City of Flowers, City of Lovers: The Most Romantic Things to Do in Florence
Strolling down cobblestoned side-streets; sipping Chianti in an Old World cafe; marveling at the beauty of a Renaissance nude: yes, Florence is definitely for lovers. Whether traveling with a new fling or a life-long partner, visitors find that the city has an indescribable atmosphere which seems to not just encourage but demand long meaningful glances and tender moments of intimacy.
It’s hard to plan a truly romantic moment, and impossible to choreograph that spark between two souls. You can, however, try to put yourself in the proper context, to find fertile ground for the cultivation of love. Tuscany is full of moving sights and inspiring romantic places, and we offer here some suggestions for the best romantic things to do in Florence––the rest is up to you.
- Take a long walk together––and get lost
Don’t make a plan, and don’t have a destination––ditch the GPS and just wander. Part of Florence’s charm is how compact and walkable its old historic center is. Quaint alleyways lead onto elegant boulevards, all sprinkled with wine-bars, bakeries and artisanal workshops. Hand-in-hand with the one you love, you’ll explore the city together and discover that little shop or cute cafe which will always be yours to share.
Florence is eminently walkable, and while it’s easy to lose yourself in a good way, it’s nearly impossible to get lost in a scary way. You’ll almost always find your way to the river or bump into something you recognize; there are few more satisfying sights than encountering the Duomo when you didn’t expect it. If you ever get really worried, stop for a coffee or glass of wine and the barman will set you back on course.
- Do some urban wine-tasting
You might think that you need a car to experience the richness of Tuscan wine culture, hopping from vineyard to vineyard through rolling countryside. Although it’s true that there’s something special about being introduced to a wine by the person who produced it, you can actually do an amazing wine tour without ever leaving the city. All the region’s greatest (and most of its more obscure) winemakers are represented in Florence’s enotecas, promising plenty of variety. Even better, you don’t need to worry about driving!
Start your romantic wine-tour right next to the Mercato Centrale at Fratelli Zanobini, a historic wine-shop with an incredible selection focused (obviously) on Tuscan wine. You can buy a bottle to go or stop by the old marble bar to sample their dozens of wine-by-the-glass. In the late afternoon, the street outside is lined with Florentines grabbing an after-work tipple.
If you don’t feel like standing while drinking, head down by the Arno to Le Volpi e l’Uva, whose impressive wine list is paired with heaping plates of cheese and salumi. The beautiful space is what you always thought an Italian wine-bar should be, complete with candlelight. Continue your walk south of the river to Enoteca Pitti another historic bar that offers curated wine-flights designed to both educate and delight. Toast one another and your romantic Florence adventure: Salute!
- Get inspired by Italy’s most romantic artworks
For thousands of years, artists have struggled to distill love and passion into marble and canvas. They created paintings and statues that capture the dramatic relationships of mortals and gods, Gazing upon these artworks, the viewer can’t help but be moved by scenes of romance and star-crossed lovers. You can be inspired by their example––or treat them as cautionary tales.
Part of the story of the Renaissance is the rediscovery of the artistic nude. Painters and sculptors excused their titillating aspects with mythological or allegorical subjects, but as the art historian Kenneth Clark has claimed, if a nude fails to excite the viewer––even a little bit––it probably isn’t a very good artwork. The Uffizi Gallery contains the most famous nude of the Florentine Renaissance: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Gazing at the goddess of Love rising out of the waters, you might be inspired toward your own romantic Florence experience.
- Wander the local markets and prepare a gourmet picnic for two
There is something inexplicably romantic (and almost hedonistic) about strolling the stalls of Florence’s markets, sampling fruits and cheeses and admiring the produce. The beautiful vegetables and glorious cuts of bistecca Fiorentina will make you wish you had a kitchen, but in any case, you can easily assemble a gourmet picnic to share in the Boboli Gardens or on a bridge overlooking the Arno.
The locals shop at Mercato Sant’Ambrogio (7am-1pm), slightly off the main tourist track near the church of Santa Croce. The delicate coloration of eggplants and the marbling of beef might just rival anything you see in the Uffizi. There are also plenty of vendors selling cheese and cured meats, as well as hot prepared dishes. To taste the best of what the market has to offer, head to Semel, a sandwich shop so good it made a list of a Top 10 Florence Attractions.
More conveniently located, but more touristy, is the Mercato Centrale. Surrounded by stalls selling leather goods and souvenirs (with some good finds to be found among the junk), the 19th-century interior is a bustling, work-a-day place, with foreigners jostling elbows with local chefs in search of fresh ingredients. Upstairs, meanwhile, is a recently-opened gourmet food court, designed to be a one-stop-shop of all that Tuscany has to offer. There are a wine bar and a dozen ingredient-specific romantic restaurants, as well as an outpost of the megastore Eataly.
- Take in a panoramic view––and a cocktail
Florence becomes something truly special at sunset; the shadows of the statues lengthen across the squares, the surrounding hills explode in a riot of color, and the tiles of the Duomo glow ruddy in the dying light. There is no better way to appreciate the atmosphere of this magical city than to find a quiet vista to enjoy its daily spectacle, and no more romantic way to share an evening.
Get to high ground to appreciate the skyline, ideally somewhere that will serve you an aperitivo (the rich color of a Negroni complements the sunset nicely.) If you’re lucky your hotel will have a roof bar; if not, you can pay a premium to enjoy the sunset with a drink at La Terrazza or the top of the Hotel Minerva. For a truly stunning view, take a cab to Piazzale Michelangelo, high on a hill south of the city center. Order a cocktail, sit back, and enjoy the spectacle.
What are the best picnic spots in Florence?
Recently, Florence announced it would crack down on tourists eating on the steps of its historic churches. Piazza di Santa Croce has plenty of benches (and a beautiful setting). You can also eat your picnic along the river, but the most amazing spots are in the Boboli Gardens.