Last December, I celebrated a milestone birthday with a long weekend in Florence. A few months before my birthday, Tom started talking about doing something big to celebrate. He loves a big gesture for big occasions and doesn’t want moments to just go by. Originally, we talked about going to Paris, getting dressed up to go to the Paris Opera Ballet (on my wish list!), and celebrating at some of our favorite restaurants. However, when we decided to take a trip to Paris and Alsace with my mom for Thanksgiving, we started rethinking my birthday trip because we knew we would be in Paris for Christmas a few weeks later.
One night in November, right before we left for France, Tom came in with palpable excitement. He had found tickets for a long weekend in Florence over my birthday. The flight times were perfect, and it was a great redemption of our Air France miles. Given what an important role Florence has played in my adult life, I knew that it would be the perfect place to celebrate my birthday. I wasn’t disappointed.
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Flying Air France to Florence
Looking back, we probably should have just extended our Thanksgiving trip to overlap with my birthday trip. We returned from our Thanksgiving trip on Tuesday and turned around and left for my birthday trip on Friday. We flew DFW-CDG-FLR, arriving on Saturday and departing on Wednesday.
Our flight from DFW-CDG was a bit delayed, so we had a quick connection in Paris. Thankfully, we were sitting in premium economy, so were able to get off the plane quickly. We did have to run between terminals, but we made it! Air France was able to check our bags all the way through, which made everything much easier. I was so excited to find we had a row to ourselves, and Tom let me stretch out across the seats and sleep on his lap. We arrived in Florence by 12:00pm on Saturday morning, which was an absolute dream for such a quick weekend trip.
On Wednesday, we departed Florence at 6:25am. Despite the early hour, we were able to get our VAT refund on the coats I purchased. It was very easy compared to the experiences we’ve had at larger airports. We had a 2 hour connection at CDG and had time to visit the Air France lounge before our flight to the US. Even though we were traveling on miles, we were able to upgrade to business class on Air France, which was nice. The Air France flight between Paris and Dallas arrives in the early afternoon, so we were able to catch up on some work before the day ended on Wednesday.
This was our first time flying Air France long-haul, and I was impressed. We both felt that the soft product was very good. The premium economy seats aren’t the most comfortable, but I think we can all agree that it’s better than flying economy! I did really enjoy their business class hard product. The service was great.
Getting to Florence from the Airport
We rarely fly into Florence directly. We usually drive into Florence from Tuscany or Rome or take the train from Bologna or Venice. I was really excited to try the tram from the Florence airport to Santa Maria Novella. It worked perfectly, and we decided to walk to the St. Regis Florence from the train station. The tram took about 30 minutes, and the walk was less than 10 minutes. (I am enamored with the tram because it didn’t exist when I studied abroad in Florence!) A cab probably would have taken about 20 minutes, but the airport was pretty quiet when we arrived and I didn’t want to wait.
Where We Stayed for My Birthday in Florence
In what should not come as a surprise, we booked the St. Regis Florence for my birthday. Consistent with Tom’s requirements for memorable moments, he wanted to stay at a hotel that would make my birthday special. We’ve stayed at the St. Regis Florence 10 times since 2015. They know us by name, and we love returning to the hotel year after year. There was no question which hotel to book for my birthday in Florence.
We booked the St. Regis Florence and used my suite night awards to upgrade the room. We were upgraded to a deluxe suite with an Arno river view. I LOVE the river view rooms at the St. Regis. Every room we’ve stayed in is a bit different, and I love all of them for different reasons. This deluxe suite is now one of Tom’s favorite rooms at the St Regis. This room was perfect for my birthday, as we each had our own bathroom to get ready, which worked out perfectly for my birthday dinner.
The St. Regis staff provided a very kind birthday card upon arrival. On the day of my actual birthday, they delivered a bottle of prosecco and some sweet treats to our room while I was at the spa.
In the last year or so, we have really started to enjoy the Winter Garden bar at the St. Regis Florence. When you stay at the St Regis, you can enjoy the sabering tradition and have a glass of sparkling wine for apertivo each evening. While we love doing that, we also really love having a night cap at the bar at the end of the evening. It offers an extensive cocktail menu, live piano music, and the ambiance is downright magical.
Elite Benefits at the St. Regis Florence
I am a lifetime Platinum/Titanium member with Marriott, so we receive free breakfast when we stay at the St. Regis. If you don’t have status and want to book the St. Regis Florence with the same perks I enjoy, please reach out! As a luxury travel advisor, I can book you with all the Virtuoso perks, including upgrades, free breakfast, a spa credit, and more!
If the St. Regis isn’t in your budget, I love the Hotel Lungarno and the Gallery Hotel Art in Florence. I can book both of these hotels with perks for you, too.
My Birthday Dinner in Florence
One of Tom’s requirements for my birthday weekend was an occasion that would require us to dress up. Whether that had been going to see the Paris Opera Ballet in France or finding a fancy restaurant, he didn’t want my birthday to just go by.
Generally speaking, Florence restaurants are pretty approachable. You don’t have to dress up too much, even for some of the nicest restaurants in Florence. However, we wanted to dress up, and Tom really wanted to try somewhere special. Ultimately, we decided on Il Palagio at the Four Seasons Florence. It felt like a bit of a risk because the menu would push us beyond our favorite familiar restaurants in Florence. And, I lucked out because my birthday falls during white truffle season!
My birthday dinner started with cocktails at the Atrium Bar at the Four Seasons. Both the hotel bar and Il Palagio was aglow with Christmas lights, which provided the perfect romantic ambiance for me. Like the St. Regis bar, the Atrium Bar also offers live music. It is a great way to start the evening before heading over to Il Palagio, though I still prefer the St. Regis bar.
Dinner at Il Palagio
To date, Il Palagio has been our biggest splurge for a meal, and it did not disappoint. (We enjoyed it so much that we went back during our post-Christmas trip to Florence.) Guided by Andrea, we were doted on by so many staff members who went above and beyond to make my birthday special. The sommelier helped us choose the best wine for what we ordered, they explained each course, and they surprised me with a birthday dessert. It was an incredible dining experience, and a great introduction to fine dining. We loved it so much that we booked a table at Le George in Paris this past summer. (It didn’t disappoint either.)
It was especially fun to dress up for a fancy dinner in Florence. Il Palagio was the perfect place for it. Tom brought a suit, and I brought this Stella McCartney gown that I bought specifically for my birthday. The St. Regis pressed everything for us so that we felt and looked our best. The entire experience worked out so well that we felt comfortable bringing formal clothes for our anniversary photos in Tuscany in September.
4 Days in Florence
My birthday trip to Florence translated to 4 days in Florence. Tom really wanted to focus the trip on things we loved and things that would be special for a short trip to Florence. I think we struck a great balance, and it’s impossible to share how much it meant to me. We spend a lot of time in Florence, and there are parts of this trip that really added to our experience.
Day One in Florence (Saturday)
We arrived in Florence and collected our luggage around noon on Saturday. The tram was busy. We dropped our luggage off at the St. Regis and took a short walk. Our room was ready early, and I insisted on a short nap.
The shorter December days mean that the Christmas lights are turned on earlier. We headed out for a short walk before dinner. The walk from the St Regis to the Piazza della Repubblica via Tornabuoni felt straight up magical. After a festive walk, we headed back to the St. Regis for the sabering and an apertivo.
We crossed the Ponte Vecchio for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Florence, Osteria Cinghaile Bianco. We debated whether or not it was proper to ask for a reservation for New Year’s Eve and decided to wait — but not before asking for a reservation for Sunday night.
Our first night in Florence ended with a long walk through the Duomo, Santa Maria Novella and down the Ponte Vecchio.
Day Two in Florence (Sunday)
Our second day in Florence started out magical. The weather was made-to-order and we headed off on a nostalgic tour of Florence. I showed Tom (again), my apartment at via dei Servi 19/r, the place where I learned so much about myself. After a brief stop at the Santa Croce Christmas market, we impulsively decided that we needed to do a panini tour to find the best panini in Florence. We visited Panini Toscani, Sandwichic, Davina Enoteca, and Procacci before succumbing to the power of Prunotto Barolo and truffle sandwiches.
After a short nap, we headed to Sesto at the Westin for a sunset cocktail. This rooftop bar in Florence is the best place for a cocktail and a sunset. The Sesto spritz, which includes a violet liquor is my favorite spritz of the moment.
We wrapped up our Sunday in Florence with a second dinner at Cinghaile Bianco. Over the course of our dinner, buoyed by a bottle of good wine, Tom got the nerve to ask Marco about a reservation for New Year’s Eve. After observing us for the entire meal, he obliged, and we secured a late reservation for New Year’s Eve. (#Winning!)
Day Three in Florence (Monday)
Monday started with a long walk around Florence. We hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and visited San Miniato al Monte, one of the last churches I visited during the time I studied abroad in Florence. We made our way down to the Sant’Ambrogio market and Santa Croce church. (I love Santa Croce. I think it is the most beautiful church in Florence.) Our walk led us to the Duomo, and we ended our self-guided tour at of the Church of Santa Maria Novella.
I hadn’t been to Santa Maria Novella since 2010, and it took my breath away. I have learned so much about the evolution of Renaissance art in the last few years. It made Santa Maria Novella even more beautiful to me, and it gave me a greater appreciation for both the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia gallery. More than the museums, I believe Santa Maria Novella gives great perspective as to why Renaissance art is truly impressive.
Monday in Florence ended with a late dinner at Vini Vecchi e Sapori, one of my favorite restaurants in Florence. On our way to dinner, we happened to run into one of my former students, Sara, who is a chef and food writer in Florence. (Full circle moment in Florence, for sure.) She told us that we should try the duck pasta, and it did not disappoint. I’ve never had a bad dish at this restaurant, but the duck pasta is next level. If it’s on the menu, you should order it.
Day Four in Florence (Tuesday)
My birthday in Florence was a bit of a lazy day. We did some shopping in the morning. I considered buying some earrings from a jeweler on the Ponte Vecchio. My birthday stone is blue topaz, and I found a pair of aquamarine earrings that were INCREDIBLE. When that ended up being a no, I bought a new coat from Max&Co, which you can find on sale at Yoox now!
We headed back to the hotel so I could take a short break before my afternoon treatment at the Iridium Suites at the St. Regis Florence. I opted for a firming body treatment to feel my best for my birthday dinner. We headed to the Four Seasons Florence in a cab, as it was raining that evening.
After cocktails in the Atrium Bar at the Four Seasons Florence, we headed to Il Palagio for an incredible dinner. I enjoyed white truffle risotto while Tom had the white truffle tagliolini. We split a filet with vin santo and black truffle. It was served with the most incredible parmesan potatoes. The entire meal was flawless, from the amuse buche to the customized dessert. We opted for a Barolo for our wine, and it complemented our dinner perfectly.
We ended my birthday with a walk and a nightcap at the St. Regis. I could not have asked for a better birthday. Everything about my birthday weekend in Florence turned out perfectly.