The ultimate hotel guide to Florence, Italy
Hotels are largely a family affair in the Tuscan capital, where a string of stylish, locally run openings are bringing new life to a city forever entwined with Renaissance glory. Hotels are largely a family affair in the Tuscan capital, where a string of stylish, locally run openings are bringing new life to a city forever entwined with Renaissance glory.
Florence never changes — at least, so it seems to anyone who’s admired that timeless skyline, largely unchanged since its Renaissance heyday. But step further into the city and you’ll see things are modernising quickly. The Uffizi Gallery now has its first permanent work by a Black artist; hipster food markets are springing up; and a crop of trendy hotels has appeared within the past few years. As for where to stay, you’ll be right in the swing of things if you stick to the centre, but it’s not the only place simmering with post-lockdown vitality. Across the Arno river is the Oltrarno district, where you’ll find plenty of buzzing local life. The same goes for the area around the San Frediano neighbourhood, where a clutch of locally run hotels are just steps away from traditional Tuscan trattorias. Head out of town to bed down in one of the chic countryside villas, however, and you’ll really feel like Renaissance nobility.
Best for hipsters
Enter the Oltrarno Splendid and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled onto a Wes Anderson film set, with its peeling paintwork and retro, pastel-hued furniture. But head into the bedrooms and you’ll realise you’re somewhere else entirely. Local designer and co-owner Betty Soldi (who’s also behind nearby AdAstra and SoprArno Suites) has taken a 19th-century palazzo, left the paintwork, cracked flooring and frescoes as they were and added swish bathrooms, battered maps and old movie posters. The effect is a glorious mishmash of eras and styles. Nab the king deluxe room, a former artist’s studio, and revel in glimpses of the Palazzo Pitti, the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. You’ll also be right by Piazza Santo Spirito, one of the centres of Florence’s nightlife.
Rooms: From €119 (£101), B&B.
FuordArno Bed & Breakfast
Best for bargain-hunters
Almost everything you see here — from the bedframes and cupboards to the tables and lights — is an upcycled heirloom belonging to the owners, twin sisters Carolina and Giulia Troni. This third-floor apartment overlooking the Arno was their childhood home, so you’ll find nonna’s heavy wardrobe transformed into a chic wallpaper-clad seat and their parents’ room morphed into a Bali-themed retreat. Everything was restyled by local artisans, including headboards shaped to look like Florence’s famous churches and a chandelier made from old gas pipes. Only two rooms have en suite bathrooms; the others are private, but located elsewhere on the property.
Rooms: From €80 (£68), B&B.
Back in the day, the Medici family used to head for their country estates to avoid the summer heat. Palazzo della Gherardesca, now home to the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, was one such estate.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Best for old romantics
Back in the day, the Medici family used to head for their country estates to avoid the summer heat. Palazzo della Gherardesca, now home to the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, was one such property — and although the city’s expansion means this is no longer a rural escape, it remains as bucolic as ever, with 11 acres of garden, an outdoor pool and alcoves for al fresco dining. There’s also a Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Palagio. The palazzo is a living museum, with original 15th-century frescoes and bas-reliefs on display, and the 116 individually decorated rooms feature marble furnishings, huge beds and Bulgari toiletries.
Rooms: From €786 (£671).
Best for rooms with a view
From the rooftop of the Continentale, Florence unfurls around you: take in the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile and the hulking Palazzo Pitti, all enfolded by cypress-studded hills. It’s perhaps the most spectacular spot for a drink in the city, not least because you’re teetering over the Ponte Vecchio — the hotel sits right on the bridge’s edge, over the Arno. Downstairs are gorgeous rooms with a subtle 1950s feel, featuring gauzy drapes hanging across oversized windows and chairs made to look like vintage trunks. Ask for a river-facing room for views of the Ponte Vecchio.
Rooms: From €250 (£213).
Best for exclusive access
The lush grounds of Palazzo Torrigiani are among the largest privately owned city-centre gardens in Europe. And while they’re closed to the public, guests of AdAstra Florence can enjoy free private tours — a perk of staying in the owner’s home. Occupying the top two floors of this 16th-century palazzo, rented from the Torrigiani family who live below, the hotel’s rooms combine edgy pop art with original floors, stuccoed ceilings and freestanding tubs. The first-floor wraparound terrace overlooking the garden is the star draw.
Rooms: From €129 (£110), B&B.
Best for understated luxury
Taking pride of place on Piazza Santa Maria Novella, this was one of the city’s most recherché hotels under its former guise as JK Place. The peerless views, especially from the piazza-side terrace, are unchanged after its 2021 transformation — in fact, the facade of the neighbouring church has even become a leitmotif for the hotel’s decor, appearing on its linen and towels. Such touches, along with the mishmash of toiletries in the marble-clad bathrooms, embody The Place: very chic, but slightly offbeat. There’s a home-from-home feel in its cosy nooks and vintage doorbell.
Rooms: From €459 (£391), B&B.
Best for city slickers
Standing on the stately Piazza della Repubblica, mere moments from attractions like Palazzo Strozzi, Orsanmichele and the Uffizi Gallery, Hotel Savoy is right in the heart of the action. Hotelier and interior designer Olga Polizzi worked with Laudomia Pucci (daughter of celebrated designer Emilio Pucci) on the aesthetics, adding bright flashes of colour and patterns. The rooms are modern and luxurious, with bleached parquet, bold prints and marble bathrooms, and offer impressive views, including of the piazza and the Duomo.
Rooms: From €520 (£443).
Best for aesthetes
This riverside development, originally used as a factory then as artisan workshops, was converted into an urban retreat by Florentine architect Claudio Nardi. You’ll find it on the Oltrarno side of the water, a 30-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio. The interiors are spectacular, with floating staircases, exposed-brick walls and upcycled furniture (case in point: wardrobes made from old trunks). The poolside Jardin La Ménagère restaurant, headed up by renowned chef Erez Ohayon, offers two tasting menus.
Rooms: From €90 (£77), B&B.
Villa La Massa
Best for country class
Florence has a smattering of top-of-the-range villa hotels dotted outside the centre. While most are found in the hills above the city, this property sits pretty on a bend in Arno. Though service can be patchy, the onsite restaurant’s riverside setting is spectacular, and the rooms are spread between the Renaissance-era villa and the modern accommodation blocks scattered across the gardens. A complimentary shuttle service into town takes just 20 minutes and drops you off right by the Ponte Vecchio.
Rooms: From €520 (£443), B&B.
Best for the local touch
Veronica Grechi is the consummate hostess, here in what was once her grandparents’ apartment, now transformed into a slick, four-suite retreat by the Arno. This is no run-of-the-mill B&B: breakfast is a vegetarian affair, a vintage radio plays in the living room at night and the decor — all leaf prints, retro furniture and flashes of animal print — seamlessly blends past and present. The inspiration for the delicious, palm-fronded jungle theme is the 1930s, when elements like the brass, leaf-shaped lamps were made (Veronica’s grandfather was an antiques dealer). This is a real family affair: Veronica and her mother designed the place and her aunt painted the animal artwork. And, as an honorary family member, you’ll receive Veronica’s top tips on what to see and do in Florence, transforming your experience of this well-trodden city.
Rooms: From €138 (£117), B&B.
Published in the October 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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