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Arts + Culture

The Coolest New Attractions in Florence

One of the best things about visiting Florence is things never seem to change. The Ponte Vecchio, David and the Duomo will always be there, as will the mouthwatering food and romantic streets. But in recent years, the city has opened a handful of modern museums, inventive restaurants and game-changing shops that are breaking the mold. Here's what's new.

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Antinori Winery

If you like wine, then you should know the Antinori name. The Florentine family has been in the winemaking business since 1385, passing through the hands of 26 generations. But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when the Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery opened to the public, that visitors got to see behind-the-scenes. This vineyard, just 20 minutes outside of Florence, isn’t a romantic centuries-old villa like most others. Instead, you’ll find a contemporary complex built into the Tuscan hillside, and inside it houses site-specific installations, a museum of the family’s historic art collection (including artifacts, photos, paintings and more), a theater, and the crown jewel: the cellar, a gorgeous underground structure built from natural materials like terra cotta, wood, steel and glass. While you’re here, have lunch on the restaurant terrace, where you can sip Sangiovese and tuck into mouthwatering dishes like tagliolini pasta with white truffle, plus a spread of prosciutto, salami, stracchino cheese and coccoli (fried bread dough).

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Essenziale

In September, acclaimed chef Simone Cipriani and restaurateur Massimiliano Vitali joined forces to launch their newest venture, Essenziale. Formerly a warehouse garage in Piazza del Cestello, the bright, industrial space is vastly different from Florence’s typical low-lit, romantic trattorias. Picture: a loft-like room, with exposed wood beams, leather couches, metal skylights and a raised platform where the chef can watch over the scene (and play DJ with his favorite pop-rock hits). But don’t let the casual atmosphere fool you — each dish is as creative and curated as any five-star affair. Splurge for the seven-course dinner, with innovative plates like lingua alla pizzaiola (beef tongue, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, spring onions) and olive oil ice cream.

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SOTF

SOTF—or Store of the Future—is a shoe emporium unlike any the city’s ever seen. Done up in gold and Calacatta marble, the minimalist boutique puts all the focus on its high-end sneakers, with labels such as adidas, Buscemi and Common Projects. There are also accessories from the likes of Thom Browne and Dita, as well as a SOTF apparel collection coming soon. But the best part? iPads replace salespeople, so customers can shop, get sizes and checkout with a click of a button.

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Across Art and Fashion

Is fashion art? The answer can be found at this multi-venue exhibit, which is a tribute to the Ferragamo family’s fashion empire. Pairing Ferragamo’s famous shoes (plus outfits from other high-end designers) with avant garde works from the 20th-century as well as the ‘50s and ‘60s (ahem, Andy Warhol and Peggy Guggenheim), it looks at how art movements and fashion trends are inspired by each other. One of the highlights: a Kenneth Noland bullseye acrylic painting that mirrors a set of Ferragamo suede pumps. Take in the bulk of the exhibit at the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, then head over to the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, the Gallerie degli Uffizi, the Museo Marino Marini, and the Museo del Tessuto, in Prato, to see more.

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Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art

The Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art (otherwise known as Centro Pecci) in Prato, a town just outside Florence, finally reopened in October to much applause. The spaceship-like building is 10 years in the making, doubling the museum’s exhibition space with a library, an outdoor theater, a cinema/performance space, a bookshop, restaurant and bistro. It now showcases a collection of 1,000 works by contemporary artists like Anish Kapoor, Jan Fabre, Andy Warhol and more. Currently on exhibit: an installation from 50 international artists called The End of the World. Stretching the entire 32,000-square-foot museum, it challenges viewers to look at the world from a different perspective using architectural, musical and theatrical elements.

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Olivia

Olivia is a temple to all things olive oil. The cute new shop, tasting room and eatery in the heart of Palazzo Pitti is the first of its kind, allowing customers not only to stock up on some of the best EVO, but also learn how it’s made. The Reggello-based Gonnelli family, of the 16th-century Frantoio di Santa Tèa, provides the oil while chef Simone Cipriani (yep, the same as Essenziale) creates delicious fried street food bites such as crispy fried tortellini, and pappa donuts (a signature dish in which the dough is filled with tomato soup and topped with parmesan cheese).

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Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

After years of eager anticipation, the €45 million Museo dell’Opera del Duomo opened in October 2015. The massive 64,500-square-foot museum is spread over three floors with 25 exhibition halls that house the world’s largest collection of medieval and Renaissance Florentine sculpture, including 750 statues and reliefs by the greats—Donatello (Magdalene), Michelangelo (the Florentine Pietà), and Lorenzo Ghiberti (Gates of Paradise), to name a few. The pièce de résistance: a striking atrium with a full-size reconstruction of the Santa Maria del Fiore’s original 13th-century façade, which was dismantled in 1587 after never being completed.

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San Niccolò 39

Paul Feakes, of Hotel Savoy’s Irene Firenze, is behind this chic new spot that opened in September at the base of Piazzale Michelangelo. The whole place exudes a cozy vibe, from the small terrace out front to the covered garden and courtyard behind. The romantic decor (think: textured grey walls, exposed wooden beams, old stone floors) is enhanced by the food, which revolves around a simple, seafood-heavy menu paired with a short but sophisticated wine list. Try the crocker fish tartare with fresh peaches, basil, toasted almonds and a light shellfish bisque followed by the salt-baked catch of the day (usually fragolino, or sea bream). Or go on Thursdays when the resident Moroccan cook spices things up with samosa and tagine specials.

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Photo by Claudia Corrent

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Lottozero

Fashionistas should make a beeline for Prato’s Lottozero, a center for textile design and art that debuted in October. The studio and workspace displays pieces by local and international artisans and designers, as a mission to inspire new talent in the industry. Currently exhibiting is “Inside Lottozero,” a study of the use of textiles in contemporary art, including an immersive installation by Arianna Moroder, where you can stay for a night in the museum and participate in a "sleep concert" while snuggling up in some of Moroder’s blankets.

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Refraction, Courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

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Ai Weiwei: Libero

For the first time ever, the 15th-century Palazzo Strozzi is filled with site-specific installations as part of the new Ai Weiwei: Libero exhibit. The courtyard, the palace façade and the exhibition halls are covered with controversial works by the Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei. Each piece is a political commentary, from the inflatable rafts hanging around the exterior (a nod to the refugee crisis), to the videos, sculptures and photographs inside. Our favorite? A bold gallery of pictures showing him flipping off major monuments and museums around the world.

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