Florence Travel Tips from Franco Mazzetti, Florentine Menswear Consultant

Conversations with Locals

Florentine menswear consultant Franco Mazzetti gives his pick for the mandatory schiacciata stop, where to find Italy’s long lost tailors and how you can avoid eating unsavoury food in Florence. 

Photo: Men In This Town

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Florence without trying? 

The richness and abundance of choices in Florentine cuisine make it quite difficult to find a single dish to recommend. Let’s say that those who come to Florence should not leave before having tasted a Fiorentina steak. Obviously you can’t even give up tasting the famous ribollita soup.

In any case, walking through the streets, I would highly recommend stopping at one of the kiosks scattered around the city and ordering our street food for excellent food, the famous sandwich with lampredotto.

What about your favourite restaurants?

A very large space would be required for this answer. To mention one restaurant rather than another is really difficult also because there are many extremely valid places in Florence, where you can eat well at fair prices. Notwithstanding the fact that Florentines prefer to go to restaurants around Florence that are out of the tourist crowds of downtown, I will answer this question simply by citing the places I most love to frequent in the city.

I’ll mention three places where I like to eat and would recommend to a friend – Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi, All’Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi and La Buca dell’Orafo.

As for the cafés, I can only recommend a good glass of wine and a small truffle sandwich at Procacci, after which an obligatory stop at Caffè Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica.

Obviously, a visit to the Antico Vinaio, the most reviewed restaurant in the world by Tripadvisor, is mandatory, where you can give room to your imagination by ordering your schiacciata with any filling you want and where you will be amazed by the quantity of ingredients you will find inside. 

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Florence

To tell the truth, I could not say that there are real traps in which tourists can fall. Rather, I would say that there are many places, especially restaurants, that sell ingredients that very often come from large-scale supermarkets and come with very high prices as Tuscan cuisine. Here, what I would like to recommend is to always pay attention to what you eat. Thank goodness today there are websites like Tripadvisor that manages to warn the most unwary.

Are there still many of such restaurants in Florence?

Unfortunately, it is very common to come across restaurants or trattorie that sell ingredients that are of low quality as high quality products. Obviously, the main problem that is worth pointing out concerns the main dish of our kitchen, the Fiorentina steak. The quality of the meat must necessarily be the Chianina loin. Unfortunately, some use other types of beef, often from foreign countries which obviously have a lower price but are passed off as meat of this quality. My advice is to ask for the certificate of origin of the steak when ordering. Every restaurateur is obliged to show to those few customers who know they have this sacrosanct right to know before ordering.

What’s the perfect itinerary to explore Florence? 

Florence is the tourist’s dream because its entire history is contained in a few square kilometres. The most beautiful monuments and buildings are all very close to each other and it is extraordinary to walk through the streets of the historic center, because it is a succession of emotions.

The only place outside the center that a tourist should visit is the splendid view from Piazzale Michelangelo, easily reachable in 20 minutes by bus, alongside which stands the wonderful Basilica of San Miniato a Monte. Even the museums are close to each other even if, given the large crowds, booking via the web is essential.

In my opinion, all a tourist has to do is reach the center and walk calmly through the streets of the city and they will be amazed to see how much history will pass under their eyes in a very short period of time.

Is being well-dressed part of the Italian culture? 

Absolutely yes. The Italian elegance that gave rise to “Made in Italy” is still very much present and deeply felt today. Cities like Milan, Naples and Florence are still tied to the tradition of being well-dressed.

Milan, the undisputed Italian financial capital, still sees extremely elegant men and women wandering the streets of Brera today. The great sartorial culture of the Neapolitans is still well rooted. In my personal point of view, the elegant Neapolitan man is the best expression of a relaxed elegance, not showy but absolutely full of charm. Florence, which still has a strong sartorial tradition, underwent strong Anglo-Saxon influence after a very high number of British citizens in the period following the Second World War decided to move to the surrounding countryside, especially in Chianti, which later became famous as Chiantishire.

As can be easily understood, this peaceful invasion has given life to a mix of style between the rigorous Florentine style and the English country. Hence the birth of the Anglo-Florentine style.

Photo: Fabrizio Di Paolo

Where do you go for tailored suits in Florence?

Unfortunately, the evolution of modern times, let’s call it globalisation, has decimated the myriad of small tailors that were once well represented in town. Many of my older dresses have been expertly crafted by the expert hands of tailors who unfortunately had to stop their activities. Currently, my outfits are supplied by companies and tailors based from various parts of the world.

Among the few safe addresses for tailors still present in Florence, I would mention Liverano and Liverano, l’Antica Sartoria Cisternino and, last but not least, the small Sagliano tailoring where the young Rosario, tailor of Neapolitan origins by family tradition, operates in the historic center of Florence in the Oltrarno area.

I would also like to give some advice for those looking for a highly prestigious pair of shoes that are meticulously and completely handmade. Roberto Ugolini Shoemaker, also located in the Oltrarno area, is one of the few remaining artisans of indisputable mastery.

Will the art of the tailored suit disappear from Italy?

No, I don’t think so. Although many of the old tailors have disappeared and despite also a sort of small “invasion” that in recent years has seen some of the most important Italian tailoring “brands” acquired by Japanese and Korean tailors, I would say that the Italian tailoring tradition is now well alive and rooted.

This is thanks to a generation of young tailors, who in the vast majority of cases, have learned this art from their family tradition. Not only that, I can also say that I see more and more interest in the tailoring world, almost every day on Instagram, I receive requests for information from young and very young followers, which gives me hope for a return to this beautiful way of dressing.

Do you have a tip for men who want to be well dressed?

The same advice that I always give to those who ask me this question is to seek their own style without forcing or unnecessary refinements. ALWAYS feel comfortable with what you are wearing, whether it is a tailored suit or an inexpensive suit, it is always necessary to try to convey the same message. Security, kindness and understatement. As I always say, however, the use of good manners comes first because they are by far your best business card.

WHERE TO EAT IN FLORENCE


Trattoria dei 13 Gobbi
Where: Via del Porcellana, 9R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Florentine steak

All’Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi
Where: Via Sant’Onofrio, 1R, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tuscan cuisine

Buca dell’Orafo
Where: Via dei Girolami, 28/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tuscan cuisine

Procacci
Where: Via de’ Tornabuoni, 64R, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Wine and truffle sandwiches

Caffè Gilli
Where: Via Roma, 1r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Coffee and pastries

All’Antico Vinaio
Where: Via dei Neri, 76R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Schiacciata
 

WHERE TO GO IN FLORENCE

Liverano and Liverano
Where: Via dei Fossi, 43, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tailored suits
Sagliano Concetti Sartoriali
Where: Borgo S. Frediano, 47 rosso, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Tailored suits
Roberto Ugolini Shoemaker
Where: Via dei Michelozzi, 17/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
For: Handmade shoes
Piazzale Michelangelo
Where: Piazzale Michelangelo, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
For: A view of Florence

120 Hours in Etosha National Park – What to See, Eat & Do

Africa

Ten or twenty cars cluster around Chudob watering hole, eyes searching beyond the dense foliage. The wind picks up the dust, creating a sheen of white. In the distance, the trees rustle, making way for giants. There is silence. Nobody stirs. There is an air of anticipation as several grey masses emerge above the treetop. As they move towards the watering hole, their shapes become visible. Elephants. Not just one but a herd. Everyone angles their cameras towards the elephants as they quench their thirst and cool off in the waters.

There is something intimate about the uninhibitedness of nature-watching. Then there is the thrill of the unexpected. That while the elephants are engaging in their frivolous fun at the waters, a pride of lions could be eyeing the calf, watchful for the right moment. No one knows what the next second will bring as we wait for the magic hour. 

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THE SAFARI

Etosha National Park is aptly named the animal kingdom. The bone-dry winter means that wildlife of all shapes and sizes congregate at the waterholes. Prides of lions encamp at Okondeka, Nebrownii and Salvadora while elephants are regulars at Olifantsrus, Chudob and Klein Namutoni. The skittish and nimble damara dik dik is a frequent sight along Dik-Dik Drive or en route to Von Lindequist Gate. Between Salvadora and Namutoni, immeasurable herds of plains game can be found grazing. But the one waterhole to watch is the legendary Okaukuejo. Anyone who has ever been to Etosha would have heard of Okaukuejo – the stage for a perpetual parade of wildlife that continues through the night. Access to Okaukuejo after dark is reserved only for those staying in the Okaukuejo Camp, where booking a room can feel like a race against time. The rooms, especially the ones with a front row seat at the waterhole, can fill up as early as a year before. 

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THE PRIVATE RESERVES

Unlike South Africa, Etosha is not big on the private reserve scene but there are still one or two top drawer reserves. Stays at the Ongava private reserve will yield some of the most mind-blowing sightings on off-road drives. The nights are primal at Ongava as lions roam the watering hole and tented camps. Its location just outside the Anderson’s Gate will get you closest to sunrise in the national park. At the eastern side of Etosha, Onguma private reserve is slightly smaller but it does not hold back on sightings. Cheetahs from Etosha are known to periodically move into the reserve for protection against predators. 

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THE FOOD

Emanya is where all would want to unwind after a long day of game viewing. Four course dinners of African-European flavours are served under the starlit sky with place settings to match. Their oryx steaks are just the right amount of game. The afternoons are best for tea and cake, a complimentary respite from the lodge.

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THE ROOMS

Camps and lodges are concentrated around the southern and eastern gates of Etosha. Etosha Village occupies a cosy corner of the southern side of the national park. The rooms are awash with near-neutral tones with modest fittings. At dinner, the freshly grilled steaks and stir fry are crowd-pleasers. Doubles start at N$1553 per person, including breakfast and dinner.

Ongava is a classic safari outfit with an ace in their pocket – their highly raved about private reserve. The exclusive Little Ongava has only three suites for low-key stays. Each suite opens up to a private deck overlooking the veld. Doubles start at N$14140 per person fully inclusive. The Ongava Tented Camp is a favourite for its wild-in-Africa atmosphere and a busy waterhole. Doubles start at N$7848 per person fully inclusive. 

In the east, Onguma Bush Camp maintains the charms of old world southern Africa. Its fenced up grounds means child-friendly rules. Never miss a second of game-viewing as dinners and sunbeds are set in front of a massive waterhole. Tired of an all day drive in Etosha? Just kick back your safari boots at the pool while the wildlife comes to you. Doubles start at N$1530 per person for bed and breakfast. 

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120 Hours in the Namib Desert – What to See, Eat & Do

Africa

The first rays of dawn peeked over the horizon, colouring the sand in a deep ochre. The panting sound of tenacious dune climbers was distinct in the whistling wind that swerved through the shapeshifting sand dunes in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. They were determined to reach the top of the dune for the sunrise. Minutes flew by and they pressed on, determined to be a spectator of one of nature’s great spectacle. And it was sublime – a mix of red and orange spilling across the immeasurable desert. For a breathless moment, everyone stood in awe of the sight. Orange star dunes partially hidden in the black shadow. The shimmering heat waves danced on the pan. Miles away, a lone oryx grazed on the scarce vegetation dispersed in the parched sand. 

For decades, the Namib Desert has been a subject of intrigue, an arid region covering most of Namibia and parts of South Africa and Angola. A small number of roads cut into the world’s oldest desert where desert-adapted species such as lions, elephants and oryxes roam free. With striking landscapes, exclusive lodges, soaring dunes and 55 million years of history, Namibia is finally ready to come out of her shell. 

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THE DESERT

For the spectacle described above, head to Sossusvlei for the orange hued dunes that seem to touch the sky, with Big Daddy dominating the scene at more than 300 meters high. The climb up the dune is onerous but the view is breathtakingly worthwhile. After ascending the top, slide down Big Daddy to Deadvlei, a clay pan where startling bare trees stand on a barren white clay pan. Other noteworthy dunes include Dune 45 just 40 minutes from the gate. For the most accessible dune, Elim Dune is just 10 minutes from the gate and best seen at sunset for views of the Naukluft Mountains bathed in burnt orange tones. The lush vegetation of its surroundings also beckons herds of wildebeests and oryxes. 

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THE COAST

In western Namibia, the coast of the Namib Desert is a world of difference from Sossusvlei. Here, the temperature drops and a dense fog lies thickly upon this coastal stretch of increasingly vibrant civilisation. A short drive away from Swakopmund, the hostile climate makes the Skeleton Coast in the northern reaches of the desert an eerie setting for shipwrecks and beached whale bones. Just an hour away from the south of the Skeleton Coast, hundreds if not thousands of seals congregate at Cape Cross. This unprimed tourist spot is nature at its best.

Move further south and you will end up at the Sandwich Harbour where off-road adventures are the norm. Take a 4×4 ride with Turnstone Tours for an all-day drive on the roaring dunes. In the afternoons, dig into a homemade picnic of oryx lasagne, tuna salad and pumpkin cakes while watching the ocean waves glide against the desert sand. 

While Sossusvlei’s dunes are a larger than life spectacle, Dune 7 near Walvis Bay holds the title as Namibia’s tallest dune at more than 380 metres. Park your car under the palm trees and opt to go quad biking or sand boarding. A short drive away from Swakopmund will take you to the Moon Landscape. At this outlandish panorama, you can see miles and miles of cracked bedrock washed out in leaden shades. 

THE FOOD

The coastal town of Swakopmund is the heart of the food scene in the Namib. Farmhouse Deli On The Mole does a morning pick-me-up with yogurt and granola power bowls and egg white omelettes. For local fare, Village Café is a familiar haunt amongst the locals for its no frills Village breakfast of boerewors, eggs and toast. You will be kept entertained by the upbeat atmosphere and an amusing café menu that knows a joke or two. For candlelit dinner dates, The Wreck does sea view dining without the chilly temperature. Go for the seafood – squid stuffed with spinach or grilled fish on mushroom risotto. It will not disappoint. And of course, steaks are a must in Namibia and the Namib Restaurant does a mean steak fillet.

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THE ROOMS

Stay inside the Namib-Naukluft National Park for the dramatic sunrise from the top of the Sossusvlei dunes. andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodges does blissful desert living to a tee with impeccable rooms, 4×4 safari drives, star gazing and dinners in the dune. Also located within the national park, Sossus Dune Lodge is an austere abode with eco-friendly thatched rooms in the middle of the desert. A stay at the smartly dressed Sossusvlei Lodge just outside the gate to the national park is worthwhile for the sundowner drives in the private reserve, dinners at the open-air braais and dips in the pool with desert views. Just 10 minutes away from the gate, Desert Quiver Camp and Desert Camp have contemporary rooms with a tinge of camping vibes. All rooms are outfitted with a kitchen, and fresh food can be ordered for a meat grilling fest overlooking the savannah.

Near Walvis Bay, Bay View Resort Namibia is fast to catch up to the hotel game with sizeable rooms and a penthouse that is dressed to kill. Take your breakfast al fresco and watch the kids frolic on the beach. Evenings are best spent in the balcony hearing the rhythmic crashing of the waves as the fog rolls in from the sea to rest upon the darkened shore. 

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