Florence is one of the most beloved and visited cities in Italy; it welcomes close to 16 million visitors each year. The stunning architecture, world-famous artwork, ancient palazzos, beautiful gardens, fantastic food, and Italian fashion and leather goods make Florence irresistible. The Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno, the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries, and the leather shops and markets are just some of the city’s highlights.
If you want to stay at a place as magical as the city itself, consider one of the following six unique hotels. Some are off the beaten track and others are well known, but all are outstanding options.
1. Ad Astra
Betty Soldi is not only a talented graphic designer and calligrapher, but she is also a hotel owner and interior designer.
Ad Astra is one of two hotels Betty designed and partly owns. Located in a less touristy, more residential area — the Oltrarno neighborhood near the Boboli Gardens — Ad Astra is almost hidden from the street, and you must ring to gain entry. One you are inside the massive doors of the former palazzo, you’ll take the stairs to the second floor, where you’ll pass a collection of Renaissance paintings. The building was once the private palace of a noble Florentine family. Ad Astra’s 14 individually designed rooms take up two floors.
The rooms are an eclectic mix of flea-market finds and mid-century-modern decor, and all of them have standalone bathtubs. Amenities include coffee machines and teapots, separate showers, free Wi-Fi, DVD players, and bath products from Bigelow New York.
The breakfast room offers self-service coffee and tea along with pastries all day; it also has a library with design magazines and vintage design books. The highlight of the hotel is the 900-foot wraparound terrace facing one of the largest private gardens in Florence.
Pro Tip: Just a few doors down is Betty’s design shop, where you can purchase calligraphy, cards, stationery, tableware, and home accessories.
2. SoprArno Suites
SoprArno Suites is the second hotel Betty is involved with. It is situated on the first three floors of a 16th-century palazzo located just minutes from the Pitti Palace and the Ponte Vecchio.
The 23 rooms are individually designed, and all of them have hand-painted ceiling frescoes, bespoke pieces of art hanging on the walls, and a mélange of antique, salvaged, and restored furniture. The room amenities are the same as those at Ad Astra, but they also include king-size beds, air-conditioning, bathrobes, and slippers.
A complimentary breakfast is served between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the Scottarno Deli, which later becomes a stylish cafe serving excellent cappuccino, baked goods, sandwiches, and salads. On the walls are more than 150 restaurant menus from New York, Paris, and London.
3. Hotel Brunelleschi
Don’t attempt to find the Hotel Brunelleschi on your own — either ask someone for directions or take a taxi. Hidden in a tiny, quiet piazza near all the main tourist attractions, the hotel is named for Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the most famous architects and engineers of Florence, who lived in the 15th century. The tower dates to the 700s, making it one of the oldest remaining structures in Florence, and the other part of the building was a women’s prison in the 1200s.
Today the Hotel Brunelleschi is an elegant four-star hotel boasting an old-world feel with modern luxuries. There are 96 rooms and suites, plus a gym, a private museum (showcasing the remains of the women’s prison), and two restaurants. Contrasting with the building’s architecture is the contemporary decor, and the duplex suite offers killer views of the Duomo.
For a special treat, make a reservation at the Michelin two-star Ristorante Santa Elisabetta, which only has seven tables and is reserved for the hotel’s clients. The romantic candlelit dining room is located in the hotel tower. The menu consists of Florentine cuisine at its best, with dishes such as risotto with smoked potatoes and burrata cheese, roasted lamb with goat cheese, and tiramisu with licorice ice cream.
4. Four Seasons Florence
Four Seasons hotels always entail unbridled luxury, but the Four Seasons Florence brings it to a spectacular new level. I have visited many five-star hotels as a travel writer in the past 12 years, but the Four Seasons Florence is truly the most beautiful and luxurious.
Located in an upscale residential neighborhood about 15 minutes from the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo, the hotel has a historic and royal lineage. The property was owned by Bartolomeo Scala in 1473, followed by Alessandro Medici in the 1500s. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Palazzo Scala-Della Gherardesca was the home of the Gherardesca family.
The rooms and suites are sumptuously decorated with velvet, brocade, and gold leaf; black lacquer desks; four-poster beds; gilded mirrors; and Chinoiserie silk wall panels. Some of the suites have high ceilings with frescoes dating to the 1600s. The spacious and luxurious bathrooms feature white Italian marble.
One of the most spectacular parts of the hotel is the magnificent 11-acre garden only open to guests. The garden was installed in 1870 in the English style, which was all the rage in the late 19th century. Contemporary sculptures dot the garden, and there’s even a children’s playground.
The Florence Spa is located in a standalone building in the garden; it features 10 massage rooms, a swimming pool, a steam bath, a sauna, and a gym. Indulge in the decadent Chianti wine massage.
5. Residence Hilda
Residence Hilda feels more like a luxurious pensione than a formal hotel. The spacious rooms and apartments range from a 538-square-foot junior suite to a 750-square-foot grand suite. Amenities include a complimentary breakfast, separate living rooms, rain showers, king-size beds, and air-conditioning. Some of the deluxe rooms have full kitchens, and the grand suite includes Frette bathrobes, a stationary bike, a yoga mat, weights, and a Nespresso machine.
The prices at Residence Hilda are surprisingly reasonable, with rooms beginning at 130 euros per night in the low season. The hotel is centrally located just 3 minutes from the Duomo and 1 minute from the Accademia Gallery with the David.
6. I Parigi Corbinelli
If you want to have a truly unique and off-the-beaten-track hotel experience, stay at I Parigi Corbinelli. Just a 10-minute drive from the main tourist area of Florence, the hilltop bed and breakfast is a complex consisting of a main house and gardens. It dates to the 15th century and has been owned by the same family since 1918.
The house has 12 well-appointed rooms with air-conditioning, mini-bars, in-room safes, and bathtubs with separate showers. A complimentary breakfast is served in the main dining room or outside in the lovely garden. An outstanding feature of the hotel is the outdoor swimming pool set amidst a field of olive trees and offering scenic views of the nearby Florence Charterhouse, a monastery built in 1341.
Pro Tip: Florence is best visited during the off-season — between January and April, in November, or during the first two weeks of December.
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