With elegant new hotels, tasty street food tours, perfume ceremonies and uplifting architecture Florence, Italy is a feast for all the senses. 

In the shadow of Brunelleschi’s magnificent 15th century Duomo and surrounded by art including Michelangelo’s David and Caravaggio’s Medusa, Florence is a vibrant city filled with culture, history and last but not least, food. 

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The Resident: A room at La Gemma Hotel, FlorenceA room at La Gemma Hotel, Florence (Image: Municipality of Florence)

Where to stay in Florence

Florence’s most exciting new opening this year is the beautiful La Gemma Hotel. Owned by the influential Cecchi family it sits in one of the city’s most exclusive areas located within the 19th century Palazzo Paoletti, constructed in 1895 and designed by the architect Tito Bellini.

La Gemma Hotel has 38 rooms and the Art Deco gourmet restaurant Luca’s with its chequerboard marble floor, an al-fresco lounge and exclusive cellar spa.

The Resident: A bathroom at La Gemma HotelA bathroom at La Gemma Hotel (Image: La Gemma)

Rooms are sumptuous with old world glamour, silk wallcoverings and marble bathrooms. The décor is in elegant shades of green and pink which reflect the colours of the nearby Duomo. 

Family is everything in Florence, from the Medicis whose crest can be found on numerous buildings here and founders of hotel empires such as the Fortes.

The Cecchis continue the tradition with their background in hospitality and fashion and the formidable family have imposed their own contemporary stamp on an historic building. 

The Resident: Gelato is one of the many sweet treats you'll find in FlorenceGelato is one of the many sweet treats you'll find in Florence (Image: Judith Baker)

Foodie Florence 

‘Coffee is religion in Florence’ we are told at the start of a food tour of the city which takes us off the beaten track to explore some secret corners which hungry Florentines love.

Coffee bars abound, some of them dating back to the early 1900s and still with original frescos on the wall, where early risers stand at the bar to eat pastry such as budino di riso (rice pudding tart) or spoglia (a creamy cake) before settling down with an expresso or a macchiato.

Later they might stop for coccoli caldi (it means hot cuddles) a fried dough ball filled with cheese or prosciutto - eaten while on the move in the street. 

The Resident: Piazzale MichelangeloPiazzale Michelangelo (Image: Rolando Squilloni)

Lunch is a plate of cold cuts and cheeses, eaten with a chunk of pan de ramerino, crusty fruit bread with rosemary. 

More sophisticated snacks are on offer at the smart gastronomia (or deli) in fashionable streets where ladies with their Gucci shopping bags stop for truffle panini and a glass of FranciaCorta, Florence’s answer to champagne.

Or, they may pause later to pick up chocolates in one of the city’s famous chocolatiers and enjoy a gelato while waiting in the queue for the Uffizi gallery.

The Resident: Florence is a feast for the sensesFlorence is a feast for the senses (Image: Municipality of Florence)

The tripe stalls which sell lampredotto (cow’s stomach lining) didn’t tickle my tastebuds as much, but if you want to eat like a Tuscan for a day you have to give it a try. 

Our tour includes fascinating insights into Florence’s history, such as the wine windows, little arches in the walls though which wine was passed during the Plague.

The windows made a comeback during COVID when a new generation found the fun of enjoying a contactless drink medieval style. 

The scents of the city 

Take a detour down one of Florence’s cobbled streets and you find the magical shop and studio of Sileno Cheloni, profumoir.

Sileno gives a theatrical presentation about the history of perfume as he explains the spiritual and physical attributes of scent.

The Resident: The soon to open La Gemma HotelThe soon to open La Gemma Hotel (Image: La Gemma Hotel)

Wizard-like, he wafts frankincense around the room as part of his incense ceremony. The maestro can make personalised perfumes tailored to indicual persalities as well as workshops in his private studio and even a sensory dinner, where aromatic scents are paired in harmony with gourmet food and wines. 

For more information visit feelflorence.it