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January 22nd, 2018

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Art and culture galore, discover our recipe for the perfect weekend in Florence.

When you dream of the most wonderful place in the world for your next weekend escape, Florence must surely be at the top of your list. It’s the quintessential essence of Italy—perhaps even more so than Rome. Did you know the modern Italian language itself evolved from a Tuscan dialect?

Of course, it’s also the birthplace of the Renaissance, and no visit to Florence is complete without paying homage to the masters—Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Da Vinci, Donatello, and always Michelangelo.

But don’t pigeonhole Florence as a Renaissance city beautifully encased in amber; it’s a vibrant, creative, cultural center with fabulous restaurants, elegant fashion houses, and cutting-edge contemporary art.

In short, Florence is a city just made for a romantic interlude or weekend away. So if you’ve got a few days to explore this fascinating Tuscan capital, here are the experiences you really can’t miss.

Get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the cupola of the Duomo.
 

Brunelleschi’s iconic Duomo, so synonymous with the city of Florence, actually began as an engineering problem, and a contest offered by the city’s elders to solve the problem of the gaping hole in the roof of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. The portly goldsmith, Filippo Brunelleschi, won the contest with his secret design for a dome-within-a-dome.

Whether or not you’re a student of architecture or engineering, however, you can’t fail to be moved by the panoramic view of the city and the dome’s interior below from the platform some 460 steps above the ground. You’ll even see Vasari’s Last Judgment frescoes up close along the way. Be sure to reserve your spot in line before you begin your walking tour of Florence so you don’t miss this incredible sight.

Go crazy for Florentine leather.
 

Florence’s leather shops are almost a cliche—but leather crafts are a centuries old tradition in this Tuscan city. By the early 14th century, there were already more than 1,500 shoemakers here, mostly in the Oltrarno district, which laid the foundation for Florence’s international prominence in leather goods today.

You should definitely browse the shops in the San Lorenzo market, if only for the sheer number and variety of leather goods, but when you’re ready to shop for a quality piece to take home, visit the shops that line Via Pellicceria for gorgeous custom-made sandals, fine leather suitcases, wallets, belts, and gloves.

Enjoy aperitivo like a Florentine.

No one does aperitivo like an Italian, and there is no better place to enjoy this fabulous custom than at one of the bars and cafes that line Piazza Santa Spirito. A Campari, Negroni, or the fragrant Aperol spritz is the perfect start, perhaps with a bite of bruschetta, some cured meats, and a plate of olives.

Don’t confuse aperitivo with the American happy hour—since Italians rarely dine before 9pm, this cocktail hour usually begins around 7. And skip the sweet and creamy drinks you’re used to at home. Be bold and try the bitter liquors, the amari, so favored by the Italians. And if you’re not quite that bold, you can always just sip Prosecco!

Awaken your senses at the Mercato Centrale.
 

Start your second day in Florence with a trip to the colorful Mercato Centrale in the old-Renaissance San Lorenzo district. Yes, it’s an actual market, so if you want to buy produce and foodstuffs, you’re definitely in luck.

But today, Mercato Centrale is so much more—sample wonderful Florentine cuisine, listen to live music, enjoy a cooking demonstration, or even take a pasta-making class with a local chef. This is definitely the place to try regional specialties like lampredotto and polpette, as well as wood-fired Tuscan pizzas, pastas, and gelato.

Take a Tuscan wine tour.
 

You absolutely can’t do Florence without indulging in its exquisite wines—winemaking has been a Tuscan specialty for hundreds of years. Is there anything more romantic than traveling the rolling Tuscan countryside sampling classic Chiantis, crisp Orvieto, and earthy Brunello di Montalcino, perhaps the most famous of them all?

The Tuscan Wine Trail is the perfect way to while away your second day in Florence, enjoying the magnificent scenery, sipping your favorite wines, and enjoying the freshest Tuscan cuisine prepared by renowned chefs.

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