If life informs art, then it’s no surprise that Paola Navone’s whimsical interior design is partly inspired by the places she visits in Italy.
Paola’s keen eye has provided the vision for many of our properties, including COMO Point Yamu in Thailand, COMO Castello Del Nero in Tuscany, and coming soon, a French wine estate in the heart of Burgundy.
Here she shares her favourite places to visit in Florence – a Roman Renaissance city only a 40-minute drive from our Tuscan estate...
Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00pm to 6.00pm
Palazzo Strozzi is an exhibition centre built around an original Renaissance courtyard, which sees exciting concerts, performances and installations pass through every year. Their exhibitions – more than 50 held since 2006 – range from critically acclaimed old masters to leading contemporary artists including Ai Weiwei, Carsten Höller and Marina Abramovic. Palazzo Strozzi is a well-known cultural hub for new work, challenging ideas and innovative programmes for students, families and the general Florentine public. The courtyard is also free to access every day from 8.00am to 8.00pm.
Image credit: Immagini Stampa JR
ANTICA MACELLERIA CECCHINI
Monday to Sunday, 9.00am to 4.00pm
Described by Paola as ‘the best butcher in Chianti’, Antica Macelleria Cecchini has been serving high quality cuts of meat – raised in Catalonia, in the Pyrenees National Park – for eight generations. Dario Cecchini has been in charge of the shop for the past 45 years. His butchering ethos is something of an art: he aims to respect the animal’s life and death by using every bit of each animal down to its last tendon. As featured in season six of Chef’s Table on Netflix, Dario’s shop is worth a visit for its location alone – perched high on a ridge near medieval castle remains, overlooking olive tree groves and cypress trees. To taste how Dario would prepare the cuts of meat himself, visit his nearby restaurants Soliciccia and Officina Della Bistecca.
Image credit: Meigan Arnone
MERCATO DI SAN LORENZO/CENTRALE
San Lorenzo: Monday to Friday, 7.00am to 2.00pm; Saturday 7.00am to 5.00pm. Centrale: Every day, 8.00am to 12.00am
Mercato Di San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Market) and Mercato Centrale (Central Market) are home to Tuscan delicacies and local crafts. The Central Market sits within a beautiful cast iron and glass building, while the San Lorenzo Market consists of busy streets just outside – selling leather, clothes and other artisanal produce. If any of the grocery goods – including truffle honey, balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes – in the Central Market catch your eye, just let the vendors know. They’re knowledgeable about which countries allow what products across borders and will vacuum pack it for your travels.
Wednesday to Saturday, 8.00pm to 11.00pm
During the day, In Fabbrica – ‘fabbrica’ meaning ‘factory’ – is a quiet lunchroom within the small Pampaloni silver factory. At night, the space transforms to becomes one of Florence’s most remarkable dinner restaurants. Light from wall sconces and giant candelabras bounces off the green tiles and silver hunting trophies, cutlery and platters. A hammer and sickle made out of fairy lights covers the ceiling, while white-gloved waiters serve a menu of Tuscan classics or Asian-inspired dishes. The dining experience here is surreal, in the best way possible.
Image credits: Pampaloni
GIARDINO DI BOBOLI
Monday to Friday from 8.30am year round, closing at 4.30pm (November to February), 5.30pm in March and 6.30pm (April to October)
The Boboli Gardens were established by the Medicis – one of the most prominent families in Italian history – in a style that would later become the layout of the classic Italian garden. The gardens slope and rise across a vast expanse that takes an afternoon to traverse. The area is dotted with whimsical topiary shapes and large fountains, but the highlight is the Grotta Grande designed by Bernardo Buontalenti in the late 1500s: a romantic, man-made cave decorated with mother-of-pearl, stalactites, frescoes and sculptures. The Boboli Gardens are also right behind Pitti Palace, which is a grand sight in its own right.
Image credits: @_pol, alh1, Albert Perro, Ed Webster