October 3, 2022
Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting boutique hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. For over twenty years we’ve scoured the earth, evaluating hotels for every taste and budget, creating a hand-picked selection that’s proven and unforgettable. Now, we’re the official hotel selection of the legendary MICHELIN Guide.
Here are the top 10 boutique hotels in Florence, Italy.
If we had a nickel for every pocket-sized jungle-themed luxury boutique hotel we’ve seen over the years, we’d have a grand total of five cents. Velona’s Jungle Luxury Suites is the only one of its kind, and much of that has to do with Velona himself. That’s Pasquale Velona, antique dealer and dear departed grandfather of the proprietor, Veronica Grechi — this hotel, just to the west of Florence’s busy city center, clearly contains generations’ worth of details.
The dedication to the jungle theme is thorough; it’s the rare surface that isn’t festooned with animal-print upholstery, peacock-feather prints, big-cat portraiture, or jungle-foliage wallpaper. But of course the appeal of Velona’s Jungle is greater than the sum of its wildlife kitsch; the suites aren’t just visually stimulating, they’re exceedingly luxurious as well, as comfortable as any of Italy’s finest luxury suites, just a lot more comfortable while they’re at it. Take the minibar, for example, stuffed to the (sorry) gills with free, citrusy soft drinks — plus prosecco and craft beer for purchase when the mood strikes.
Florence isn’t exactly short on impressive hotels, but the Grand Hotel Minerva stands out in a few categories. First there’s the location, on the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, right between the rail station and the historic city center. Second, there’s the rooftop pool, a rarity in this town, and a welcome one at that. And third, there’s, well, the whole thing — the hotel originally dates back to the 19th century, but it was famously redesigned in the Fifties by architect Carlo Scarpa, and a more recent renovation at the hands of Piera Tempesti Benelli leaves the Minerva’s particular blend of classical grandeur and mid-century glamour looking as fresh as can be.
The 97 rooms and suites are elegant, some vibrantly colorful, others pleasingly monochrome, predominantly contemporary in style but with little flourishes that alternate between bold modernism and Renaissance opulence. The artworks, however, are strictly contemporary — if you want to see the classics, you know where to look. Meanwhile a ground-floor restaurant serves contemporary Florentine fare, and in the summer months expands onto a terrace on the Piazza Novella. And the roof terrace is not to be overlooked — it’s open year-round for a glance at the city’s rooftops, and from May through September the pool is open as well, plus a bar, for a bite and a drink with a panoramic view.
The proprietors of Florence’s SoprArno Suites, not content to own and operate just one practically perfect boutique hotel, have got a second: Ad Astra, a stylish bed and breakfast in the Oltrarno district, south of the river, overlooking the splendid Torrigiani Garden. In this less dense corner of Florence there’s space not just for massive gardens but for a “hôtel particulier” as well — a freestanding residence originally meant for aristocratic weekenders, comprising just nine rooms, each one unique and all of them decorated with the same playful, eclectic eye that’s responsible for SoprArno.
This means modernist Italian design classics from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, as well as classic Florentine craftsmanship and a taste for eye-catching contemporary art. Though it’s no five-star, Ad Astra comes with its share of comforts: in-room coffee machines and freestanding roll-top bathtubs make this more than a pied à terre. Breakfast and aperitifs, either in the salon or on the terrace, are more or less the extent of the offerings, but your hosts are happy to help you make the most of your time in Florence — there’s plenty to do this side of the river, and you’re only ten minutes’ walk from Ponte Vecchio, if it’s time to dive in to the crush of tourists. And then back to the quiet Oltrarno for some pleasant dreaming — “to the stars” indeed.
Hardly a hotel at all, Casa Botticelli in San Felice is a nine-room boutique in the heart of Florence. And while it’s practically negligible compared to the scale of the local tourist industry, it looms large — or should — in the mind of anyone who wants a hotel stay to show them a unique perspective on a familiar destination. Casa Botticelli accomplishes this not just on the merits of what’s inside its walls — it does that too, and we’ll return to the topic — but on the merits of its location, in what the hoteliers consider to be Florence’s coolest neighborhood.
The neighborhood in question is Santo Spirito, named for the nearest church, and it’s a corner of the Oltrarno district, more or less straight across the Santa Trìnita bridge from the tightly packed streets of Florence’s old city center. This means that even if Santo Spirito weren’t full of charming shops and interesting nightlife, it’d still be a fantastic location based on its easy access to — and escape from — the city’s main attractions (and most heavily traveled neighborhoods).
Though it rather modestly styles itself a bed and breakfast, Corte Calzaiuoli, situated in a palazzo built by Florence’s De’ Macci family, offers uncommon luxury in its eight lavishly restored rooms and suites. It’s surrounded by the incomparable Renaissance architecture of the city center, in the central restricted-traffic zone between the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria, which means an extra measure of quiet. Even the substantial foot traffic, brought to Via Calzaiuoli for the endless blocks of brand-name shopping, is no issue; the Corte’s rooms are soundproofed.
The interiors show a contemporary touch, but the style is classic all the same, and the tactile elements are chosen for luxury: all feature walk-in rain showers, some add rolltop baths, and in all, Frette linens adorn Simmons mattresses. They’ve got espresso machines as well, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting the substantial breakfast buffet. A proper restaurant is beyond the ambitions of a place like Corte Calzaiuoli, but central Florence, naturally, is supplied with an abundance — the old city’s most salient attractions, too, are an easy walk from the hotel, whose staff is happy to help with reservations, tours, and anything else you can think of.
Visiting Florence is obligatory, but staying in the busy city center can be a bit much. Thankfully the universe has seen fit to supply the city with a solution: Oltrarno, the quieter but no less cultured neighborhood on the other side of the Arno river. With that context in mind, the name Oltrarno Splendid is simply a matter-of-fact description of the circumstances: here we have a stylish and eclectic 14-room bed and breakfast, conceived by no less illustrious a team than Francesco Maestrelli, Matteo & Marco Perduca, and Betty Soldi, the minds behind Florentine Tablet favorites SoprArno Suites and AdAstra.
If you know their previous work you know to expect a dizzying blend of Renaissance architecture, contemporary luxury design, 20th-century pop nostalgia, and much else — in fact “minimalist” might be the only thing Oltrarno Splendid isn’t. In many rooms you’ll find beautiful freestanding baths, and in all of them you’ll find espresso machines, and personality to spare. No two are alike, which makes repeat visits a treat. Beyond a thoughtful breakfast buffet, services are fairly minimal, but this close to central Florence you’re a few minutes’ walk from just about anything you could possibly need.
The eclectic, bohemian, vintage-inspired style that’s currently all the rage in the United States is also, you’ll find, all the rage in Europe — and in Italy, where the word “vintage” covers several hundred more years of history, the resulting style is rich indeed. For an illustration, you could hardly do better than Soprarno Suites, a small, quiet, intimate little ten-suite hotel right in the heart of Florence, a few minutes’ walk from the (not at all quiet) Ponte Vecchio.
The building dates back to the sixteenth century, and inside you’ll find ornate period architectural details exist comfortably alongside contemporary Italian designer furniture, era-spanning vintage finds, and all manner of artworks and objets. The suites are more than spacious enough, and also more than comfortable enough — add to them the convenience of a library, a record collection, and a shared kitchen space, and what you’ve got is a very stylish, very civilized residential-style hotel. There’s no restaurant, it’s true, but if you can’t find something worth eating in the middle of Florence then we don’t want to know you, frankly. (Anyway, your hosts are happy to help, if you’re in need of a recommendation; they’re nicer than we are, if we’re being honest.)
In Italy even the most modern hotel has hundreds or thousands of years of architectural history to deal with; one hypermodern hotel in Rome has a working archaeological site in the basement. By these standards, Riva Lofts is on the young side: this 19th-century complex on the banks of the Arno river has lived only three previous lives — a factory, artisans’ workshops, an architectural studio — on the way to its present incarnation, an immaculately designed ten-suite modernist luxury boutique.
Period stone walls and arched windows share time with concrete floors and modern additions in glass and metal, just as contemporary artworks and antique mirrors and chairs coexist peacefully with sleek designer furniture and the absolute latest in lighting and bathroom fixtures. It’s a bit like a photo shoot for a high-end design catalog, albeit a pretty livable one — all suites have private entrances, all but one have kitchens, and a few have private terraces or views across the river toward the Parco delle Cascine or Brunelleschi’s Cupola.
In the foreigner’s mind, Florence strains under the weight of so much history that it’s sometimes difficult to remember that it’s the 21st century there too. It’s not all Renaissance architecture and crumbling frescoes — modern life goes on there, just like anywhere else, and contemporary small hotels like the Residence Hilda operate alongside the grand old-fashioned five-stars.
And it isn’t just in terms of design that the Hilda is the polar opposite of the grand hotels. This place hardly feels like a hotel at all — with just twelve suites, no public spaces to speak of, and the kind of minimal service that keeps to the background, it’s for the low-maintenance traveler, the sort who doesn’t need constant looking after.
The Continentale hotel is a Lungarno Collection hotel, which means it's a Salvatore Ferragamo hotel. Why the chain of code names? Why not just come out and say it, Ferragamo in blinking neon, or at least radiant gold (a la Versace)? Why not at least take advantage of the opportunity to better position the brand, like Cerruti or Bulgari?
Unlike those others, this is not a fashion concept hotel. And, to be fair, Ferragamo has been in the hotel game since 1955 — so this is clearly not an afterthought or a marketing scheme. Ferragamo, as Lungarno, is in this business with both feet (sorry), not just as some kind of co-branding experiment, but as a full-fledged business venture. Thus you will never see the Ferragamo name in your room, unless it is already attached to your footwear.
When it comes to a romantic spot for a special occasion in Florence, we would urge you to consider the following boutique hotels.
The Place Firenze
Gallery Hotel Art
Tenuta Le Tre Virtù
If you’re looking for an interior design experience you’ll rarely get elsewhere in the world, the following boutique hotels in Florence boast glorious original frescoes:
St Regis Florence