Relais Santa Croce
The Relais Santa Croce is a small boutique hotel housed in the Ciofi Jacometti Palace.
The common rooms remain relatively undisturbed from the time the house was occupied by noblemen in the 18th century (it is said it was the Pope’s residence in Florence) but the modern furniture that now fills the grand spaces gives a perfect sense of then and now.
The twenty-four rooms have been fully renovated with all of the high tech features you would expect from a top-end modern hotel, but have retained a sense of place and context through the design.
The top floor rooms have beautiful views of the Santa Croce church and the rooftops of Florence.
Even if you’re not staying on the top floor, make sure you go up to see the glass enclosed view of the buttresses holding up the frescos of the main drawing room, which is believed to have been based on a design by one of Florence’s most famous residents, Leonardo da Vinci.
When you wake up at the Relais Santa Croce, there is no mistaking where you are as history abounds without compromising on any of the comforts of the modern world.
The staff members are incredibly helpful and display genuine pride for their place of work, which is a sure sign that there is something special here.
Gallery Hotel Art
For those looking for a more modern boutique hotel, head straight for the Gallery Hotel Art. The Hotel is part of a complex of several hotels owned by the Ferragamo family, which are located right by Florence’s most famous medieval bridge, the Ponte Vecchio.
The Gallery Hotel Art, as the name implies, focuses on art and installations. The hotel itself is a blank canvas – the exterior is an unmemorable mid-century block and the interior spaces are white.
This all serves as the blank palette for the sculptures attached to the front of the hotel and the rotating art and photography exhibitions in the interior spaces.
The rooms are pleasant and decorated in neutral tones, but are on the small size. The hotel exudes an air of modernity and sophistication that make you want to throw on your finest Italian couture and sip an Aperol spritz in the lobby to watch the glamorous guests come and go.
For the ultra stylish traveller, check out the latest hotel in the Ferragamo portfolio, the Portrait Firenze – a super chic hotel around the corner from the Gallery Hotel Art.
To Eat and Drink in Florence
Florence is a city where you should struggle to not eat well, and on this trip we found some true gems.
Start off your evening at the rooftop bar of the Hotel Continentale on the banks of the Arno River for superb cocktails, tasty aperitivos and stunning views of the Ponte Vecchio and the rooftops of Florence.
For an authentic local experience, head to Trattoria Pandemonio. This restaurant is located outside of the historic centre of Florence and will require a ten minute taxi journey, but what awaits at the end is well worth the trip.
The restaurant is run by an elderly but energetic couple who introduce themselves as “Mama and Papa” at the start of the evening.
You will be treated like a guest in their home and they pull out all of the stops to ensure you feel welcome while producing some of the freshest and tastiest pasta and meat dishes I have encountered in Italy.
This is a roll up your sleeves and dig in kind of place where dinner is finished off with a bottle of limoncello being plonked on your table to drink at your leisure (and risk!) and makes for an outstanding authentic experience.
For a more formal and polished haute cuisine experience, head to the Four Seasons Hotel Florence, which features one of the city’s Michelin starred restaurants, Il Palagio.
The hotel is housed in a series of historic buildings surrounding a private medieval garden (one of the largest private gardens in the city) – the surroundings are truly magical on a summer’s evening.
The formal dining room is housed in a space that would impress Florentine princes – vaulted ceilings, Murano chandeliers, crisp table clothes and opulent floral arrangements.
Executive chef Vito Mollica’s Tuscan cuisine is refined with a contemporary flare where the textures and colours are as important as the flavours.
Trattoria 4 Leoni
For a superb lunch, book a table on the terrace of 4 Leoni and enjoy classic Tuscan dishes while watching the world go by.
To See in Florence
The Ufizzi Gallery houses what is arguably the world’s most exquisite collection of Renaissance art. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is one of the best known pieces, but this is only the tip of the iceberg in a museum bursting with masterpieces. The collection proves a popular stop with many visitors, so to avoid the queues, call ahead to reserve an entry time at the museum.
Palazzo Vecchio Museum:
The former home of the Medicis has been opened to the public to allow a glimpse into the world in which they lived. The opulence of the princely apartments is a treat for the eyes. For the Dan Brown fanatics, the death mask of Dante is displayed in a far corner of the museum.
Piazzale Michelangelo: For the best views of Florence, throw on some comfortable walking shoes and devote a few hours to walk up a hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo. The views of Florence are breathtaking and display the city in its full glory.
A trip to Florence wouldn’t be the same without gelato…I could recommend many a gelateria, but this is something you should discover on your own!
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