Exploring the Best of Florence
Laura and I recently returned from a whirlwind week in Tuscany. We packed our six days visiting new properties we’re adding to our portfolio, trying out new restaurant and bar recommendations, touring with our friend Freya, driving Ferraris and Lamborghinis and generally enjoying the company of our husbands, old friends and one another. I must admit this is the most enjoyable perk of our business. Not a moment of our travel feels like work.
Our new properties were either walking distance or a short car ride from downtown Florence. In fact, we stayed in one of out new apartments, Appartamento dell’Arno, aptly named for its ideal location about 100 feet from both the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. This chic unit lives on the top floor of a gorgeous, historic building situated between two of the Lungarno Collection Hotels, the Continentale and the Portrait Firenze. Appartamento dell’Arno is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom luxurious space with three rooftop decks all honoring a spectacular view of the Duomo Dome. Our suggestion would be to stock the refrigerator with Prosecco and toast Florence and this magnificent space from the rooftop at sundown.
We also had to be certain the rooftop bar at the Continentale Hote, La Terraza Continentale, the ground floor bar/restaurant, Fusion, and quaint fireplace seating bar at Portrait were worthy of sharing and recommending to our clients, so we tested them out…ok, maybe more than once. But, we had to be sure, we wouldn’t want to mislead our clients. So, the direct feedback is that they are all fabulous, but our favorite is La Terrazza Continentale. It’s romantic, relaxing and a perfect spot to enjoy the sites before rolling out to a late meal. Although, we recommend heading up there on a weeknight as the weekends tend to offer standing room only and a much less relaxed environment after a day of touring and exploring.
While on the subject of the Lungarno Collection of Hotels in Florence, we spent a long and lovely evening at the Michelin starred restaurant in the Lungarno Hotel called Borgo San Jacopo. The food was exquisite, as were the surroundings. Sadly, we missed the most unique portion of this dining experience by a few weeks…there are four tables on the patio of the restaurant that literally hang over the Arno. After the middle of September, they have to close off the patio, but if you plan to be there over the summer or early Fall, try to book far in advance and reserve one of these coveted tables. This delightful street, Borgo San Jacopo runs only from the Ponte Vecchio to the Santa Trinita bridge, and is adorned with intimate boutiques and restaurants. Hard to imagine, but you feel miles from the touristy vibe on the Ponte Vecchio and the nearby Duomo, just strolling down this indiscreet, charming passageway.
In search for much needed jet lag combatant, we stumbled upon an elegant, yet comfortable coffee spot called Da Florence for an espresso. The perfect place a few blocks from the apartment and centrally located in the Tornabuoni shopping district. Now, you need to know, if you don’t already that Italian’s do not “take out” their coffee, there is no such thing as “un caffe՛per portare via”. You might even call that idea shameful. You order at the bar, typically standing, and although Da Florence offers a few stools, you drink quickly and make room for the next imbiber. As much as their cappuccinos are delicious and their general pace of life is less frenetic than that in the United States, they don’t waste time taking in their caffeine. They drink up and move on.
Being blessed with gorgeous, warm weather allowed for us to be outdoors from morning to night. We tend to take our annual work trip to Italy in the Fall or Spring months, so we can see our properties unoccupied, but with that timing, typically comes the rain. This journey we got lucky with the exception of a few sprinkles here and there, but honestly nothing that deterred us from being out in the elements. Given that Italy, especially Florence, has stayed such a constant tourist destination, we do encourage our clients to travel there in the off-season months. It generally makes for a more enjoyable and relaxed experience.
One of my favorite strolls was from our apartment to the Piazzale Michelangelo, through the neighborhood of San Niccolò, an area reminiscent of St. Germain in Paris. We made our way up there three times on this trip. Once to take in the view, a second to check out our new property, Casa Niccolò, and a third to get some exercise on a run. Casa Niccolò sits on a quaint, cobbled street that is rich with history. Until the Nineteenth century, it was used a shortcut to get to Siena and Rome from Florence. It is now partially paved, so as to access the homes, but there is still a portion of the street left in its original form. You might even encounter an old gravestone along the way. With spectacular views of the hills that surround Florence and a secret peek-a-boo window on the top lofted floor that invites a view of the Duomo, Casa Niccolò, is a hidden gem, hiding above this ancient city. This fabulous three-bedroom, three and a half-bathroom house has been thoughtfully and warmly designed in a black and white contemporary style, with an abundance of natural light flowing in through the oversized paned windows. We found that we spent the majority of our time on the sun-drenched terrace at the back of the house. We cannot wait to send our clients here. It is a very special find for us. After visiting Casa Niccolò, we had lunch at a sweet spot called Enoteca Fuori Porta for delicious mini pizzas and of course, a sip or two of red wine.
In efforts to stay balanced and at peace during our trip, we began one morning with a sunrise yoga class at our new villa, Casa Namaste, with a dear friend (and owner). Recently and painstakingly renovated, Casa Namaste, has hit the mark on so many levels. It is contemporary, while simultaneously cozy. Simple, yet didn’t miss a thing on luxury and elegance. Grand, yet incredibly intimate whether on the terrace, in the kitchen or taking time out in the yoga tower. The owners spent three years defining and refining this villa. Casa Namaste offers five bedrooms, and has two full size pull-out sofas, so can sleep 10-12 guests. The main house is ideal for two families or three couples. One of the rooms has two twins with trundles and the two others are both master suites. All of the bedrooms at Casa Namaste have en suite bathrooms. There are two separate guest houses, one can accommodate a family of four or a couple and the second guest house is perfect for two guests. There are two outdoor dining areas, an infinity edge pool, and a kitchen that has every amenity one could possibly need. It is truly the perfect place for an extended family vacation or a get together for a handful of couples. A long winding driveway leads you to this hilltop luxury estate. Did I mention that Casa Namaste is ten minutes from Florence?
The final addition to our portfolio for this trip was a renovation in progress. We visited our yet-to-be-named villa under the cover of darkness and a misty rain, but nothing put a damper on getting a peek into what is to come. This charming three-bedroom villa is the latest labor of love of the owners whose apartment we currently represent in downtown Florence, Appartamento dei Fossi. They longingly searched for this property, until the found exactly what they were looking for in a town just outside Florence. We are excited to represent this property and will be back to our clients with a formal announcement filled with photography and property details in the coming months. Stay tuned.
Thanks for joining Tuscan Travel Group on our adventure. This visit was action-packed, full of joy and we return with a sense of accomplishment as we enhance our portfolio with a number of new villas and apartments to share with our clients.