Romantic Florence

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Romantic Florence
A city with all sorts of passions on display, Florence is made for lovers. Enjoy the Renaissance art, the cavernous churches, the intimate restaurants, and the lively wine bars, before indulging in a romantic retreat.
By Nicky Swallow, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Tuscany Ballooning
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    Bird's-Eye Views
    What could be more romantic than floating in the sky hundreds of feet above Tuscany, with the lure of a champagne breakfast on landing? Typically, a trip in a mongolfiera (hot air balloon) will begin at daybreak—when the wind is at its calmest—and will last around an hour, during which time your pilot will guide the vessel over some of Tuscany's most beautiful landscapes. Tuscany Ballooning lifts off from a site just six miles south of Florence, but if you're seeking a farther-flung option, try Chianti Ballooning; they operate flights from four sites throughout the region.
    Photo courtesy of Tuscany Ballooning
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    Learn to Cook
    For an amorous gift that keeps giving, couples can book cooking lessons that will set the stage for many romantic dinners to come. Class will usually begin at one of Florence’s busy local markets, where you will buy your ingredients with the help of a chef who will teach you about seasonality and local products. Once back in the kitchen, you will prepare and enjoy an authentic Florentine meal. Desinare offers both cooking and wine courses, and can tailor them to suit your interests. For those who really want to dig in, Giglio Cooking culinary school offers week, month, and three-month courses that may take you further afield into Tuscany and the archipelago.
    Photo courtesy of Desinare
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    Private Collections
    There are some wonderfully eccentric museums in Florence that lie way off the tourist radar. Florentine art dealer Stefano Bardini left his vast collection of medieval and Renaissance art and artifacts to the city of Florence, and in 1923 Museo Bardini was opened. Similarly, British art historian Herbert Percy Horne’s collection went to create the Museo della Fondazione Horne. Casa Buonarroti offers an insight into the life of Florence’s most famous son, Michelangelo. Most eccentric of all may be the haul amassed by Frederick Stibbert. Museo Stibbert has everything from a full set of Japanese armor to a collection of shoe buckles, and the dreamy garden is an oasis on a hot day.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Relax and Recharge
    Sightseeing can be exhausting, so beat your fatigue and the crowds by booking into one of the city’s spas for a day of rest, recuperation, and indulgence. Top choice is the lavish spa at the Four Seasons, which offers a range of treatments and massages for couples. Finish the day with a walk around the facility's beautiful garden and a gourmet dinner at any of the restaurants. The Iridium Spa by Clarins, at the St. Regis hotel, also has treatments designed for couples. Or try boutique spa and hammam Soulspace, which specializes in Eastern techniques with massages for two.
    Photo courtesy of Peter Vitale/Spa at the Four Seasons
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    Take a Sunset Stroll
    Even though there is so much to see, Florence is best experienced at a leisurely pace, and sunset is the perfect time for a stroll. The centro storico (city center) is small and mostly traffic-free, and as the sun goes down, the medieval and Renaissance buildings are bathed in a magical golden light. Start in Piazza del Duomo and walk south towards Piazza della Signoria, where you can enjoy a glass of prosecco on the terrace of Caffé Rivoire. Cross the river on the Ponte Vecchio, and head up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo, a classic photo spot for newlyweds. From here the city is laid out before you and the Arno appears like molten gold as the sun sets.
    Photo by Gianluca Moggi
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    Winetasting in Chianti
    One of Italy’s most famous wine-producing regions, Chianti lies between Florence and Siena and is easily accessible as a day trip. The Via Chiantigiana (also known as SS 222), takes you through vineyards and olive groves en route to Siena. Many wine estates offer a degustazione where you can sample the local vintages and buy direct from the cellars. Fonterutoli, near Castellina in Chianti, is a good place to head for; you can also have lunch here overlooking the vineyards. If you're curious to see where it all began, head further south to Castello di Brolio estate, where Baron Bettino Ricasoli established the formula for making Chianti wine.
    Photo by Ronald Wittek/age fotostock
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    A Leisurely Brunch
    A Florentine weekend brunch typically begins around midday. A standard set-price buffet usually includes a range of meats and cheeses, savory flans, pasta dishes, fish, desserts, and drinks. Check out hip new Ditta Artigianale Oltrarno, which serves American-style brunch and great coffee daily. Sunday brunch at grand Villa Cora comes with live music. If you want to splash out, book ahead for the very popular Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons, served in the gorgeous garden in warm weather.
    Photo by Paolo Gallo Modena/age fotostock
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    Candlelit Dining
    There’s nothing like a classy, candlelit dinner to set the mood; Florence’s fine dining establishments offer a seductive combination of fabulous food, elegant ambiance, and top-notch service. Enoteca Pinchiorri serves world-renowned multi-course meals at tables in the beautiful, flower-filled courtyard of a Renaissance palazzo. River views are included in the price at Borgo San Jacopo (book early for one of the coveted tables on the tiny terrace) and at SE-STO, and at Golden View Open Bar, you can enjoy your meal and live jazz along with a view of the Ponte Vecchio. At Il Palagio at the Four Seasons, dinner is served in a large private garden in warm weather.
    Photo courtesy of Borgo San Jacopo/Lungarno Collection
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    Romantic Getaways
    When Florence’s crowds get overwhelming, there are plenty of nearby locations for day trips or romantic overnight getaways. The towns of Lucca, Arezzo, Pisa, and Siena are all within a short train ride and offer a mix of culture, quality restaurants, and intimate hotels. If it’s a beach break you're after, the sophisticated resorts of the Versilia come with a lively nightlife scene, or you can head south to Maremma for its crystal-clear water and laid-back vibe. With a rental car, you can day-trip through the region's medieval towns. You can even jump on a super-fast Frecciarossa train and be in Rome in 90 minutes.
    Photo by Doug Hansen