July 7, 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 boutique hotels in Florence, Italy:
There’s no question the Brunelleschi Hotel has a legitimate claim to the name. With its top-floor view taking in the entire panorama of Brunelleschi’s masterpiece, the Florence Cathedral, it’s more or less as close as you can get to the Duomo without taking religious orders. The location has always been a strength, and after a very thorough renovation, the Brunelleschi can finally boast of interiors that are worthy of the view.
That’s “worthy of,” not equal to. The focus, even inside, is on the cathedral, and these subtly contemporary spaces, with their sparkling antique-style furnishings, do their best to frame the views, whether literal ones, through the windows, or virtual ones in the form of architectural photographs of the cathedral’s details.
Don’t get us wrong, the traditional city-center experience can be a great one — but if Florence has a hipster neighborhood, it’s Oltrarno, just across the river from all the most famous sights (and almost all of the tourists). This is where you’ll find Ottantotto Firenze, a seven-room boutique hotel that’s the latest evolution of a Renaissance palazzetto, previously an aristocratic home and lately owned by an architect who oversaw its remarkable transformation.
Rooms are spread out over four floors, and they’re all different — unified by the aesthetic taste of Ottantotto’s owner/designer, but each one reflecting the quirks of this well-preserved heritage building. There’s an interior garden, onto which some of the rooms look, and the suite has a mezzanine level, a kitchenette, and a rooftop terrace. The style is nothing if not memorable, and never too serious — there’s a real sense of whimsy about the decoration.
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.
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.
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.