For an authentic taste of Florence, the locals flock to the historic Trattoria Zà Zà on the piazza del Mercato Ccentrale, where exceptional cuisine is served in a beautiful and tastefully decorated setting. Service is great, the atmosphere is warm and friendly and the menu is vast, with entire pages devoted to starters, first courses, mains, grill, truffle specialities, pizzas and desserts. Meat lovers can seize the chance to try a classic bistecca alla Fiorentina tenderloin, served by the kilo – or you could try other specialities such as Tuscan bean and sausage stew, creamy pasta with wild boar, margherita pizza or saffron risotto with truffle seasoning. Come prepared with a very empty stomach.
Step out of Zà Zà’s and walk around the corner to the legendary Mercato Centrale covered food market (below, left) to stock up on regional delicacies and try the local wines. Then wander outside to the street markets around Piazza San Lorenzo and treat yourself to a calfskin handbag from one of the many bustling stalls there. From here, it’s a ten-minute walk south to via del corso’s many boutiques – go via Florence’s iconic Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral (below, right) for a fix of pre-Renaissance magnificence. Once in the lanes, men can invest in a Florentine souvenir to treasure at shirtmaker Piero Puliti. Using cotton from the best Italian mills and silk produced in Lake Como, its top-quality shirts and ties range from the outlandishly fashionable (à la Paul Smith) to the cool and conservative (à la George Clooney).
Make sure you squeeze in a visit to the Uffizi Gallery on the riverbank. It is known for its Renaissance masterpieces, including Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ and Da Vinci’s ‘Annunciation’. If you’re here in August, allow a little extra time for queueing – it gets busy. After this, wander along the riverbank up to Ponte Vecchio (below), the medieval stone bridge that’s lined with pretty jewellery shops. Prices are somewhat exclusive, but the views and the atmosphere are lovely.