Florence is one of those places that I think the adjective “indifferent” best applies to how I feel about the city: I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it (like I do Rome and Venice) either, so it’s just there. Don’t get me wrong: Florence is a beautiful city and has so much amazing art and architecture that one must visit at least once in their lives. Whether you choose to return after that first visit, well, you’ll just have to tell me won’t you?
Like most hotels in Europe, there seems to be a lot on both ends of the spectrum and not a lot in the middle. But don’t let that deter you. And, whatever you do, don’t start thinking about the conversion rate of euro to your national currency: think of them as 1 to 1 if at all possible. It honestly helps put things in perspective.
It is also important to keep my one most vital tip in mind: never book off of a website, but rather, write to the hotel directly asking for availability and the best available rate. 9 times out of 10, I get a great rate that is not available on the web. And if you are staying for 3 nights or more, there is normally a better rate available. Why waste money when a few minutes of time is all you need to write an email.
That said, my new favourite chain of hotels in Florence is the Lungarno Hotels group (www.lungarnohotels.com). This is a relatively new chain of hotels in Florence, and part of the larger group of Design Hotels (www.designhotels.com) throughout Europe. The Lungarno Hotels are all clumped together near the Ponte Vecchio (where you will, no doubt, want to go and explore). The lower end of the hotes, I think, is the Gallery Art hotel and it is still quite stunning. The common areas are akin to a library and personal art gallery and the rooms range from good-sized to suites. My only complaint, if you will, is that each of the rooms has hardwood floors (a good thing) but when the lazy people above you can’t pick up a chair, but drag it – especially in the middle of the night – well, you can imagine.
Another hotel that I feel confident in recommending is the Borghese Palace Art Hotel (https://www.borghesepalace.it/contatti/). I passed by this with a friend and then went back to have a look around and let me tell you: it looks stunning! I will be staying here next time, just to have a look and advise my readers better.
If, by chance, you are in Florence for a conference or need to be near the train station, there is a 4 Star hotel called the Hotel Croce di Malta (www.crocedimaltaflorence.com) where I have stayed before. In all honesty, it is pushing it to give this hotel 4 stars, but it is clean, the staff were great, and if you don’t have much time, its location really can’t be beat.
Until this visit, I had never been overly impressed with the restaurant scene in Florence. Perhaps things have changed, or my sleuthing has gotten better, but I think that this time around I managed to avoid most of the overly-touristic restaurants. My favourite, by far and away, was Buca dell’Orafo (www.bucadellorafo.com). The staff were outstanding, the rigatoni with a smoked tomato sauce divine, and the atmosphere very non-touristy. And the best part: although the staff does speak a bit of English, they are willing to let you speak in Italian. Try it! Italians prefer that you try rather than be lazy or, worst yet, purposefully butcher it like many of the young tourists walking around.
Another restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed was Boccanegra (www.boccanegra.com). There are 3 parts to this restaurant: the ristorante, the osteria, and the continetta. I opted for the osteria because that is what I love about Italian cooking: I want to see what I am eating, taste what I am eating, and not be confused by what I am eating and tasting. That’s what an osteria is to me. The staff here were very friendly and not cloyingly attentive like many places can be. And let me tell you: the caprese was the best that I’ve had in the city to date! And I ate caprese every night! And although I don’t eat meat, they are supposedly known for their bistecca fiorentina (which I heard was great) which means that their wine list is heavy on the reds. For 29 euro, we had an outstanding, full-bodied red that was not a chianti and was the cheapest wine on the list. And it was the waiter’s recommendation to us! Oh yeah, before I forget: don’t be put off by what some of the reviews on those other sites say. I didn’t read any of those before going and only know of their opinions the day after and I still loved it.
Il Latini (www.illatini.com) was recommended to me but I wasn’t able to go. It’s listed on many of the sites out there and I hear it is good from a couple of friends so I would believe them and go.
I can’t really add much to the list of sites that one must visit when in Florence: the Uffizi Gallery, “il Gigante” (aka, David), and the ponte vecchio as well as those amazing things that you see and find along the way. So, instead, I will encourage you to go to 2 places for a drink either before a late dinner or after dinner, because the views are spectacular. The first is actually the rooftop bar at the Continentale hotel (part of the Lungaro Hotel group). The banquettes around the rooftop are incredibly comfortable and the views over the city breathtaking! What better way to wind down the evening. (And not a lot of people know about this place so it really is quite calming.)
The other place I would recommend it to go to the Forte di Belvedere on the “other side” of the Arno river. It’s a bit of a walk – nothing better than after a filling meal of pasta and meat right?! – but well worth it. Just find an enoteca that appeals, sit down, have a drink, and be amazed at the views back over the Arno at Firenze. This really is a sight that should not be missed!
And with that my friends, put on your walking shoes and explore one of the cities in the country that I love and affectionately refer to as home.