The Florence Guide
The Florentines know how to enjoy life—and they’ve known it for roughly 2,078 years. In 60 B.C., Roman soldiers named the city Florentia, meaning “may she flourish.” We’ll cut to the chase here: She did. She flourished with some of the greatest sculptures, the greatest architecture, the greatest artwork the world has ever known. She flourished with exquisite fashion, with world-class hotels, with pasta, with gelato, with wine that may well be the nectar of the gods.
To bring the Renaissance back to life, pick up a copy of Vasari’s The Lives of the Artists. After all, art is also the gateway to the city’s social and political history (and the reason there are so many exchange students here). The men who commissioned and paid for all those palazzi, sculptures, and cathedrals were the most powerful figures in Italy (and the Mediterranean) for centuries, with the infamous Medici family being the most famous among them.
For all of her accomplishments, for all her beauty and world historic significance, Florence has another side. The side of beauty to be quietly absorbed, beauty that will stay with you for the rest of your life. There is no better city in the world to walk around in, to get lost in, to stumble into a new place, to try new flavors. It’s what the Italians call “dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing. And if there is one place where doing nothing may well be life-changing, it’s in the modern, bountiful, fascinating, energetic, historical city of Florence.
Il TorchioVia de 'Bardi 17, Florence | +39.055.2342862
There’s no better spot to pick up leatherbound journals and writing paper than at Il Torchio, which sells carta marmorizzata—sheets that are thicker than average paper and slightly marbled. (A resin or glue helps attach floating pigments to the paper, and once out of the water the pigments are combed or sponged to create patterns.) For those who appreciate the art of a handwritten letter on quality stationery—and we do—Il Torchio should be an essential stop.
Loretta CaponiPiazza Antinori 4r, Florence | +39.055.213668
Loretta Caponi and her daughter Lucia are the women at the helm of this atelier—it’s filled with the most beautiful handmade sheets and pillowcases, slippery-soft silk nightwear that conjures up images of an old-world wedding trousseau, and embroidered linen tablecloths fit for feasts. Signora Caponi takes orders but asks for a month’s notice for delivery.
Luisa Via RomaVia Silvio Pellico, 9, Florence | +39.055.217826
Luisa Via Roma is Italy’s (arguably better) answer to Barneys. The store is big—but not too big—and strictly curated to show off the best of Italian fashion and the most avant-garde of the international companies. Expect Fendi and Fiorucci alongside Versace, Yeezy, and Paul Andrew. The jewelry edit is sublime and features hard-to-find brands like Delfina Delettrez and Aurélie Bidermann. There’s also a terrace bar for a post-shopping cocktail.
Richard GinoriVia Dei Rondinelli, 17/R, Florence | +39.055.210041
In the same artisanal league as Loretta Caponi’s silks and linens, Richard Ginori’s dinnerware is fit for dinner with a royal family or at least a dozen aristocrats. The delicately painted Florentine porcelain plates, cups, saucers, and serving dishes are displayed like works of art throughout the space. The business was run by the Ginori family from its inception in 1735 until the early 1920s, and the quality of each piece is still exceptional all these years later.
Santa Maria NovellaVia della Scala 16, Santa Maria Novella | +39.055.216276
The original Santa Maria Novella apothecary (purported to be the oldest pharmacy in the world, founded by Dominican monks in the thirteenth century), is finished with ornate, frescoed ceilings and eighteenth-century furniture. But insanely beautiful interiors aside, you’re here for the products. The shop's shelves are stocked with delicate bottles of the most heavenly scented fragrance, body oils, and soaps that will dress up even the most banal bathroom. It also carries our favorite rose water facial mist and a selection of tinctures and smelling salts (it is an apothecary after all). A recent addition is the pretty tea room out back for an afternoon shopping break.
Temple St. ClairPonte Vecchio
Native Virginian Temple St. Clair crafted her first-ever piece of jewelry in Florence; when summering in the city, she came upon a goldsmith at work and never looked back. Nowadays the fine-jewelry designer’s antiquarian pieces are still made utilizing the skill of Florence’s artisans and goldsmiths and can be seen at her first brick-and-mortar store among the Italian jewelers on the Ponte Vecchio.