July 24, 2023

An expert expat’s tips for Florence, Italy

By Belinda Jackson
July 24, 2023 — 9.28am
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The expat

Born in the UK and raised in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Summer Hill in Sydney, opera singer Jessica Pratt moved to Rome 20 years ago to study at the Rome Opera, before relocating to Lake Como. She has spent the last seven years in Florence. Pratt returns to Australia to sing the soprano roles in The Tales of Hoffmann (11-22 July) and will also perform in Mad Scenes (August 3), a one-woman concert that is part of the Sydney Opera House’s 50th Birthday Festival. See en.jessicapratt.com; opera.org.au

Opera singer Jessica Pratt in her adopted home of Florence.Credit: Alessandro Moggi


As a singer based in Florence, I have to recommend a visit to Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. It’s a world-class opera house and is home to one of the best orchestras in Italy. This state-of-the-art theatre was designed by renowned architect Marco Mulazzani and built in 2012. It comprises two indoor venues and a lovely open-air rooftop theatre. In May, the orchestra hosts a summer festival that attracts conductors and soloists from various corners of the globe. The combination of the spring weather and fabulous music makes this the perfect time to visit my adopted home. See maggiofiorentino.com


Go for a stroll beginning at the lovely, historic square of Piazza della Signoria, then make your way across the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge spanning the Arno River, adorned with centuries old jewellery shops. For romantics, the little square in the middle of the bridge is popular with lovers who have just bought their rings. I’ve seen a few couples getting engaged on the bridge over the years. Next, head to the Boboli Gardens or the enchanting Giardino Bardini, which are equally beautiful. Finally, climb to Piazzale Michelangelo, for a breathtaking panoramic view of Florence and enjoy a well-deserved aperitivo.

Florence and its cityscape with the Duomo Santa Maria Del Fiore at sunset.
Credit: iStock


La Sosta del Rossellino, located in Settignano (one of the seven hilltop towns surrounding Florence) has a unique character and cozy atmosphere, especially in the winter if you get a table by the roaring open fire. They offer a great wine selection, and the friendly owner is always happy to engage in banter over the menu, or just life in general. They also have a selection of local cookbooks for purchase for those inspired to take to the kitchen and attempt to recreate a similar feast at home (with varying levels of success, in my case). For lovers of cheese, I recommend the handmade gnocchi di patate al Castelmagno or the budino di Parmigiano al tartufo. See rossellino.com



Tosca & Nino at La Rinascente rooftop bar is centrally located at Piazza della Repubblica and near the Duomo. It’s got one of the best views of Florence at sunset. Be prepared to wait in line for a table on a sunny afternoon but, I assure you, it’s worth the wait. My go-to is their signature Toscanino cocktail, with pink grapefruit and apricot, perfect for a summer evening. See toscanino.com


Remember the “no cappuccino after 12pm” rule, especially following lunch or dinner. This cultural norm is firmly followed throughout the country, and if you dare to request a cappuccino after your meal, be prepared for an indignant refusal from the staff.


Florentines have upheld a centuries-old tradition of baking bread without salt, and while some attribute it to a medieval tax on salt, others have different explanations. Personally, I find bread without salt a tad bland, so when I buy bread, I make sure it contains salt in the ingredients.

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From Melbourne to the Middle East, Belinda Jackson is drawn to curious alleyways, street-eat carts and places of wild emptiness. She searches the globe for the weekly Expert Expats column.Connect via email.


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