Florence, with its medieval Ponte Vecchio stone arched bridge over the Arno River. Photo: Alamy
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1. PAY A VISIT TO A PICASSO

The newest museum in this oh-so-Renaissance city celebrates a very different kind of art. Housed in a beautiful palazzo, the Collezione Roberto Casamonti displays the modern and contemporary art collection belonging to one of the city's most prominent gallerists. The world-class art includes canvases by Braque, Warhol and Klein as well as Picasso. The museum is so new that most tourists don't know about it yet, making it an island of tranquillity, even during peak season. See collezionerobertocasamonti.com

2. SAVOUR A CRAFT COCKTAIL

Florence may not have the most buzzing bar scene, but it does have Locale, which is considered to have the best cocktails in town. (Its Negroni Mezcal has become a classic.) The fact that drinks are accompanied by free nibbles on an olive wood platter just ups the appeal, as do the contemporary design touches which include a vertical garden and mood lighting. The fact that all of this is tucked into a 13th century palazzo is the piece de resistance. See localefirenze.it

3. CATCH A CONCERT

Psst: did you know that some of Florence's churches lead a double life? In some cases, they also serve as atmospheric venues for choral and orchestral performance. The grand Chiesa di Orsanmichele often hosts orchestras in its courtyard, while St Mark's English Church has a fully-fledged musical program which includes performances of popular operas. See classictic.com/en, stmarksitaly.com

Florence's famous Uffizi gallery.
Florence's famous Uffizi gallery. Photo: Alamy

4. LEARN FROM A FASHION MASTER

Some of Italy's most prestigious fashion labels were born in Florence, including Salvatore Ferragamo. Head to the Palazzo Spini Feroni where a small museum displays Ferragamo shoes once worn by Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Also worth visiting: the new Gucci Garden, which displays pieces from the company's magnificent back catalogue, including the extraordinary dress worn by Bjork in her video for The Gate. See ferragamo.com, gucci.com

5. ENJOY A MEAL TO REMEMBER

There is more to Gucci Garden than fashion: it is also home to Gucci Osteria, helmed by Massimo Bottura, Italy's most acclaimed chef. The menu switches between Bottura classics, such as the tortellini with parmigiano reggiano cream, and more international inspirations. Don't miss the Mexican-inspired bonito tostada. If the weather is fine, ask for a table outside. See gucci.com

6. EXPLORE THE UFFIZI

If it has been a while between visits, you will find that things have changed at Florence's most famous gallery. A recent rehang gives visitors a new look at many old favourites, including Raphael's portraits of a Florentine merchant and his wife. The portraits are now displayed in a glass case that reveals the artworks hidden on the reverse side. If you want to skip the queues, remember to either book tickets in advance or sign up for a tour. See uffizi.it/en

7. HOLE UP IN A HOTEL HAVEN

Why has J.K. Place become one of Florence's most popular boutique hotels? It might be something to do with the central location and the super-helpful staff. Perhaps it's the stylish interiors, which offer plenty of cosy spaces to lounge away an afternoon. Certainly the added extras are part of the appeal, from free breakfast and mini-bar to portable Wi-Fi that you can use as you roam the city. See jkplace.com/en

8. GRAZE YOUR WAY THROUGH THE MARKET

Food fans will want to make a beeline for the Mercato Centrale, where the gourmet goodies are spread over two floors. Wander through the fresh produce and meat vendors on the ground floor before heading to the upstairs food court, where you can feast not just on pizza and pasta but on local specialities such as lampredotto, a sandwich made with tripe. See mercatocentrale.it/en

9. TAKE A WALK IN THE GARDENS

Florence's beautiful gardens are often overlooked by visitors, but these green oases reveal a different side to the city. The don't-miss destination is the Boboli Gardens, four hectares filled with grottos, fountains and amphitheatres that was one of the inspirations for the gardens at Versailles. Other highlights include the Bardini Gardens, with its wisteria tunnel and its baroque stairs, and the Giardino delle Rose in Oltrarno, which features more than 350 types of roses. See visitflorence.com

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10. FALL IN LOVE WITH LEATHER

Judging by the leather shops on every corner, you might think the Florentine traditions of leatherworking are thriving. Unfortunately, many of the goods for sale in the markets are cheap overseas imports. For insights into the real thing, take a tour at the Scuola del Cuoio, or leather school (they also have a great shop), or visit one of the smaller ateliers such as Luciano, which has been producing quality gloves for more than 50 years. See leatherschool.biz/en, lucianogloves.blogspot.com

11. COOL DOWN WITH A GELATO

Florence claims to be the birthplace of gelato; certainly it has no shortage of artisanal outlets. Try the historic Perche' No (which also offers vegan options) and Gelateria Della Passera in Oltrarno, where you will find seasonal flavours such as pear and chestnut. The Turin-based Grom is also recommended. If you love chocolate sorbet, head to Venchi, which offers a range of delicious chocolates, including the more-ish Azteca. See facebook.com/gelateriapercheno, gelaterialapassera.wordpress.com, grom.it/en, venchi.com

12. CELEBRATE A WHITE NIGHT

Held every April 30, Notte Bianca is Florence's favourite party, an all-night celebration that takes over the streets. There are DJs, bands, artistic performances and even outdoor movie showings. Unfortunately, one thing that Notte Bianca doesn't have is a website of its own. However, a good concierge will be able to point you towards some of the highlights.

Museum Salvatore Ferragamo, Florence.
Museum Salvatore Ferragamo, Florence. Photo: Alamy

13. RISE ABOVE IT

Ever noticed that the mighty Duomo is visible from just about every corner of Florence? It figures, then, that the Duomo has some of the best views in town. You have two different options: you can either climb up inside the astonishing dome itself, or head up to the top of the adjacent bell tower. We love the bell tower because it offers not just views across town, but also a fresh perspective on the Duomo itself. See museumflorence.com

14. HEAD OUT OF TOWN

While there is plenty to explore within Florence, it is worth remembering that the city is surrounded by one of Italy's most famous wine regions. That makes a day exploring the wineries of Chianti a top idea. If you are pressed for time, that's fine too: one of the area's best wineries lies less than 20 kilometres from downtown Florence. Antinori Chianti Classico has a 600-year history of winemaking; inside the chic winery you will find a tasting room, a wine museum and even an art collection. See antinorichianticlassico.it/

15. GO ON AN ART SCAVENGER HUNT

Move over Michelangelo: a new generation of artists is making Florence their showpiece. A number of notable street artists are using the city as their gallery; if you want to find their work, however, you will need to keep your eyes open. Look for street signs comically altered by Clet Abraham, or Hoppn Yuri's white-and-red figures (hint: try looking in the alleys of San Niccolo). Then there are the stylised men holding small hearts, created by Exit/Enter, and the scuba-masked figures created by Blub.

16. FEAST ON A MEAL WITH A VIEW

If you want to enjoy a blow-out dinner while in town, Borgo San Jacopo is the place to do it. It has the location – on the river Arno, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio – and it has the bragging rights, thanks to its Michelin stars. Most of all, however, it has the superb food, with dishes ranging from delicate scallops teamed with lardo to hearty wild boar ravioli. See lungarnocollection.com

17. HANG WITH THE LOCALS

Branch out beyond the Centro Storico with a stroll through the Santa Croce neighbourhood. This slightly scruffy part of town feels a long way from the tourist throngs. Its cool bars and vintage shops draw younger locals, but this is also a place where you will see long-time residents coming out in the evening to enjoy a spot of people watching. There is always a lot of action around the Mercato de Sant'Ambrogio and the Piazza de'Ciompi, while Via de Benci is the place to head for aperitivo.

18. DO SOME JAIL TIME

It was once used as a jail; these days, however, the Palazzo del Bargello is one of Florence's best museums. The national sculpture museum features superb works by the likes of Michelangelo and Donatello. Its treasures include Florence's other David, a striking sculpture by Donatello. This David is a lot cheekier than Michelangelo's more famous statue: his jaunty hat and boots are particularly appealing. See bargellomusei.beniculturali.it

19. RELAX IN A RIVERSIDE RETREAT

Some people like waking up amid the buzz. Others prefer a more tranquil place to sleep. If you fall into the latter camp, book yourself a room at the lovely Villa La Massa. Just eight kilometres from the heart of town, this elegant property (its sister hotel is the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como) feels more like a country retreat, thanks to its riverside gardens. The hotel shuttle will take you into the heart of town and pick you up again when you are done for the day. See villalamassa.com

20. SAMPLE A NEW SCENT

Take home a new fragrance from one of Florence's boutique parfumeurs. AquaFlore Firenze is a newcomer but already has dozens of fragrances in its range, drawing on 1500 different ingredients. The parfumerie itself is housed in a historic palazzo. Then there is the atmospheric Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, founded by Dominican friars in the 16th century. Many of its perfumes have a back story: one of its popular scents, Acqua di Rose, was originally used to disinfect homes during the Black Death. See aquaflor.it, smnovella.com

Ute Junker travelled with the assistance of Rail Europe.

from traveller.com.au