Travel

Santa Maria Novella

Establishment neighborhood
Santa Maria Novella
Via della Scala 16, Santa Maria Novella
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.
13 Gobbi
Via del Porcellana, Santa Maria Novella
Despite being a few minutes from Piazza Santa Maria Novella and a stone’s throw from Florence’s most popular hotels, 13 Gobbi feels like a local secret. The chatter that fills the room is mostly Italian, the old wooden chairs and tables, black-and-white photographs on the brick walls, and generally laid-back, rustic air is distinctly Tuscan. The food even more so—grilled steak Florentine served medium rare and room temperature (as it’s meant to be), white beans and spinach, and the most perfect plates of homemade spaghetti al pomodoro. Take a seat in the leafy courtyard and order all of the above plus a caprese salad and a bottle of the vino rosso della casa.
Buca Mario
Piazza degli Ottaviani, 16r, Santa Maria Novella
Securing a table at this upmarket restaurant can be a challenge, so take advantage of your hotel concierge or a local friend to make the booking. Buca Mario does the Florentine classics well, but also seafood—which isn’t as common in the city as you might think. Order a grilled fish or pasta dish (there are gluten-free options) and the gnocchi, which has a sharp, rich gorgonzola sauce. The service is excellent, and don’t be discouraged if you find fellow tourists on either side of you. It’s not that Buca Mario is a tourist trap; it’s just that all the hotels know the food is reliably good and recommend it regularly. Just don’t skip dessert—it comes wheeled out on an old-world trolley, displaying various fruit tarts and tiramisu.
Trattoria Sostanza
Via del Porcellana, 25/R, Santa Maria Novella
Busy, casual, and no-frills Sostanza is the Florentine equivalent of your reliable neighborhood standby. The food is traditional and tasty, and it hits the spot: simple pastas, tender grilled meats, and house Chianti. The space is tiled and tiny, and the delicious plates of artichoke omelets and reasonably priced stek Florentine means Sostanza will make your trattoria recommendation list—even if only for a quick, easy lunch.
Galleria dell’Accademia
Via Ricasoli, 58/60, Santa Maria Novella
The Accademia is famously the home of Michelangelo’s David, long considered by Florentines a symbol of their city’s strength, fighting off nearby foreign aggressors (remember, Italy has only been a unified country since 1871). A relatively new addition to the gallery is the instruments section, full of pieces like violins made by Stradivarius himself and a piano constructed by Bartolomeo Cristofori (the inventor of the piano), commissioned by the Medici family.
J.K. Place
Piazza Santa Maria Novella 7, Santa Maria Novella
With just twenty rooms, J.K. Place feels more like a Florentine’s grand home than a hotel. The guest rooms are all outfitted in designer Michele Bonan’s signature soft grey, with exquisite marble bathrooms to match. In the winter months, drinks are served by the roaring fire in the lobby, and the panoramic views from the rooftop bar draw in as many locals as guests for its aperitivi. Even if you aren’t staying here, come for the hotel’s weekend brunch, which is famous in the city.
Richard Ginori
Via Dei Rondinelli, 17/R, Santa Maria Novella
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.
Harry’s Bar
Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci, 22/R, Santa Maria Novella
Harry’s Bar in Venice is most famous for reputedly creating the sublime peach-purée-and-prosecco mashup that is the Bellini. The Florence outpost has the same sense of frivolity as its Venetian counterpart, and taking a seat at the bar and watching the white-jacketed barman whizz up the signature cocktail is a fun way to pass an hour or two. The space is elegant and charmingly old-fashioned with chevron floors and pink tablecloths. If Bellinis aren’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with the expertly made Negroni Sbagliato and the best steak tartare in Florence.
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