Florence, Italy
Ottavia, 31
Travel designer & culture freak
see her Florence city guide

ask Ottavia about

bakery café art galleries theater viewpoints boutiques gardens

What do you do and why do you do it?

I work for a tour operator: we only offer active trips, with cycling, hiking or any kind of adventure involved. It's the perfect job as I get to do all the things I like: traveling a lot, thinking outside the box, continuously learning about other cultures, spending time in nature and having fun. Even office days are exciting, never a dull moment with a lot of problem solving and team work.

You’re broken hearted - what tracks does your heartbreak playlist consist of?

Ahhh this is hard. think first choice would be Song of Zula, by Phosphorescents. Basically anything by The National. Hurt, Johnny Cash version. The Mystery of Love, by Sufjan Stevens. La Canzone dei Vecchi Amanti, Battiato (Italian songwriter). Waves, Dean Lewis. Love is All, the Tallest Man on Earth. In the Airplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel. Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel. Winter Winds, Mumford and Sons. Be Still, the Killers. Snuff, Stone Sour. And then some harsh stuff like Slipknot & La Dispute to happily move on to the next phase and feed my rage.

What are the best TV shows of all time?

I like everything with serial killers & crime involved, and I'll have to say that my favorite is Criminal Minds. I know every single episode by heart and still have an embarrassing crush on Dr. Reid. I also like some other crime related tv series like Lie to Me and Mind Hunter. I find some episodes of Black Mirror brilliant, made me really think about human relationships in contemporary times. I generally don't like most TV series people get a hype on, I'm trying to catch up on Twin Peaks or Stranger Things but can't force myself to watch more than a couple of episodes without getting bored.

Name some spots in Florence that are good for a Tinder date.

Ah! Well it depends on the kind of Tinder date but I'd

Where do you buy those fabulous clothes of yours?

Actually I'm not much of a fashion victim and my clothes are a good mix of shops, boutiques, markets and old stuff that I used to wear as a teen. I generally find a lot of stuff at normal places like Mango or Zara, but if I want something special the vintage market & boutiques around Santo Spirito and Via Romana will do the trick. I wear a lot of outdoor stuff for my job, and I would binge of some North Face / Patagonia stuff rather than heels or fancy clothes. But I'll make sure to include a few tips about cool boutiques and local shops in my map.

What’s the area/ spot in town you’ll never be caught dead in?

Probably just the fanciest cocktail bars in town...or Parco delle Cascine at night, just because I don't like that kind of adventure. But some of the best concerts take place at the Arena located inside the park, so you may find me there in those occasions.

What’s the thing you LOVE to do in your city that you never get to do?

Florence is quite small and in the weekend you get the chance to do a lot of different things in one single day. I wouldn't say there is much that I never do - I generally plan my evenings and weekends so that I can do all the stuff that I like throughout the month.

What’s the most decadent / extreme dish you ever ate in Florence and where did you get it?

The desserts of Tamerò in Piazza Santo Spirito are to die for. I remember a chocolate mousse with sea salt and a ricotta cream with almond biscuits eaten on the stairs in front of Santo Spirito - you can get them in a box and enjoy them while chatting, a great alternative to beer or ice cream.

Is there a hidden bar / hole in the wall in Florence that you particularly like?

The Box near Sant'Ambrogio is a nice place to have something to drink before calling it a night. Rasputin in Santo Spirito is the first speakeasy in Florence and a super cool place, but it's also jealously hidden and you will a reference to get in.

What’s the most expensive restaurant / spa / hotel you’ve ever been to in Florence? How much did it cost and what did you get there?

I haven't been anywhere particularly expensive, but I would suggest the Four Seasons Florence if you can afford it. It's located in Palazzo della Gherardesca, a beautiful villa near Borgo Pinti, with huge gardens that I was lucky enough to visit on their charity open day. The reception, rooms, spa, restaurant - everything is incredible, from their frescoed suites to the garden guesthouses, passing by the majestic vaulted corridors. If you are "just" up for a dinner, the Il Palagio restaurant is open for reservations. You can also have a Sunday brunch (around 100 Euros) - I suggest choosing warmer months to enjoy it in the beautiful garden.

What restaurant in Florence looks crap, but the food’s amazing?

I can't think of a single restaurant that looks crap - every single place has its own special identity, here. But one of my favorite dinner spots is Lo Sprone, in Via dello Sprone. It's a super small place with a limited choice of dishes and you can easily walk past it, but everything is really great and super cheap. The owners are music lovers and they project videos of old concerts on the wall, so I sometimes go there alone just to eat something good and enjoy my daily concert. I always get the roasted veggies with melted cheese or the nettle ravioli. And don't forget the Panna Cotta, personally I think that's the best in town!

Where can you get the best cocktail in Florence? Which one do you like?

This is a tough question, because I don't drink cocktails! Sorry guys.

Where would you take your partner in Florence if you wanted to really pamper them?

I'd probably take them to one of my favorite restaurants. Santo Bevitore in San Frediano is amazing, not so expensive but with the quality and style of a fancy restaurant. But if it's a warm sunny day and we have a whole day to spend together I'd probably gram something to eat and take him to the Rose Garden near Piazzale Michelangelo. There is something beautiful in relaxing surrounded by roses, with one of the best views in town.

Which snacks can you only get in your country, and which ones do you recommend?

Speaking of Florence, if you could use something sweet in the middle of the day I would suggest a coffee and a "budino di riso", a rice and cream filled pastry that you can find basically everywhere. And of course ice cream - there are a lot of great gelato spots in Florence, but my favorite is Gelateria della Passera, in Piazza della Passera. If you'd rather have something savory, I'd suggest a slice of "schiacciata", some pecorino cheese or if you're really hungry some a lampredotto sandwich - but lampredotto is actually the 4th and final stomach of the cow and has a peculiar, chewy consistency so not everyone appreciates that.

What’s the one place you think is overrated in Florence?

I can't think of anything overrated in Florence - I think the only thing you should really stay away from are super touristic places offering typical Italian specialties like pizza & pasta in the immediate surrounding of the main monuments in town. Also, don't trust those colorful piles of gelato in the window of ice cream shops - if it's brightly colored and mountain-shaped you shouldn't have it.

What’s the one place you think is underrated in Florence?

Make sure you visit the other side of the Arno river! Most people tend to stay only on one side of the river, but if you cross one of the several bridges and get to the other side you will find that San Niccolò, San Frediano and Santo Spirito are just as nice.This is where the real Florentine life takes place, where you can find artisans workshops, authentic trattorie, a lively nightlife and those cobbled, quiet narrow streets that it is often difficult to enjoy in the most crowded parts of the town. Don't miss Palazzo Pitti, Giardino di Boboli, Piazzale Michelangelo, San Miniato al Monte and (if open) Forte del Belvedere for the best view.

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Giulio Paletta