INSPIRATION • April 2023
Are you making the most of your Avios? Our Reward Flight Saver could have you winging your way to a new destination for just Avios plus as little as £1.* In this new series, we suggest the places to go and the perfect weekend itineraries…
This month, it’s off to the birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy’s capital of culture, the eternally ethereal Florence – which you can reach for only 23,500 Avios plus £1* for an off-peak return flight in Euro Traveller. Average temperature highs of 25°C are on the horizon, so local writer Mary Gray tells us where best to soak it all up…
No city balances homespun and high-end quite like Florence. At lunch, you’re burrowing knees under crumbling trattoria tables in anticipation of sensational ribbon pasta. By mid-afternoon, you’re roaming through a 16th-century garden or clinking crystal glasses beneath a frescoed ceiling. These sorts of scenes unfold hour-to-hour in the Tuscan capital – often within a few yards of each other.
A hefty morning cappuccino at the caramelly marbled tabletops of Gilli (above) is a rite of passage for first-timers. Gilli’s terrace is popular with out-of-town visitors, but make like the well-heeled locals and sit in the gilded salone for more inspiring views. Then, follow the bells and whistles of breakfast with an unfussy lunch at Dalla Lola. Founder Matilde Pettini terms her approach “punk Tuscan”. Signature offerings here include trippa finta (fake tripe), a tomato- and egg-rich dish that pairs well with the thoughtfully sourced local wines. Bistecca alla fiorentina is the must-try plate in town, best enjoyed on opposite edges of the historic centre: Alla Vecchia Bettola to the south, or Perseus to the north.
Skip the spritz-and-buffet bargains and head instead to elegant Procacci, best known for its truffle-based treats. Seats at this small venue are hard-won. Even the chicest customers, admitting defeat, often stand at the bar tables outside to gossip and nurse their prosecchi. Or, have a natural-wine nightcap at Vineria Sonora, a shabby enoteca where the tunes get just as much attention as the tipples (look out for the orange wines in particular, which can be tough to find elsewhere in Florence).
Explore the Basilica of Santa Croce at your own risk: you might catch Stendhal Syndrome — a visceral ‘art attack’ named after the 19th-century French author, who reportedly experienced overwhelming heart palpitations and dizziness when he visited in 1817. The burial site of Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini and others, this Franciscan church is known as the ‘Temple of Italian Glories’ (some 700 years on, an empty tomb still awaits the return of Dante, who was exiled from his native city and rests in Ravenna).
Venture northeast from Santa Croce to the lively district of Sant’Ambrogio to get schooled in seasonal eating at its eponymous market. Make a detour to Largo Pietro Annigoni for weathered books and whimsical antiques, then cap off your explorations with the spectacular Synagogue of Florence (above), which hosts lively Balagan Café events with klezmer music and kosher food on Thursdays in the summer.
Take the back-door route to Piazzale Michelangelo, the city’s most famous overlook. Rather than climbing from Via Monte alle Croci as most visitors do, start at Porta Romana and wind your way through the Poggio Imperiale neighbourhood, with its shaded pathways, small gardens (such as Bobolino) and Art Nouveau homes. For a picnic, head to the Giardino dell’Orticoltura at the base of the steep Via Bolognese. As well as its crystal-like tepidarium (above), which occasionally hosts vintage markets, concerts and other events, the garden also puts on a major plant and flower showcase each autumn and spring.
Stay in the heart of the downtown action at Hotel Berchielli, an unpretentious, classically Florentine four-star property set on a key stretch of the Lungarno if what you’re after is your Lucy Honeychurch-style room with a view. For a more design-led, boutique feel, check into SoprArno Suites (above) in the artisan district of Santo Spirito. Run by creative power couple Betty Soldi and Matteo Perduca, the hotel’s 13 rooms each follow an imaginative yet never gimmicky theme, from typography to games.
*Reward Flight Savers are British Airways’ best value reward flights. Reward Flight Saver offers customers great value flights with a low, flat fee to cover taxes, fees and carrier charges and a fixed Avios amount. To be eligible for Reward Flight Saver, you need to have collected at least one Avios in the past 12 months. To find out more about Reward Flight Saver, click here.
Reward flights are subject to availability.The price referenced here is for a Reward Flight Saver fare and based on an off-peak, return fare for one passenger travelling in Euro Traveller (Economy), from London. All prices and Avios amounts quoted are correct as of April 2023.