Lately I’ve been having more than a few wistful days thinking about my perfect Florence, Italy. The perfume I bought while there last year is half empty and I’m afraid this is definitely not a case of the glass is half full vs. half empty. It most assuredly is half empty. This makes me panic a little. So, while I mentally travel back to this most fabulous of cities, and have effectively relived every place I visited, I thought I would create my version of One Perfect Day in Florence, Italy. True, it would be hard to have a bad day in Florence, but I have always found it helpful to read what others have to say. As someone who seeks out perfumeries and cocktails wherever I travel, if you are also inclined, be certain to check these off your list if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Florence.
Put on your walking shoes, we have ground to cover!
While there are a number of wonderful hotels directly in the heart of Florence, we found a sweet little rooftop apartment just north of the core on a quiet street, and we look forward to our daily stroll into the fray. I have found great comfort in having a place to land at the end of the day, with room to spread out, and an outdoor place to take it all in and recount the day’s events. Our hostess and temporary neighbor owns a little boutique close to the Arno, and she and her little dog, Livio, walk to and from daily, it’s a part of life here in Florence, and helps balance out the pasta and gelato you are certain to consume!
We begin our day with a light breakfast and coffee at La Ménagère. We happened on this spot on our second day, and returned a few times for coffee or an afternoon Spritz. Grab a spot up front to people watch. Here you’ll find not only mouthwatering pastry, but you can also order something slightly hardier if that’s what you’re after. It’s a beautiful restaurant that opens to a brightly lit sunny room in the back. Be sure to walk all the way in and check out the home goods for sale. They also have a wonderful bathroom, something I am always on the lookout for! Female.
Once fortified and caffeinated, we’re going to make our way east to the Santa Croce area. If you’re following along on a map, you’ll find a number of different routes to take. Pick any! This is the beauty of Florence, and travel in general— the leaving a little something to be discovered along the way. The destination is AquaFlor Firenze. Heaven. Nirvana. Bliss. Be sure to walk through the Piazza di Santa Croce and take in the Basilica for which it is named en route. This is the burial place of many notable Italians such as Bartolini, Da Vinci, Galileo and Machiavelli to name a few. This is a half a day in and of itself, so for now enjoy the people and performers in the square. AquaFlor is located up one of the smaller streets just off of the southern tip of the piazza. Trust me on this however, you will smell AquaFlor before you lay eyes on the little wooden door that steps into Mecca. Outside the heavy glass door are two small shelves, perched upon each is an enormous room diffuser. It’s the street diffuser and it lures you in like the Pied Piper. Breathe in deep. It doesn’t get better than this. You’ll be greeted by high ceilings, club chairs, walls of glass and an overall swank apothecary vibe. Pause to swoon. Apparently, you are able to sign up in advance for perfume classes or to have a custom scent made for you. As this was my first time, I didn’t discover this with enough advance notice and sadly could not partake. I did however have a gloriously fun few hours sniffing, discussing and trying out fragrances while I whittled my way down to what I consider to be in my top 5 favorite fragrances. If you are an aromachologist (yes this is a word) this is an experience not to be missed. Give yourself ample time to truly immerse yourself. If you haven’t abandoned the rest of your day at this point, pull yourself away and head west.
Our next stop is La Prosciutteria Firenze for a glass or carafe of wine and a charcuterie plate. You’ll need time to recover from your life altering experience and might find yourself a little peckish. You can also order a sandwich here, but I do suggest you grab a little table in the back, pop your wine glass into the crafty wall mounted glass holder and dig in to a sampling of cheese, meats and all the trimmings for a proper snack. Be sure to try the truffle cream on anything. Your travel buddy will forgive you the hours spent trying perfumes.
Continue in a west-ward direction, either by route of the river or weaving your way through the streets. I don’t tend to over plan my days, as you will always see some place you want to pop in to or take photos of. These streets are filled with photo opportunities!
The next destination is the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This is one of the oldest and possibly most breathtaking pharmacies to behold. The Dominican monks of Florence were developing medicinal remedies and scents in 1212 using herbs from the monastery gardens and the perfumery still uses its renowned scents developed today. I strongly recommend you give yourself a strict budget before entering. This is a great place to grab gifts for friends back home and then some. I’m certain many have blown their shopping budget here. As you walk back out, pass by the Santa Maria Novella as well.
At this point your nose might be shot, so backtrack east to a little boutique called Marie Antoinette of Florence. This is for the fashionistas in your group. It’s a wonderfully curated little boutique filled with vintage Italian couture and new up and coming designers. The two women that own it are fun and clearly have a great eye for fashion. This is a one-of-a kind boutique if you’re looking to bring back a little Italian something something for yourself.
By now we’ll assume your feet are sore and you are ready for a drink. Don’t worry, the next stop is just a few doors down. It’s a little cocktail bar called Manifattura and prepares drinks made only with Italian spirits. Settle in at the beautiful bar, and put yourself in the hands of the capable and very knowledgeable bartender. Personally, I’m a Negroni girl, and was taken on a journey of next level proportions. Suffice it to say that Campari is only the very tip of this iceberg. We were introduced to numerous small batch brands of herbaceous and bitter amaros, tantalizing liquers and digestifs of such depth I almost cried. Not one to go without, we found the location where we could purchase some of our very own. We discovered our inner Italian here, and once we were ready, we were sure to hit the next stop before closing.
Enotecca Alessi is home to all of these spirits, wines and so so much more. You might consider a return trip here another day once you’ve taken it all in. They also host tastings and have a small bar to sit and sip some of their splendor. We found the particular bottles that led us here in the first place, and perhaps an extra or two. My suitcase was certain to hit maximum weight.
If you have paced yourself and spent the entire day on this route, a large extravagant dinner might not be an option. In which case, I suggest heading up to the Mercato Centrale upper level for a convivial and casual dining experience. There is something for everyone, a few bars serving beer, wine and cocktails and food options to please most. Walk the complete lap around the large dining hall before committing or better yet divide, conquer and share. It’s a fun experience and a great way to wind down your day!
Below you’ll find a link to my Google Map of all of these places! Buona giornata!