Travel

Florence Is the Magical Escape You've Been Waiting For

Here are all the spellbinding adventures to have now.

Tu xa Ha Noi/Moment/Getty Images
Tu xa Ha Noi/Moment/Getty Images
Tu xa Ha Noi/Moment/Getty Images

There’s something dreamy about Florence’s aristocratic palazzos, the medieval streets lined with artisan boutiques, loggia arches and columns on buildings, and belvedere spots overlooking the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Just strolling around the city makes visitors feel like the hero of a Renaissance tale… or a protagonist of The Medici TV series… or a character in a Dan Brown book. Pick your fictional poison. With old stories of plotting and conspiracy befitting the city of Machiavelli, Florence is spellbinding.

But Tuscany’s cultural heart is more than just a lovely walk. Beyond the Duomo and the Uffizi galleries, less trod paths offer unique experiences that will make you feel like a real Florentine. You could sleep in Machiavelli’s lavish family villa, paddle-board along the Arno River at sunset, treat yourself to platefuls of pici pasta, and get the chills by staring at ancient paintings of satan feasting on damned souls.

Plus, what with this being Tuscany, the day trip options from Florence are #travelgoals. Near the city lies a maze of picturesque medieval hilltop towns surrounded by green rolling hills and pristine meadows dotted with fortresses. Or the Val d’Orcia valley will mesmerize you with its neat country roads lined with cypress trees, premium vineyards, and unexpected silence.

Whether you venture further afield or spend all your time in the city roaming its narrow, crooked streets, an Italian adventure is calling. From the classics to the new releases, here are all the twisty plots you can find yourself in while in Florence.

Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Moment/Getty Images
Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Moment/Getty Images
Francesco Riccardo Iacomino/Moment/Getty Images

Soak in some Renaissance beauty

Going to Florence and skipping the art is a no no, even if museums aren’t really your thing because you’re more of an adventurous or foodie or lounging or fill-in-the-blank type.

So first stop is the Duomo cathedral and the climb up to its panoramic loggia for an expansive city view. Right out front, check out the octagonal Baptistery basilica for its engraved bronze doors and green-white marble walls. Next, hiking up Giotto’s campanile (bell tower) is great for stretching muscles.

Then prepare to get lost at the Uffizi gallery, your head spinning with so many masterpieces, including Botticelli’s the Birth of Venus, which will give you an idea of the Renaissance ideal of female perfection. To get a glimpse of what the sexy male prototype was like, Michelangelo’s Davide at the Galleria dell’Accademia will leave you breathless. His abs, and even his veins, are perfectly sculpted.

Truba7113/Shutterstock
Truba7113/Shutterstock
Truba7113/Shutterstock

Stare at the devil and rub shoulders with legendary ghosts

Get ready for some gore. If you want to actually see Dante’s Inferno and stare at the most imaginative depiction of Lucifer, head to the refectory of Santa Croce church. There you’ll find the frescoes of The Triumph of Death by 1300’s painter Orcagna. A bloated three-faced Satan is shown devouring souls, their legs sticking out of his many mouths, while demons torture others along the sides. It’s a hoot.

If being in the company of majestic spirits inspires you, Santa Croce is also an indoor cemetery with many an impressive tomb. You’ll find the final resting place of astrologer Galileo Galilei, who was the first on record to claim the Earth was round and rotated upon itself; the revered artists Michelangelo; and the mischievous Niccolò Machiavelli, supporter of the doctrine “the means justify the ends.”

Trattoria baldini
Trattoria baldini
Trattoria baldini

Eat handmade pasta and rare beef like a real Florentine

Escape the touristy eateries charging you an arm and leg for limp pasta and head instead to I Due Fratellini. This minuscule shop has been open since 1875 and offers some excellent street food to go: panini sandwiches with premium Colonado lard, fried cow tripe, and Siena pecorino sheep cheese. Gulp it all down with heady Montepulciano red wine.

As Florentines are addicted to chianina-a huge, thick steak from local beef, usually eaten by two people and served rare-one favorite spot is Perseus, just outside the city walls. Don’t be shy about the plate of meat you’ll get served here.

But if you crave for traditional ‘granny’ recipes, historical tavern Parione serves typical antipasto with crostini neri ai fegatini (crispy bread topped with chicken liver paste), short handmade pasta called pici, and ossobuco (oxtail).

Just a few blocks north, Trattoria Baldini is a temple for iconic ribollita soup, made with bread, white cannellini beans, and vegetable leftovers.

Villa Machiavelli - Ristorante Albergaccio dal 1450
Villa Machiavelli – Ristorante Albergaccio dal 1450
Villa Machiavelli – Ristorante Albergaccio dal 1450

Visit Machiavelli’s unknown lair

There’s a secret spot in Florence few people know about: the hidden retreat of Machiavelli. It’s said that in this house, located on the Florentine hills, the statesman found inspiration for his infamous book The Prince. What was once his humble home is now the Villa Machiavelli museum, where you can see his bed and kitchen table-and an underground passage that connects to an old tavern. Old Nick used the dark tunnel to sneak away unseen from his lodgings to gamble and go hang out with women of the night.

On the opposite hillside, his rich family built a lavish frescoed mansion called Villa Mangiacane, today a luxury resort and exclusive wedding venue, which is said to have been partly designed by Michelangelo.

Westend61/Royalty-free/Getty Images
Westend61/Royalty-free/Getty Images
Westend61/Royalty-free/Getty Images

Sail or paddle-board along the Arno River

Here’s an alternative, less crowded, but way more entertaining way to explore Florence: on a traditional painted wooden boat along the Arno River.

Local canoe guides from The Renaioli will be eager to share their story about how a group of friends brought new life to these vessels previously damaged by floods. You can book exclusive day and sunset boat trips with live music and aperitivo evening drinks featuring Florence’s iconic Negroni cocktail, made with gin, aromatized Vermouth wine and Campari.

If you want more action and a solo thrill, opt for paddle-board tours and glide right beneath the crowded Ponte Vecchio-during the day or at night under a starry sky.

Guido Cozzi/Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Guido Cozzi/Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Guido Cozzi/Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Go on a leather and jewelry hunt

At each street corner in Florence, you’ll find stands and boutiques selling premium leather jackets, belts, and bags of all kinds. Leather artisans are a trademark of Florence and it’s impossible to suggest any one in particular. So just feel at ease browsing around, cause you’re sure to find some of the best.

Same goes for the many Ponte Vecchio jewelers who have been selling their superb gold and precious stones creations for centuries, locked behind the small doors of tiny, historical wooden boutiques. All you need to do is stroll around and stop when you see the best deal. If you want to feel like a true local, give it a shot at negotiating the price.

Villa Cora
Villa Cora
Villa Cora

Sleep like a Medici lord

If you want to be far from the madding crowd but a few minutes from the famed Ponte Vecchio bridge, stay at the Villa Tolomei Hotel & Resort. What was once an abandoned convent has been turned into a luxury resort. The hotel is in Florence, though it might not look like it at first glance-surrounded by rolling hills and olive trees, Villa Tolomei is a 10 minute drive from the city center and offers gorgeous views of where the Tuscan countryside meets the old city. Find yourself strolling amid frescoed suites with marble walls and a panoramic pool.

Villa Cora hotel is also on the city outskirts. This lavish villa from the 1800s is like a country home meets luxurious mansion. Many of the ornate rooms have regal four-poster beds and way more interesting ceilings than found in, say, the US. Roam the gardens where you’ll find balconies and sphinx statues, and don’t miss the heated pool or spa.

And if you want to sleep like a real Medici, stay at the aristocratic,1500’s Palazzo di Camugliano. Owned by a marquis, it has parquet floors, just 10 frescoed rooms, and beautifully antique furniture. Best part? It’s about a five minute walk from the Piazza del Duomo.

thekovtun/Shutterstock
thekovtun/Shutterstock
thekovtun/Shutterstock

Visit the surrounding Tuscan countryside

Florence is surrounded by adorable villages worth a day trip. Car-free Certaldo di Castro is one of them, made up of a maze of reddish alleys and low dwellings enclosed by medieval walls. It’s also the hometown of epicurean poet Boccaccio, author of the Decamerone tales (he’s a bit of an Italian Chaucer). His family home-turned-museum, Casa Boccaccio, is not only a beautiful house with a verdant courtyard, it also showcases everything from Boccaccio’s slippers, pajamas, and even his toilet pots.

Craving utter bucolic silence? Tiny Rocca d’Orcia village is the jewel of the pristine D’Orcia Valley. There’s just one Renaissance tower and a bunch of houses where 34 people live, overlooking a nearly-fluorescent green sea of meadows.

If you’re a fan of old furniture shops, the quaint village of Anghiari, stage of a bloody battle in the middle ages between Florence and Milan, boasts an impressive castle worth oohing and aahing.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Silvia Marchetti is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Airbnb’s New Tool Makes it Easy to Discover Homes You Didn’t Know Existed

And provides comprehensive protection in travel, included for free with every stay.

airbnb new features

We’re living in a new world of travel, which means we’re looking for new destinations and new ways to find places to stay. Airbnb is one of the most popular booking platforms for travellers, and for the first time in a decade, they’ve launched their biggest change yet.

The new tools help travellers find unique homes and provide more options for longer stays.

“The way people travel has changed forever. We’re introducing the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” said Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb.

Airbnb Categories

Millions of people are now more flexible about where they live and work. But travel search has been the same for 25 years—you enter a location and dates into a search box. Most of us can only think of a few dozen cities to type into the search box, but there are Airbnbs in 100,000 towns and cities worldwide.

When you open Airbnb, you’re presented with 56 categories that organize homes based on their style, location, or proximity to a travel activity. When you search for a destination, your search results are also organized by categories relevant to that destination. As you view different categories, the map intelligently zooms to show you where the homes are located.

Airbnb Categories uses machine learning to analyze titles, written descriptions, photo captions, structured data from Hosts, and reviews from guests. Airbnb’s curation team members review listings and hand-pick featured photos—so if a listing is in the Amazing Pools Category, the first photo shows a pool. Then, each category goes through a final check to help ensure consistency and photo quality.

The 56 Airbnb Categories include more than 4 million unique homes that are made possible by Hosts all around the world. Airbnb Categories organize homes by what makes them unique, which helps people discover places they wouldn’t have otherwise found. This can help alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations beyond the same popular destinations.

Split Stays

In the last three months, nearly half of the nights booked on Airbnb were for a week or more trips. Split Stays is an innovative new feature that splits your trip between two homes. With Split Stays, you will typically see around 40% more listings when searching for longer stays.

When searching a specific destination, Split Stays automatically appear in your search results. They also appear within 14 categories—including Camping, National Parks, Skiing, and Surfing—to inspire you to stay in two destinations as part of a longer trip. For example, when browsing the Skiing Category, Split Stays might suggest a pair of homes near Thredbo and Mt. Hotham.

When viewing Split Stays on a map, an animated line visually connects the two homes to show you the distance between them and the sequence of the stays. Once you select a Split Stay, you’re guided through an easy-to-use interface to book each stay, one home at a time.

MORE: These Are Australia’s 10 Most Wishlisted Airbnb Stays

Aircover for Guests

This northern and southern winter, millions of people will travel for the first time since the pandemic’s start. AirCover is the most comprehensive protection in travel. AirCover is always included and always free, and it represents the biggest upgrade to Airbnb customer service in a decade.

With AirCover, you’re covered by four protections every time you stay on Airbnb:

  • Booking Protection Guarantee – In the unlikely event a Host needs to cancel your booking within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • Check-In Guarantee – If you can’t check into your home and the Host cannot resolve the issue, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home for the length of your original stay or get a refund.
  • Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – If at any time during your stay you find your listing isn’t as advertised—for example, the refrigerator stops working and your Host can’t easily fix it, or there are fewer bedrooms than listed—you’ll have three days to report it and Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • 24-hour Safety Line – If you ever feel unsafe, you’ll get priority access to specially-trained safety agents, day or night.

AirCover has been designed directly into the Airbnb app and website, making it easy for you to contact an agent and resolve issues quickly. There is a team of specially trained agents for last-minute rebooking assistance. Airbnb also has significantly expanded its 24-hour safety line to cover 16 languages.

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