The best hotels in Florence to soak up the Renaissance culture in style


When visiting Florence, it’s important to pace yourself. This historic Italian city may be small but it’s so full of treasures that it can be overwhelming – the magnificent Duomo; lavish rooms in the Pitti Palace; works by Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Raphael… the list is endless. You can’t see everything, so attempting to do so is futile. Instead, allow yourself time to browse the shops, stroll along the Arno, sip coffee and people-watch.

Staying in the city centre obviously makes exploring easier, and there’s plenty of accommodation to choose from, ranging from high-end hotels and classy B&Bs to simple pensions and self-catering apartments. To escape the throngs of tourists at night, pick one of the luxury establishments on the outskirts – they usually have tranquil gardens and Insta-perfect views of the Tuscan hills.

Wherever you choose to stay, try and book early – especially if you want a room with a view.

Neighbourhood: Ponte Vecchio

Understated chic at Hotel Lungarno, which is full of artwork

(Hotel Lungarno)

This sleek hotel on the banks of the Arno river is an art-lover’s dream. Not only does it offer glorious views of the Ponte Vecchio, a favourite subject with artists for centuries, but it’s also filled with more than 400 artworks by noted Italian artists, as well as figures such as Picasso and Cocteau.

The rooms and suites have an understated style, leaving you to focus on the dreamy views of the river beyond. There are culinary arts on display, too. The restaurant, Borgo San Jacopo, has a Michelin star and offers experimental dishes, such as potato spaghetti.

Neighbourhood: Piazza del Duomo

The Pagliazza Tower Suite at Hotel Brunelleschi

(Hotel Brunelleschi)

Just a stone’s throw from Florence’s Duomo, this four-star hotel imaginatively incorporates the remains of medieval church San Michele in Palchetto, and a 6th-century tower – the Torre della Pagliazza – which is said to be one of the most unusual structures in the city.

The decor cleverly contrasts exposed stone walls and wooden beams with gleaming mirrors, pearl chandeliers and soft, neutral fabrics. Downstairs, there’s even a small museum where you can see the remains of a Roman caldarium or hot bath.

Neighbourhood: Piazza del Duomo

Soggiorno Battistero

(Soggiorno Battistero)

This popular B&B is so close to the Duomo that you feel you could almost reach out and touch it. It’s situated on the upper floor of the Loggia del Bigallo, a romantic building, which dates back to the 14th century. Downstairs, a small museum houses religious works, such as a crucifix created by the artist known as the “Master of Bigallo”.

There are just a few rooms, all of which are simply furnished, clean and comfortable. Some have compelling views of Brunelleschi’s famous dome. You really are in the heart of the city here.

Neighbourhood: San Marco

One of the opulent rooms at Four Seasons

(Four Seasons)

It really doesn’t get more lavish than this: a hotel in two restored Renaissance buildings set in 11 acres of lush private gardens, with a Michelin-starred restaurant and a spa where treatments include a face mask made with 24-carat gold. The most sumptuous rooms were once home to Italian nobles and are a feast of frescoes, silk wall hangings and chandeliers.

The hotel is situated on the edge of the city centre, a short walk from the church of Santa Croce, and feels like a haven of peace after a busy day’s sightseeing.

Neighbourhood: Outskirts of the city in Fiesole

Dusk at the romantic Villa San Michele

(Belmond Villa San Michele)

Set in a former monastery that dates back to the 14th century, this luxury hotel really knows how to look after its guests. It combines a historical atmosphere with 21st-century comforts – think rooms with rich fabrics and marble bathrooms, lemon trees on the terrace, lush gardens and a heated open-air swimming pool.

While it’s not the most central location, there’s a courtesy shuttle bus into the heart of Florence, and the views of the Tuscan hills are impossibly romantic. It’s a honeymoon paradise.

Neighbourhood: San Marco

The terrace at Antica Johlea offers fantastic views of Florence

(Antica Dimora Johlea)

You’ll quickly feel at home in this classy little B&B. The rooms are individually styled and combine traditional Tuscan features and antique prints, with brightly coloured silk drapes, comfy beds and gleaming bathrooms.

There’s free wifi and an honesty bar, where you can help yourself to hot drinks and snacks. Best of all is the lovely roof terrace, where you can take breakfast in the summer and gaze out over the Florentine skyline.

Neighbourhood: City outskirts, Porta Romana

Luxuriate in the opulence of Villa Cora

(Villa Cora)

Built in the mid-19th century, this striking villa sits on a hillside just outside the city. It was once Florence’s most fashionable residence, and previously belonged to the former Empress Eugenié, Napoleon III’s widow. Tchaikovsky is also said to have stayed here.

The villa was restored a few years ago and is now so glamorous it practically shimmers – the guest rooms are a sumptuous mix of rich fabrics, gilded ceilings and Carrara marble bathrooms. Most memorable of all is the incredible ballroom – a dramatic confection of gleaming mirrors, gilt and statuary where you can take afternoon tea and drink in the glitz.

Neighbourhood: Piazza Ognissanti

The Premium Deluxe Arno River View room at St Regis

(The St. Regis Florence)

Housed in a Renaissance palazzo designed by Brunelleschi, the St Regis opened in 2011 after the building was extensively restored. The rooms, many of which offer views of the Arno, mix classical five-star luxury – think frescoes, antiques and rich velvets – with up-to-the-minute technology.

Public rooms include an elegant library, while the Winter Garden restaurant has a Michelin star. It has proved popular as a celebrity hideaway, attracting A-listers such as Madonna, so you never know who you might spot.

Neighbourhood: Piazza della Repubblica

The view from the roof terrace at Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni 1

(Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni 1)

This hotel is ranged across two adjacent historic buildings, one of which is an imposing tower-house that dates back to the 14th century. The accommodation comprises comfortable, classically furnished rooms and suites, as well as some apartments.

It’s conveniently situated on the Arno, so makes a good base for strolling to all the main sights. Most of all, it’s a photographer’s dream, with roof terraces that provide panoramic views of the city.

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