Entrance to the cathedral itself is free, but four parts have separate charges and opening times (see below). Of these, the most worthwhile is the viewing platform inside the lantern that crowns the dome—but as the sign at the bottom warns: "463 steps... There is no lift." On the north and east doors outside the Baptistery, look out for Ghiberti's delicate bronze bas-reliefs.

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 10 am to 5 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm, Sundays 1 to 5 pm.

Cupola (Dome): Open Mondays through Fridays 8:30 am to 7 pm, Saturdays 8:30 am to 5:40 pm.

Campanile: Open daily 8:30 am to 7:30 pm.

Baptistery: Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 7 pm, Sundays 8:30 am to 2 pm.

Crypt of Santa Reparata: Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 4:45 pm. Last entry 40 minutes before closing time.

Eating

Vestri, Italy

11 Borgo Albizi
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 234 0374
Website: www.vestri.it

For a great selection of handmade chocolates in intense, unusual flavors, come to Vestri, located just north of Piazza Santa Croce. Based in Arezzo, Vestri takes the art of chocolate so seriously that in 2001 the family bought their own cocoa plantation in Santo Domingo. Chocolates are flavored with Earl Grey tea, nutmeg, chile, or pepper, but there are plenty more prosaic flavors to choose from. Come in winter, and there will be steaming vats of hot chocolate (try the one spiked with bitter orange), while in summer, sinfully creamy ice cream (laced with mint, Cointreau, or fresh wild strawberries and white chocolate) is the order of the day.

Eating

Trattoria Ruggero, Italy

89/r Via Senese, Porta Romana
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 220 542

Outside the city center, near Porta Romana, is one of the best trattorias in Florence, a must-try if you're in the area. It's a great value for the money, and lunch and dinner dishes are fresh and beautifully prepared. Its two small dining rooms are always full, so there's no lingering at the tables. Spaghetti alla carrettiera—literally "teamster's style"—has a delicious spicy tomato sauce. Other favorites are roast pork loin, roast rabbit, or, in season, porcini mushrooms.

Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Eating

Trattoria Mario, Italy

2/r Via Rosina
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 218 550

Trattoria Mario, behind the San Lorenzo market, caters to students, market workers, and other regulars, who stand outside waiting for a place at one of the tiny tables jammed into its dining room. A glassed-in kitchen offers a view of the hardworking crew. The day's menu is posted on the wall, and it's ultra-cheap, classic Tuscan fare—soups like ribollita or pappa al pomodoro, pastas, grilled meats, a few stews. Most of the menu is simple, apart from the Florentine steak, the most expensive item available. A handful of fine wines are available by the bottle or quartino (quarter liter). Lunch only.

Closed Sundays.

Eating

Oliviero, Italy

51/r Via delle Terme
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 212 421
Website: www.ristorante-oliviero.it

On a small side street in the center of town, Oliviero drips old-fashioned glamour, with its red velvet banquettes and white-gloved waiters—so it's not surprising to learn that Burt Lancaster, Sophia Loren, and Maria Callas were once patrons. The cuisine, however, is not stuck in the past: Local ingredients are used with flair, as in the leek soup with lampredotto (tripe), or their amusing variation on the most clichéd of Florentine desserts: a vin santo–flavored cheesecake, its base made up of crumbled Prato biscuits. Fish, meat, and game take equal billing among the secondi (which might include rabbit terrine with plums, or tuna filet in a sauce of Tropea onions, sultanas, pine nuts, and ginger-scented olive oil). On Fridays between November and March, there's a nod to tradition with the carrello dei bolliti (boiled meat trolley). The wine list and selection of Cognacs, single-malt whiskies, and grappas is unusual and impressive.

Closed Sundays.

Eating

Olio & Convivium, Italy

4 Via Santo Spirito
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 265 8198
Website: www.conviviumfirenze.it

The Oltrarno district, Florence's version of the Left Bank, is home to this restaurant that doubles as a gastronomic emporium, serving creative Tuscan cooking and selling an impressive selection of wine, cheese, salumi, and prepared foods to go. Olive oil is a speciality: Sourced from all over Italy (but mainly Tuscany), it starts arriving from November onward. A good year will mean that there are up to 40 different oils to choose from; the best time to taste is early spring. Alternatively, dine in the back room lined with wine bottles: The creative lunch and dinner menus change according to the season, but might take in broad bean and pecorino risotto or turbot on a bed of chickpeas; generous salumi boards are another feature.

Closed Sundays and Monday evenings.

Eating

Nerbone and Other Tripe Stalls, Italy

Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo and elsewhere
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 219 949 (Nerbone)

Say "Florence," and Michelangelo and Dante are apt to spring to mind; one's thoughts are less likely to turn to tripe. Yet the bovine stomach, and more particularly the firm abomasum—known locally as lampredotto—has long been considered a delicacy in the Tuscan city. The courageous can sample it in Florence's tripe stalls, where knots of eaters can be seen hunched over paper-wrapped sandwiches. Some stands prepare a whole menu of tripe dishes, but the classic panino al lampredotto, a boiled-tripe sandwich dressed with salsa verde, is available at them all. One of the best is Nerbone, a stall inside the Mercato Centrale that has grown over the years into a full-scale trattoria, where hot dishes like seppie e piselli (cuttlefish and peas) are served at marble tables alongside the classic trippa (tripe) and lesso (a boiled-beef sandwich, served either as it is or dipped in meat broth). The appropriate accompanying beverage is a stubby tumbler of Chianti (open Mon–Fri 7 am–2 pm). Other trippai include Orazio Nencioni, at the corner of the Loggia del Porcellino (the covered craft market on Via dei Cimatori), and Maria Albergucci, in Piazzale di Porta Romana.

Eating

Le Volpi e l'Uva, Italy

1 Piazza dei Rossi
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 239 8132
Website: www.levolpieluva.com

One of the city's best wine bars, "The Foxes and the Grapes" is a delightful bottle-lined cubbyhole on a secluded piazza just off the heavily touristed Ponte Vecchio–to–Palazzo Pitti route. The owners are real wine scholars and pride themselves on discovering wines from small producers. An atmosphere of quiet contemplation reigns, and the food—plates of cheese and salumi, and gourmet panini involving ingredients like smoked goose breast—exists mainly to soak up the wine. It's difficult to order just one glass: Start chatting to the guys behind the bar (one of whom speaks good English), and you'll find yourself embarking on a dangerous wine odyssey as bottle after bottle is opened to illustrate a point about Tuscan ways with merlot, or the best sauvignons from Alto Adige.

Open 11 am to 9 pm. Closed Sundays.

Eating

La Giostra, Italy

12/r Borgo Pinti
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 241 341
Website: www.ristorantelagiostra.com

Sure, this place gives itself airs that are not quite justified by the quality of the food—or the prices. But you've got to eat in La Giostra, north of Santa Croce, at least once, if only to experience the Aladdin's Cave decor and the eccentric guiding hand of the chef-owner, who looks uncannily like David Carradine in a cook's hat, but who is in fact a Hapsburg prince. Prince Dimitri and his two sons run an opulent ship, which sails along on rich flavors: Mushrooms and truffles are a speciality. It's luxe comfort food rather than cutting-edge gourmet cuisine, and the stellar wine list is, one suspects, more about big names and big prices than in-depth oenological research. But the welcome is genuine enough, and there's nothing wrong with smoke and mirrors when they're this dazzling.

Eating

Filipepe, Italy

43 Via San Niccolò
Florence 50125, Italy
Tel: 39 055 2001 397
Website: www.filipepe.com

It takes a while to soak in this new Oltrarno contemporary bistro—especially if you come early, when service and atmosphere are both getting up to speed. But as the evening wears on, everything falls into place: the almost frou-frou mix of Tuscan rustic (whitewashed brick walls, exposed beams) and Parisian chic (strong-hued linen drapes, mismatched antique chairs, candles on every table); the efficient, no-nonsense waitstaff; and above all the food, which is more southern Italian than Florentine. The menu is creative without excess: A grissini-skewered lecca lecca (lollipop) of cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, caramelized figs, and buffalo mozzarella was tasty once the "How do I eat this?" challenge was resolved; and the baked monkfish with zucchini flowers on a bed of caper cream with garlic foam, paired with a pear and apple salad, is a delightful one-two punch of savory and sweet. A bonus on warm nights is the tiny interior garden, which seats just 12. The wine list is not large but is gratifyingly well-rounded (at least as far as Italian wine regions go) in a city that sometimes finds it difficult to look beyond Chianti.

Eating

Cibrèo, Italy

8/r Via A. del Verrocchio
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 234 1100
Website: www.cibreo.com

Nearly three decades after it first shook up the city's sluggish dining scene, Cibrèo, near Santa Croce, still ranks as one of Florence's top culinary destinations. Fabio Picchi's winning idea was to do refined, top-quality versions of the sort of fare that a Tuscan granny would make. The main restaurant has linen tablecloths, more formal service, amuse-bouche (ricotta soufflé with shaved parmesan), and some gourmet twists to the menu, but if you can do without the frills and are prepared to wait in line (they don't take bookings), the food in the trattoria next door (known as Trattoria Cibrèo) is pretty much the same—and less than half the price. In both places, your server will recite the daily menu: a lengthy selection of first courses (soups and polenta mostly), then on to main dishes (fish, meat, including some innards, and squab). Finish up with a top-notch, if not quite Tuscan, chocolate cake or cheesecake. The most recent addition to the Cibrèo family is the cabaret diner Circolo Teatro del Sale, just across the road at 111/R Via de' Macci (39-055-200-1492). It's a fun alternative to the main restaurant and does an excellent breakfast.

All closed Sundays and Mondays.

Eating

Carabé, Italy

60/r Via Ricasoli
Florence 50122, Italy
Tel: 39 055 289 476
Website: www.gelatocarabe.com

The best gelato in Florence—and yes, that includes the much more famous Vivoli—comes from this gelateria not far from the Duomo, which quickly reveals its Sicilian roots. Once a surprise you stumbled on, Carabé is always hopping now. Look for its great nut flavors, such as almond, pistachio, and hazelnut, made with select nuts from Sicily. Fresh fruit granita (a granular ice drink) is available in warm-weather months, while coffee, lemon, and almond-milk versions are sold year-round.

Eating

Cantinetta da Verrazzano, Italy

18-20 Via dei Tavolini
Florence 50122, Italy
Tel: 39 055 268 590
Website: www.verrazzano.com

This central bakery just south of the Duomo sells Florentine breads, torte, and biscotti up front and features a bar-caffè in back. With its old-fashioned, wood-framed mirrors, it seems to have been around forever, though it's little more than 15 years old. At the tables: a menu of sandwiches, stuffed focaccia, wild-boar salumi, and cheese, all with the fine wines of Castello di Verrazzano. Drink the Chianti Classico or have a glass of vin santo—with cantucci (almond-studded biscuits) for dunking.

Closes at 9 pm (4 pm in July and August). Closed Sundays.

Beccofino

Eating

Alle Murate, Italy

16r Via del Proconsolo
Florence 50122, Italy
Tel: 39 055 240 618
Website: www.artenotai.org

Since its move in 2005 to the 14th-century Palazzo dell'Arte dei Giudici e Notai, next to the Duomo, Alle Murate has been as much a museum as a restaurant. That's not to say the food's bad; the mouthwatering menu anchors its creativity in a mix of Tuscan and southern Italian influences, so a soup of chickpeas and flaked cod (a typical dish from Basilicata) might be followed by an all-Tuscan number like braised Chianina beef in Brunello wine sauce. But the culinary experience is lent weight by the extraordinary surroundings—the meeting hall of the city's medieval guild of magistrates and public notaries, decorated with recently restored frescoes of famous Florentine heroes, soldiers, and poets, including the earliest known portrait of Dante. The wine list is encyclopedic, though it's a little short on cheaper bottles.

Evenings only. Closed Mondays.

Eating

Il Latini, Italy

6/r Via dei Palchetti
Florence, Italy
Tel: 39 055 210 916
Website: www.illatini.com

Some places never change. This classic, evergreen family restaurant near the Duomo is one of them. Everyone queues in the same democratic spirit (no bookings are taken between 8 and 9 p.m.), and once inside, the lively, friendly atmosphere makes the decent Tuscan home cooking taste all the better. Opt for filling soups like the ribollita (the classic local bread and vegetable potage) and the establishment's trademark secondo, bistecca fiorentina, cooked on a charcoal grill (T-bone steak doesn't come much better than chez Latini). Wash it all down with the good house red wine, and wrap with a killer tiramisu.

Closed Mondays.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.