Here Are The Things To Do In Florence On Your Next Trip

What To Do, See, Eat, And Drink On Your Trip To Florence According To A Native Fiorentino

Claudio Meli

General Manager, J.K. Place Firenze

Claudio Meli loves Florence. Born and raised in the city’s San Frediano neighborhood, Claudio has always found reasons to celebrate his hometown. And it helps that centuries of artists and artisans are right at his proverbial fingertips. Of all Italian cities, Florence is the center of Italy’s cultural heritage, a convergence of art, science, gastronomy, and philosophy which pervades Claudio’s daily life. After years studying and working in Florence’s hotel industry, Claudio joined J.K. Place Firenze for its 2003 opening and knew that he had found not just a new home, but another reason to share his beloved Florence.

Claudio Meli, general manager at J.K. Place Firenze. Photo courtesy of Dario Garofalo.

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Discover Florence With J.K. Place General Manager Claudio Meli

A few years back, Claudio realized that it was time to share his Florentine tips and secrets in a portable format, so he created the J.K. Essential Guide to Florence. Now in its fourth edition, the pocket-sized, self-published guide is a peek into Claudio’s beloved city. Claudio takes you district by district through the city, sharing insights on neighborhood histories and restaurants, boutiques and artisans, as well as markets, jogging routes, nightclubs, cinemas and theaters. “You can live in Florence for decades and there is still so much to explore,” he says. Here are a few of his favorite places in Florence.

The Medici Chapels At San Lorenzo Basilica

Explore The Heart Of Florence

There is nothing more emblematic of Medici Florence and the Renaissance than the Cappelle Medicee at the Basilica of San Lorenzo (6 Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini; +39-055-238-8602). Perhaps the city’s most celebrated site, Claudio also considers the chapels the “heart of Florence.” The Medici family brought in the best artisans to create the resplendent chapels. Michelangelo designed and decorated the ambitious Sagrestia Nuova with his sculpture and architecture, while the Baroque Cappella dei Principi features an ornate, octagonal dome.

The octagonal Cappella dei Principi in the Medici Chapel. Photo courtesy of Dario Garofalo.

Explore Oltrarno

Florence On The Other Side of the Arno

Florence’s Oltrarno, the neighborhood opposite the Arno River from the Duomo, is considered Florence’s left bank—an area of beautiful piazzas bustling with the scenes of daily life from artisans and intellectuals, families and students. Forced to choose, Claudio favorite piazza would be Piazza Santo Spirito. a quiet piazza in the daytime, which livens up in the evenings as the neighborhood denizens fill the cafés and restaurants lining the square. Like many of Florence’s squares, Piazza Santo Spirito is centered around a church, the Santo Spirito Basilica (30 Piazza Santo Spirito; +39-055-210-030), considered one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy. Originally built in the 13th century, famed architect Filippo Brunelleschi redesigned the church in the late 15th century.

The expanse of Piazza Santo Spirito and the Brunelleschi-designed Basilica Santo Spirito. Photo courtesy of by J.K. Place Firenze.

Visit One Of The Oldest Restaurants In Florence

This Eatery Gives New Meaning To The Phrase “Hole In The Wall”

In the subterranean wine cellar of Palazzo Antinori, a 550-year old Renaissance palace just off the posh via de’ Tornabuoni, hides a literal hole in the wall: Buca Lapi (1R Via del Trebbio; +39-055-213-768). Founded in 1880, Buca (which means hole) Lapi is considered one of the oldest, if not the oldest, restaurant in Florence and the atmosphere is willfully yesteryear. Vaulted ceilings are covered in vintage travel posters, and low hanging lights and wooden tables and chairs provide a delightfully antique atmosphere for wine magnate Antinori’s local eatery which claims to have the best Florentine T-bone steak in the city. According to Claudio, it’s more than just the fabulous bistecca alla Fiorentina and the wine list dominated by Antinori labels that keeps locals and tourists coming back—it is owner Luciano and his ability to personalize the evening for each of his guests.

The cellar dining room of Buca Lapi. Photo courtesy of J.K. Place Firenze.

A Distinctly Florentine Museum

20th Century Art In A 13th Century Complex

Hiding in plain sight in Piazza San Maria Novella, one of the main architectural symbols of the Florentine Renaissance is Museo Novecento (10 Piazza di Santa Maria Novella; +39-055-286-132), a museum showcasing 20th century Italian art in a Medieval hospital. With holdings that range from the turn of the century to the 1990s, the modern collection is a combination of 300 paintings, sculptures, videos, and installations supplemented by rotating exhibitions from international artists, all set within the striking setting of the 13th century former Ospedale di San Paolo.

The inner courtyard of Museo Novecento in the Ospedale di San Paolo, a 13th century hospital complex. Photo courtesy of Simone Fossi.

Florence With A View

A Private Rooftop Escape

There is nothing more desirable than a view of the rooftops of Florence. Waves of terracotta roofs signify the Florentine landscape and the J.K. Terrace Rooftop has its own tiny outpost with an eye-to-eye view of Brunelleschi’s famous dome.

A moonlight view from the J.K. Rooftop Terrace. Photo courtesy of J.K. Place Firenze.
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