|Photo by Chirs Yunker via Flickr|
Lee Marshall, The Daily Telegraph, January 19, 2015
The most romantic places to stay in Florence, including the best hotels and palazzos for Renaissance architecture, original frescos and the ultimate in indulgence.
The modern Italian designer interiors in greys, creams, whites and browns are elegant and inoffensive. Rugs cover wooden floors and large lamps abound. Clean white walls are adorned with black-and-white photos dating from the 1930s to 1960s of international stars in Florence. Technology is used extensively but unobtrusively in the rooms, the lifts (take a selfie on the in-lift iPad, or choose the music) and in the foyer.
Rooms are huge. Every room has a kitchenette (inside a cabinet) complete with mini-dishwasher. Larger suites have two bathrooms, dressing rooms, dining table etc. A ‘Goodnight’ button by the bed switches off the room's lights, and a Bluetooth system allows you to put the television sound, or the music from your phone, into the sitting room, bedroom and/or bathroom. Each room has an iPad with the pillow menu and treatment menu for the spa at the Portrait’s sister Hotel about 20m away, as well as access to the free (and reliable) Wi-Fi.
Read the full review: Portrait Firenze, Florence
Read more: the best hotels in Florence
St Regis's feel is sheer opulence, and the ambience is enhanced by service which manages to be both discreet and affable. In pedestrianised river-side piazza Ognissanti, Starwood’s St Regis is in the heart of prime Florentine luxe-boutique territory, and no distance from the major sights. Reopened as the St Regis in late 2011, the grande-dame impact of its former incarnation as the Grand Hotel is tempered by a more stylishly contemporary-meets-classic-Florentine look.
All of the Regis’ 100 bedrooms are as luxurious as you’d expect for this level of hotel. Choose a river view room if you value your Arno panorama: the sweep up-river toward the Ponte Vecchio is superb. For real fashion victims there’s the austere Bottega Veneta suite; other rooms are more Florentine-classic with city-themed murals in some. In an elegant glassed-in courtyard, the hotel’s upscale Winter Garden by Caino restaurant is overseen by Valeria Piccini, the larger-than-life chef of highly-rated Tuscan foodie pilgrimage restaurant Da Caino.
Read the full review: St Regis, Florence
As soon as you walk into the lobby – a Renaissance loggia, decorated with original bas reliefs and stuccoes – you realise that this is no ordinary luxe kip. The hotel spreads out between the main building – 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca – and a 16th-century former convent on the other side of the 11-acre park, which is the largest private garden in Florence. With its oil paintings, antiques and slightly Old Parisian décor, it’s all elegantly sumptuous, and in the best possible haute-bourgeois taste.
Individually decorated with no sparing the silk, velvet, marble or antique furniture, the 116 rooms and suites are relaxing old-style refuges from the bustle outside. Unless you’re with a big group, you may feel a little isolated in the Conventino annex; the rooms in the main Palazzo would definitely be our first choice. Amenities are by Florentine master parfumier Lorenzo Villoresi. The opulent main restaurant, Il Palagio, is fully up to the hotel’s exacting standards.
Read the full review: Four Seasons, Florence
The first of what has become a small Italian chain, with branches in Rome and Capri, J.K. Place is a distillation of Florentine elegance, its classic-contemporary décor the result of a meeting of minds between Italo-Israeli hotelier Ori Kafri and local interior designer Michele Bonan. It all feels a little like you’ve stepped into the house of a classy collector, a rich Florentine uncle who likes to set classical French and Italian antiques off against Moroccan lamps and Chinese lacquered sideboards.
Impeccably tasteful without being remotely cold, the 20 guestrooms and suites derive much of their charm not only from Bonan’s sapient design scheme – with its mid-20th-century retro touches – but from the no-expenses-spared quality of the materials used (oak parquet, linen sheets, travertine marble bathroom fittings, antique fireplaces, original framed fashion-house sketches). The Penthouse and Panoramic Loft are the rooms with the view, but for sheer style I’m a big fan of the Master Rooms.
Read the full review: J.K. Place, Florence
The hotel consists of three adjoining riverside villas, of which only the central one is historic – it’s an arts-and-crafts country retreat frequented by Florence’s Macchaioli school of painters in the 19th century. Décor in this main section is in a traditional, warm, occasionally flowery antique idiom, which turns nautical in the Arno-view bar. A small but verdant garden around a good-sized pool and a basement spa that has a touch of Ancient Roman decadence about it complete a multi-tasking package.
There’s quite a lot of variation over the 45 rooms. Those in the central Villa are the most traditional in style – I especially like the four loft rooms, two of which have hot tubs on their river-facing balconies. In the ‘Loggiato’ annexe, the villa’s artistic history is referenced in a vivacious colour palette with playful painterly details – wooden stools, flurries of still-life jars, mock colour tests on the walls. The Villino, the other annexe, is in a more contemporary-minimalist style – all the better to focus on the river view, which can be enjoyed from the eight rooms (out of the Villino’s 12) that come with outside terraces.
Read the full review: Ville sull'Arno, Florence
Palazzo di Camugliano
This is the family residence of a Florentine Marquis, Lorenzo Niccolini di Camugliano, and although a few things have changed since the Palazzo’s 16th-century foundation (en-suite bathrooms being one notable improvement), lashings of ceiling fresco, decorative stuccowork and antique furniture remain. A hanging garden – where breakfast is served in good weather – adds to the sense of being in a privileged refuge from the city bustle.
The 10 rooms vary in size and aspect, but all have four-poster beds and historic details – like frescoed or wood-beam ceilings. If I were coming here between spring and autumn, I’d probably book the Limonaia suite, which gives directly onto the garden, but there are no rooms I wouldn’t recommend. Even the entry-level deluxe doubles are spacious and elegant. Served either in the garden or in an opulent dining room, breakfast is waiter-service rather than buffet-style, but that’s no sacrifice as the range of fresh and baked goodies on offer is exceptional.
Read the full review: Palazzo di Camugliano, Florence
A very stylish shabby-chic guesthouse in the heart of the Oltrarno. Owners Matteo and Betty have a passion for vintage design which is reflected in the eclectic décor of this charming and contemporary guest house. Reception is on the first floor (there’s an old-fashioned lift, or the stairs); some of the bedrooms are here, others on the second floor. Both ‘apartments’ have book-lined lounges, and the kitchen of the first-floor space is available for guests’ use; there’s also an honesty bar.
The bedrooms are so different, and all so delightful, that I recommend asking Leonardo if you can see a few of the unoccupied ones, just for curiosity’s sake. I love no. 14, the ‘Camera del tipografo’ or ‘Printer’s room’, with its shelves of ancient wooden type rescued from a former printshop in Viareggio, or the ‘Camera di Betty’ (no. 11) – perhaps the most romantic, with its baby-blue colour scheme and in-room clawfoot bath. Like many rooms, the latter has original ceiling frescoes.
Read the full review: SoprArno Suites, Florence
Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo
Imagine that an Italian count invited you to stay at his Florence palazzo: that’s Niccolini in a nutshell (the only hitch being that you have to pay – oh, and that the owner is a marchese, not a conte). Dating mostly from the 18th-century – and built on the site of Donatello’s sculpture workshop – the palazzo is covered in top to toe frescoes, but the museum feel is offset by the fact that this is clearly a much-loved home.
Not all bedrooms are frescoed (book the Junior Suite if this is a must), but they all share the same venerable antique style – which some may feel verges on the dowdy. All rooms have air-conditioning, minibars, satellite TVs and Wi-Fi connections. Owner Ginevra Niccolini is often on hand to personally welcome guests, but even when she’s not around the service is excellent: they go out of their way to solve problems, and restaurant recommendations are genuine rather than of the owner’s cousin variety.
Read the full review: Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo, Florence
Strategically placed between the Duomo and Santa Croce, the hotel is at the centre of a buzzy little Florentine neighbourhood with some bars, restaurants and shops that are well worth exploring. On the smart side of bohemian, this 11-room charmer occupies the imposing first-floor ‘piano nobile’ of a 16th-century townhouse. Reception is there if you need it, but the place feels more like a home than a hotel.
The Cerere suite – one of four suites, and often reserved for honeymooners – has spectacular frescoes of Arcadian scenes, but several other rooms have original decorative details on walls or ceiling. Most of the rooms also have cute little balconies overlooking the quiet central courtyard. The design scheme is a tasteful blend of ethnic, contemporary and antique – though bathrooms are modern-minimalist. Breakfast is served in a delightful little scullery area dating back to 1550, with an original marble basin and fireplace.
Read the full review: Palazzo Galletti, Florence
Dimora degli Angeli
It’s just down the street from the Duomo and most of the rooms, which are all on the fourth floor, have great views of the dome. It’s best for two: the doubles really are doubles, and romantic to boot. It’s the essence of a boutique B&B: stylishly but also lovingly designed with a great eye for detail.
Done out with a feminine grace that strays into glam in certain details (like a silver-gilded bathroom mirror frame, or the piano keyboard wallpaper in the Giuditta room), the Dimora’s rooms are pretty and playful. Unlike many of the city’s rather heavy and dark antique-clogged hotel rooms, they are cheerful even on grey winter days. Bathrooms are mostly large, and all have rain-head showers.
Read the full review: Dimora degli Angeli, Florence
Read more: the best hotels in Florence
This article was written by Lee Marshall from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.