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The Renaissance city of Florence must be one of the most romantic cities in Italy. Situated in the centre of Tuscany, with cobblestoned paths, Renaissance architecture and a fascinating history, Florence is a beautiful place to spend a few days – or longer if you have the time. No matter where you stay in Florence, you’ll find yourself close to charming streets and beautiful historic buildings.
The Arno River, which runs through the city, is spanned by a number of bridges from the famous Ponte Vecchio to a number of smaller ones, all with glorious views. The distinctive Duomo dominates the city – built during the Renaissance, it boasts largest brickwork dome in the world, even today. Between the silver river and the red rooftops of the old town, Florence is the perfect city for romance. Simply walking down the street gives you a taste of another time. Still, there are a few activities which will make your trip even more special. Here are a few romantic things to do in Florence to get the most out of your stay in this beautiful place.
Stay in a palazzo
For a truly romantic (and luxurious) stay in Florence, be sure to stay in an old palazzo (a Renaissance palace). Be sure to choose one that has been carefully restored and you’ll be amazed by the high ceilings, stunning exterior and rich décor. A few former palazzos in the city centre have been converted into hotels, including the Four Seasons which has beautiful gardens and a huge collection of Renaissance art. For a more homely, modern feeling (with throwbacks to its heritage), consider Palazzo Vecchietti while the Palazzo Alfieri Residenza d’Epoca offers a more affordable option in a very convenient location.
Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
High above the city, with a replica of Michelangelo’s David, Piazzale Michelangelo offers stunning views of Florence’s old town. It’s a popular tourist spot but it’s still worth visiting as its one of the few places where you can marvel at the beautiful city strewn out at your feet. Visit at sunset and be sure to bring a picnic and a bottle of wine with you.
It’s a popular place for couples to visit, especially in summer, so don’t expect to be alone. However, the views and atmosphere are worth seeing and it’s a wonderful setting to toast your partner with a glass of Chianti while you watch the sun set behind the Duomo.
If you truly want more privacy, visit later in the evening when the crowds have thinned. The lights of Florence are still beautiful, with the Duomo lit up at night.
Steal a kiss on the Ponte Santa Trinita
The Ponte Santa Trinita is a beautiful bridge which spans the Arno River. First built in the 13th Century with the current version rebuilt by the wealthy Medici family in 1557, the Ponte Santa Trinita is an old bridge with a rich history of its own.
With its distinct arches and Capricorn statues (each representing one of the four seasons) it offers lovely views of the famous Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge) without the crowds. Enjoy a quiet moment here, take photos of the Ponte Vecchio in the distance and savour the moment of being in this remarkable Renaissance city with your loved one.
Picnic in the Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are just across the Arno from the city centre and they are well worth a visit. These gardens were originally designed for the Medici family and were first opened to the public in the 1700s. The gardens are expansive and beautiful – the greenery a wonderful respite from all the buildings in the city centre.
At the foot of the gardens is the Pitti Palace, which is well worth a visit – the art and architecture is truly remarkable. From there, the Boboli Gardens stretch up the hill with lawns, interesting plants and intriguing sculptures. Pick a quiet spot for a romantic picnic lunch and be sure to stop at the terrace near the top for stunning views of the Duomo.
Have a Michelin-Starred Dinner
There are a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants in Florence, however for a romantic dinner the La Leggenda dei Frati restaurant at the Villa Bardini is the perfect choice. A 17th Century villa and museum, Villa Bardini has exceptional views of Florence without the busyness of the Piazzo Michelango.
It’s worth getting here early and exploring the villa, museum and its grounds before your meal. The gardens are expansive, there’s a museum with an extensive collection of art and a mosaic wall which is worth visiting. The restaurant is nestled into the garden and the setting is magical as the evening draws near. The highlight, however, is definitely the amazing food accompanied by panoramic views of the city below.
Take a river cruise
One of the most romantic things to in any city is to get on the water. In Florence, the best way to do that is by going on a river cruise along the Arno. See the city from a new perspective aboard a vintage barchetto, a traditional flat-bottomed boat, which is Florence’s version of a gondola. Pick a smaller boat for more privacy and relax as the city passes you by.
From the boat, you’ll have a unique view of some of Florence’s nicest areas from the water, and you’ll still be able to see the Duomo’s distinctive dome as you punt along. These old boats can also take you underneath the Ponte Vecchio and some cruises include a glass of prosecco as you float along. It’s a beautiful way to see the old city from a different vantage point and is a peaceful experience in the midst of a busy city.
Dinner and drinks at Piazza Santa Croce
The beautiful Santa Croce neighbourhood in Florence is slightly outside the main tourist hub, but somehow manages to embody much of its charm. A quieter area, Santa Croce has beautiful architecture and gives you a small glimpse into local life in Florence. Somehow missed by many tourists, it’s a calm place with a distinctly local vibe, while still being welcoming for tourists.
The Piazza Santa Croce is lined with restaurants and bars and is a great place to spend a low-key yet delightful evening. Start with dinner at a restaurant which overlooks the stunning Basilica di Santa Croce, then pick a bar in the square for drinks. While you won’t find the best nightclubs in Florence here, the bars are much livelier than in the tourist centre – and just a quick trip back to your hotel.
Have a long lunch in a winery
Florence is the capital of Tuscany and it would be a shame not to try some of Italy’s most famous wine while you’re in the region. Tuscany is favourite for its red wine and Chianti is the jewel of the region. Not only is the wine delicious, but the Chianti region brings any romantic notion of Tuscany to life with rolling, green hills and rugged vineyards studded with rustic, old buildings.
Wine-taste in style with a lunch and a wine tasting at Castello Nipozzano, an enchanting medieval castle located in Chianti owned by the Frescobaldi family. The winery is located about 40 minutes from the centre of Florence and it’s easiest to get there by car. It’s a lovely drive through the hills and valleys of Tuscany and the food and wine are delicious in a lovely setting.
Visit a tiny, medieval town in Tuscany
If you have time for a day trip, be sure to head out to one of the medieval hill towns in Tuscany. Easily accessible by train or car, Tuscany is studded with beautiful walled towns, all with cobblestone streets, beautiful churches and wonderful views of the countryside. Spend an afternoon in Tuscany visiting one or more of the walled towns.
Monteriggioni, where the movie Gladiator was filmed, is a small, charming town with impressive walls overlooking the rolling hillside. If you’d rather visit somewhere bigger, stop by Siena, Tuscany’s second city. See the striking Duomo, then relax in the square (the site of the famous Palio di Siena horse race) with a glass of wine, watching the people go by.
Romantic getaway in the hills of Florence
If the idea of slow travel appeals to you, spend a few days in the hills of Florence. The hills of Fiesole provide a charming backdrop for a romantic getaway. The cradle of Italian civilization, Fiesole was the home of the early Etruscans and some wonderful archaeological finds have been discovered here.
Now a pretty town high in the hills of Florence, you can find a pleasant town, Roman ruins and ancient Etruscan sites. You can also go hiking in the hills and on a clear day you can see views of Florence in the distance. Nestled in the Fiesole hills, the former medieval monastery of Belmond Villa San Michele Modern is a luxurious place for a romantic break. The 14th Century Villa is surrounded by woodlands and gardens and the views stretch across Florence to the Chianti hills in the distance.
About the author: Roxanne de Bruyn is a writer who has travelled extensively through Italy. She was based in Florence for a while and will always have a soft spot for this beautiful city. Originally from South Africa, Roxanne usually travels with her husband and young son and is currently based in New Zealand.
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