BOUTIQUE HOTELS IN FLORENCE
The Renaissance city of Florence boasts a historic centre with UNESCO World Heritage status, first-class museums and cultural attractions. Browse Lulu’s collection of boutique hotels in Florence to find the best in urban luxury hideaways, city-slick apartments and small, chic B&Bs.
Our favourite luxury hotels in Florence include Palazzo Niccolini, right next to the famous Duomo cathedral (expect stunning Italian-style painted ceilings and frescoed walls in the 10 rooms and suites) and JK Place Florence, the original boutique hotel in Florence (Lulu was the first ever guest and it is one of her all-time favourite luxury boutique hotels) designed by architect Michele Bonan. It has a smart cocktail bar and restaurant and a sitting room for relaxing, plus an excellent concierge with all the right contacts. For something away from the crowds, book a stay at luxury hotel Villa Cora in the hills above Florence.
Culture and shopping in Florence
One of most famous symbols of Florence is the vast Gothic Duomo cathedral with a green, pink and white marble exterior in Piazza Duomo: it took six centuries to complete and astonishingly it can hold 20,000 people. If you’re feeling energetic, climb the 463 steps to the top for views across the cityscape. In the same square, you’ll also find Giotto’s bell tower (from the top you get a great view of the duomo).
When it comes to museums, top of the list has to be the Uffizi Gallery which holds an incredible collection of Renaissance masterpieces by the likes of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello. It’s no wonder then, that the queues to get in are always so long! Other equally popular museums include the Accademia Gallery where crowds line-up to see Michelangelo’s 1504 marble statue of David; the Bargello Museum which is renowned for its sculpture collection, and the Medici Chapels, which are the final burial ground for the Medici family and part of the complex of San Lorenzo. You can visit the crypt, the Chapel of Princes and the New Sacristy, designed by Michelangelo.
There’s also Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria which doubles up as a museum and home of the city government; Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in Italy (it holds the tombs of Michelangelo and Dante) and the Baptistry of John the Baptist. But that’s not to say that history and art are the only attractions that Florence has to offer: the city also has excellent shopping. The main fashion boutiques are north of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge (which is lined with shops selling gold and silver jewellery) on Via Tornabuoni. As well as labels such as Gucci and Prada, you’ll also find outlet stores for Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli and Ferragamo.
If you’re here for the shopping, Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni 1, a 13th-century luxury hotel in Florence with 22 rooms, is the perfect place to stay. It’s right at the heart of the action which means you won’t have to carry all your designer bags too far at the end of the day and it has a library room and 2 magnificent terraces where you can relax and put your feet up. Equally fashionable is Palazzo Vecchietti, on Via degli Strozzi with exposed brickwork, artwork, tapestry and marble fireplaces. Choose between booking a room, suite or an apartment (the biggest has 2 living rooms and a hideaway kitchen) with butler service.
Found in 1221 by nuns, the herbalist and perfumery Officina di santa Maria Novella on Via della Scala (just a hop away from JK Place hotel, one of Lulu's favourite boutique hotels in Florence) is one of the world’s oldest pharmacies and you’re sure to be tempted into buying some beautifully scented soaps and bath oils to take home as a souvenir. High street chain stores cluster around Piazza Repubblica while the Mercato Centrale morning market (open daily except Sunday) next to the church of San Lorenzo is the place to stock up on olive oil, cheese and pasta. Half an hour’s drive out of town, The Mall is a luxury shopping outlet where you’ll find all the big name brands, some of them offering up to 70percent discount.
Food and wine
After all that shopping, refuel at Ora D’Aria restaurant, round the corner from Palazzo Vecchio. Tuscan chef Marco Stabile is at the helm and his menu includes dishes such as risotto with artichokes, tortelli filled with beef, cheese and fresh ginger, and suckling pig. Watch them being prepared in an open kitchen as you sit around smart linen-covered tables.
Wine lovers should try Cantinetta Antinori, run by the Antinori family of wine makers. Food - such as Tuscan tomato soup and entrecote of beef - changes with the seasons and staff can recommend suitable wine pairings for each course. For a late lunch, Ino deli and wine bar has a range of paninis, salads and a couple of main dishes while the cafes and bars around Piazza di Santo Spirito are popular for apreritivi, particularly in the summer months when you can sit outside and watch the world go by.
Our selection of boutique hotels in Florence also includes properties just out of town, where you can have the best of both worlds: the rolling hills of Tuscany on your doorstep with the city only a short drive away. Villa Cora is one such haven in the hills just 3km outside Florence. This 19th-century villa has 46 rooms and the countryside setting means plenty of opportunities for walks, playing golf at a nearby course or simply enjoying a dip in the outdoor heated pool. Foodies can also book in for cookery lessons in creating typical Italian dishes.
A new restaurant opening in 2016 to look out for in Florence is Gurdulu which is both cosy and smart. Head to the bar for a cocktail before feasting on one of the seasonal dishes such as wild asparagus with squid and pickled ginger or red mullet and succulent lamb with caramelised shallots.