How to just say no to tourist traps, according to Les Petits Joueurs designer Maria Sole Cecchi.
Do as the locals do. It’s a maxim that defines all the best travel experiences, and for good reason—it’s the only way to avoid all of the requisite Yelped-to-death spots natives wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot-pole. And when in Italy, where tourist traps are as plentiful as the vino is free-flowing, this rings especially true. So when Maria Sole Cecchi, Cov alum and designer of Les Petits Joueurs, offered up her little black book of Florentine must-sees (just in time for her upcoming store opening in the city she calls home), we jumped at the chance to take a rifle through. Now you get to do the same, because we’ve eaten subpar cacio e pepe, and we know no one should be subjected to the same fate.
“My favorite hotel is the Portrait Firenze, and it’s right by Ponte Vecchio. The rooms are really cool and make you think about the city of Florence; they all have the view of the river and of Ponte Vecchio.”
“The spot where we all go for Sunday brunch is the Four Seasons. It has the best brunch in the city. As you can imagine, in Florence we don’t have [a lot of places for that], but we still like to do brunch. It’s not really in the culture, but we like to eat in the cool garden there. It’s really amazing.”
“I always take special people that come to town there, and they always love, love, love the space. It was created by this guy who used to be a painter. When I was young, he used to paint the restaurant while he was cooking. It’s really an artistic place, and now you go and it’s full of paintings—it’s incredible. Then the waiters are pretty artistic, so they come and they throw roses at you and they sing you a song. I always go there and have the best time. You can eat well, you can drink well, and all the plates are decorated with little flowers. I would say this is my favorite restaurant.”
“For those who don’t want to stay in the city center, there is Belmond Villa San Michele, which is in Fiesole, and it’s incredible. It has a pool and a garden and all the rooms are in the garden, so it’s really amazing. It also has a beautiful restaurant inside, under the terrace, where it is all hand-painted as you’re going inside. You can have dinner or lunch in La Loggia, and from there you can see the whole city.”
SEE & DO
“Another place that I really love is Palazzo Pitti, where the Medici family used to live. It’s a big palazzo with a place out front where people can sit. It’s incredible, and June through September are the best moments to go there.”
“There is a church called San Miniato. Of course, Casa del Duomo is something that everybody has to see, but San Miniato is also an amazing church. Nearby there is [another nice] park where you can sit down. San Miniato and Castello di Grazzano are close, so I suggest people have an aperitivo at the bar. You can sit and have the view of Castello di Grazzano of Florence and San Miniato and just enjoy time there.”
“Another favorite is the Giardino Bardini, which is another escape from the [city] center, but it’s a bit [central]. It’s lesser known than Boboli, but they have an amazing place where you can see a perfect garden that has different levels. From there you can see the city, and you can sit down and enjoy the view.”
“I like Emilio Cavallini for cool tights; he is also a local designer who has a store in Via della Vigna Nuova. He makes really cool tights and they're amazing quality.”
“To get handmade boots with really genuine leather, I have a secret spot, which is next to Palazzo Pitti, called Rive Gauche. The style is cool, and they're really nicely made. You can choose either a short model or a high boot, all in black or brown. People from Florence like to go there to get their boots made. I have two pairs from them, but they’re completely destroyed because I use them all during the winter and autumn.”
“This new perfume store in Via de’Tornabuoni is incredible. I think it only re-opened a few months ago after they renovated. It has incredible fragrances, everything is made in Florence, and it’s very nice.”
“I like to get my accessories, like bangles or special earrings or necklaces, [here]. Her style is all in [lacquer], so they’re strong colors, and in hoop shapes. They’re very contemporary and very nice, but not very expensive. Right next to her there is this vintage-jewelry store that also has amazing pieces and they aren't very expensive price, too.”