Exterior view - Belmond Villa San Michele, Tuscany, Italy

Belmond Villa San Michele

With just 45 rooms and suites, the Villa San Michele is a retreat perched in the hills of Fiesole, a ten-minute drive from the center of Florence. The rooms and suites are scattered throughout the outer buildings and main structure – a converted 15th century monastery with a façade by Michelangelo – and are traditionally decorated with rich dark woods, subtle floral patterns and antique furniture. The expansive specialty suites in the main building have beautiful views over the city (Napoleon stayed in one during a trip to Italy). Limonaia, built as the villa’s orangery in the 17th century, can be turned into a three-bedroom villa with private gardens and plunge pool for a larger family. The heated pool and large open garden are perfect for relaxing after a day of sightseeing, made easy by the private shuttles that run from the property into the city every half hour.

La Loggia, Villa San Michele’s renowned al fresco restaurant, has one of the most romantic views of Florence. Guests can enjoy meals on the terrace or try their hand at Tuscan cuisine in one of Villa San Michele’s famed cooking classes, and wonderful kid’s amenities make the property family-friendly. But the best way to spend one’s time is lounging in the pristine tiered gardens, sprinkled with lemon trees and white loungers

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Prestige Room at Continentale, Florence, Italy


If the Hotel Lungarno is the sophisticated older sister and the Gallery Hotel Art is the glam younger sister of the Lungarno Collection family, the Continentale is the quietly romantic middle sibling. Its forty-three rooms and suites offer an intimate getaway with views of the Arno River and furnishings inspired by the fashion and design of the 1950’s (think canopy beds, retro furniture, handcrafted leather, chrome lamps and light woods). All rooms have Tuscan Soul by Salvatore Ferragamo bath products and clever touches such as oversized clocks that double as bedside tables.

You can enjoy a cocktail at the rooftop terrace bar, La Terrazza (or in the trendy White Hall bar on the first floor), before heading over to the Fusion or Borgo San Jacopo restaurants at the sister properties of the Lungarno collection, and sign the bill to your room at the end of the night. You can also partake in morning yoga classes on the rooftop terrace, receive preferential treatment at the nearby Ferragamo store, and treatments in Continentale’s White Iris Beauty Spa by Daniela Steiner. Guests can also book a suite with a terrace and views of the Arno River, or splurge on the Consorti Penthouse, which occupies the top floor of the property’s medieval tower, for the ultimate views of the city and surrounding hillside. The property underwent a renovation in 2013 to spruce up the central spaces.

Suite at Four Seasons Hotel Florence, Florence, italy

Four Seasons Hotel Florence

The Four Seasons Florence occupies two lovingly refurbished mansions with 116 rooms and suites spread between the main 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the 16th-century Conventino. The two buildings bookend a beautifully groomed eleven-acre park, where enormous trees offer shade and wildflower-dotted lawns create a veritable oasis in the midst of Florence. There’s a large outdoor swimming pool area (with adjacent whirlpool tub), a freestanding spa and a gym for guests.

No two of the Palazzo rooms are alike, and many offer original details, like friezes and bas-reliefs, as well as brightly colored frescoes and vividly painted ceilings. Considering the wealth of artwork and intricate architectural details including restored frescos, skylights, balconies and small terraces, it’s no wonder that the restoration of the palazzo and the convent took eight years (the Four Seasons opened in June 2008).

The public spaces are grand and formal and offer a nice place from which to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without sacrificing grand Florentine style. The gardens are a real highlight of the property as they are expansive and well manicured; in the early spring they are filled with blooming wisteria. The location is plus or minus, depending on what you’re looking for in a hotel. It’s about a 10-minute walk to get to the Duomo (but mentally, you feel removed from the busy centro storico). And to get to the excellent restaurants in the Oltrarno area, you need to take a taxi. On the other hand, the geographically removed setting allows you to enjoy the spacious grounds, outdoor pool and expansive spa with products from the local Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella. The hotel’s Il Palagio restaurant, helmed by Executive Chef Vito Mollica, has earned one Michelin star.

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Lobby at Gallery Hotel Art, Florence, Italy

Gallery Hotel Art

The Ferragamo family introduced Gallery Hotel Art as the first design hotel in Florence, a successful melding of style and comfort steps away from the Ponte Vecchio. The seventy-four rooms and suites are modern in décor with dark wood floors, warm ivory walls, high ceilings and large windows that let in lots of natural light. Framed black-and-white photographs complement the leather furnishings and fabrics in shades of ivory and greys. Located on a small side street off the Arno River steps away from the Uffizi Gallery and across the street from sister property Continentale, Gallery Hotel Art offers a central location without forfeiting the serenity of a more tucked-away hotel. The three penthouse suites all have private terraces that look over the Arno to the hills beyond.

To maintain its status as Florence’s first design property, the hotel lobby has become a miniature contemporary gallery, with exhibits rotating through every few months, and re-covered sofa cushions and painted walls to match. The hotel’s Fusion Bar, which experiments with unique mixology, is a popular meeting spot for young Florentines and visitors.

While the Gallery Hotel Art was the first design hotel in Florence and the restaurant and lobby have a contemporary, hip vibe, some Indagare members have felt that the rooms and bathrooms are a little tired and could use sprucing up.

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Hotel Lungarno

The most traditional of Ferragamo’s four properties in Florence, the Hotel Lungarno is situated directly on the Arno River on the edge of the Oltrarno district; there isn’t even a street between the rooms and water. Because of this, all views of the water are uninterrupted and the balconies hang directly over the edge of the river.

The property embarked on a six-month renovation in early 2017, so the once-tired rooms are now chic and fresh-faced. The breakfast area has been completely redesigned to allow for alfresco dining with wonderful views. Guests can enjoy the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors leading out to balconies in some of the 63 rooms and suites, and 34 of the rooms look out directly over the Ponte Vecchio. Walls are painted in blues and whites, which adds a certain nautical theme that is tempered by the delicate mirrors and hand-chosen artwork (with more than 400 paintings and sculptures, including works by Picasso, Tosi and Cocteau).

One of the many special touches of Hotel Lungarno is that it offers a hotel tradition almost forgotten: old-fashioned room keys that have actual weight in your hand. When you return to the property after a day of sightseeing, the concierge greets you by name and hands you your key (so you don’t have to carry it around with you). The renowned restaurant Borgo San Jacopo boasts full water views and authentic Tuscan and Mediterranean cuisines from chef Peter Brunel.

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Hotel Savoy, A Rocco Forte Hotel

Right on Piazza della Repubblica, in walking distance to all of Florence's most iconic sites, the Hotel Savoy (Rocco Forte) is one of the best in town.

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Suite at Il Salviatino, Tuscany, Italy

Il Salviatino

Il Salviatino, a boutique hotel that opened outside Florence in 2010, occupies a magnificent 15th-century villa full of romance (think stone floors, soaring ceilings, a crenellated tower, formal gardens). Owner Marcello Pigozzo, a veteran hotelier who teamed up with his sons and a group of investors, poured €15 million into renovating it. They hand-selected oil paintings and etchings for the walls and filled the library with books on art.

Partway up the Fiesole hillside (not far from Villa San Michele), Salviatino is about a ten-minute drive from the center of Florence, but feels worlds away. The driveway, lined with cypress trees, weaves up a hill, passes the pretty outdoor pool and spa area, to arrive at an imposing villa that has been fully restored to house just 47 guest rooms and suites. Inside, the proportions are grand, with 20-foot ceilings, but the décor is simple, spare and luxurious: coffee-colored walls, lots of leather couches, bedrooms with white bedding and leather headboards.

The concept is for the place to feel as much as possible like a visit with friends, rather than a stay at a hotel. There’s no front desk, no concierge, no bellboys. The rooms are all different and it’s a little tricky to choose, as the higher room categories aren’t necessarily better. Ideally, you want a room with a view not just of Florence, but specifically of the Duomo. Ojetti Suite has a rooftop terrace high enough that the view covers pretty much everything. The Tegliacci Suite is marvelous and loft-like, with an open floor plan, a big tufted leather sofa and a dining table. The large windows overlook the countryside. Interestingly, some of the rooms with the best views aren’t suites. Some have spectacular picture windows and Duomo views even if they are just Deluxe Rooms.

Some details at Salviatino are spot-on: delicious linen sheets and super soft chenille robes, heavenly rainfall showers with good pressure, big soaking tubs in most rooms, Nespresso machines, a good gym and free wifi throughout. The Thai spa is marvelous (try the signature Devarana treatment). Service, however, can be uneven. The Sunday brunch (served at lunchtime) is popular with Florentine families, who venture up from the city. Dinner standouts included fresh pasta and roasted angler fish with artichoke hearts. In summer, the whole dining set-up moves from the downstairs restaurant to the outside terrace. There is an open kitchen and tables set up for al fresco dining (with Duomo views for all).

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Located on Via Tornabuoni, Florence’s most fashionable thoroughfare, this newcomer brings style and good value to the heart of the city.
Living Room at Palazzo Vecchietti, Florence, Italy

Palazzo Vecchietti

Two stylish European friends told me about Palazzo Vecchietti, raving about this hidden-away hotel located near Piazza della Repubblica. Situated in a restored fifteenth-century palazzo, the hotel has a barely marked entrance, and the small hallway visible from the street leads to a large bookcase stacked with fashion titles and oversized photo books. Once you turn the corner inside, you find yourself in a soaring atrium centered around a cozy living room with a roaring fireplace. The check-in and concierge desks are hidden away behind a set of doors, furthering the sense that you have arrived at a private abode.

Owner Alessandra Giusfredi hails from nearby Montecatini, where her family operates a hotel, and her concept for Palazzo Vechietti was that of a high-end but family-run city retreat. Each of the fourteen rooms, including three large suites and two apartments, is unique and was created by star designer Michele Bönan, who also masterminded J.K. Place (in Florence and Capri) and Palazzo Tournabuoni in Florence. His signature look–sleek but comfortable, modern but referencing the city’s history–prevails and other amenities in the rooms include Nespresso coffee makers, kitchenettes, and high-speed Internet access. Vechietti doesn’t have its own restaurant, but guests won’t miss it, because excellent options as Osteria Tournabuoni, longtime favorite Il Latini and hot spot La Buca dell’Orafo are within walking distance. The hotel serves breakfast in an elegant lounge on the top floor, where diners sit at a communal table, completing the feeling of the ultimate Florentine house party.

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Lounge at Portrait Firenze, Florence, Italy

Portrait Firenze

Florence has had its fair share of impressive hotel openings over the last several years, including the palatial Four Seasons in 2008 and lavish Il Salviatino in 2010. In early 2014, a new star has been born along the river Arno, belonging to none other than Florentine style mavens, the Ferragamos. Just steps from the Uffizzi and Piazza della Signora, Lungarno Suites has been remodeled into “Portrait Firenze,” a larger and sleeker version of the debut Portrait in Rome.

Upon entering Portrait Firenze, guests are immediately transported to their own pied à terre in the heart of the city. Michele Bönan – the mastermind behind Portrait Roma, JK Firenze and Palazzo Vecchietti – expertly crafted each of the hotel’s thirty-seven suites into chic mini apartments. Designed in gray neutral tones with pops of metallic, turquoise and black, suites feel comfortable and lived-in despite being brand new. Books sit on the shelves, framed photographs adorn the walls and cashmere throws are strategically placed, tempting guests. The real game changer, however, are the views, which from over half the rooms overlook the Ponte Vecchio, Arno and city beyond.

Bönan has brought Portrait to life, offering guests a throwback to Italy’s past and leap into the future. Throughout the hotel, vintage photographs portray the heyday of Italian fashion in the fifties and sixties. Spotlights on Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco, Maria Callas and Salvatore Ferragamo illuminate the rooms and public spaces. As a contrast, modern technology – iPad check-ins, ultra-flat screen TVs, and in-room Bluetooth – catapults guests back into the 21st century. The juxtaposition of old and new blend harmoniously to create one sexy hotel.

What the hotel lacks in amenities it makes up for in design. Gym fanatics may obtain passes to a local facility and spa-goers can book a treatment in their room or head to sister property Continentale next door. The ground-floor restaurant, Caffe dell’Oro features an excellent breakfast spread and all-day dining, but with Florence’s top restaurants just steps away, guests typically dine off property.

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Living Room at Residenza d’Epoca, Florence, Italy

Residenza d'Epoca

It’s easy to picture Lucy Honeychurch from E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View staying at this family-run bed-and-breakfast, right on the corner of Piazza della Signoria. Housed in a residential building on Via Magazzini, the Residenza is lovingly run by Alessandro and Sonia Pini, who bought the house in 2000 and transformed it into a whimsical, utterly Florentine hotel. Each of the ten rooms and two apartments, spread across four floors, is named after an important Italian artist or personality, and each features unique design details. Giotto, where I stayed, had beautiful ceiling frescoes and views of Palazzo Vecchio. The décor and furnishings throughout are simple, but the bathrooms are modern and some, like Botticelli and Brunelleschi, even come with large bathtubs.

There’s no room service or haute amenities, but the staff goes above and beyond to make a stay special; the family clearly loves their hometown and their passion for its restaurants, sights and cultural activities is contagious (they freely dispense advice). Thoughtful details abound throughout, including linen breakfast napkins that are tied together with velvet ribbon, the double-paned windows in the rooms facing the Piazza (which is bustling even at night) and the bountiful breakfast served in the top-floor lounge overlooking Piazza della Signoria. But if you require around-the-clock pampering, the Residenza is not for you. The apartments are usually rented by the week, but the hotel makes an exception for families. Be aware that during high season, the Residenza books up quickly due to a loyal return clientele; two American travelers I met at the communal breakfast table said that they would rather visit another city than stay anywhere else in Florence.

Guest Room at Riva Lofts, Florence, Italy

Riva Lofts

When it comes to staying in Florence, the Riva Lofts offer a tranquil apartment-like alternative. The nine suites, ranging in size from three hundred to one thousand square feet, are all anchored by a pretty garden and outdoor pool (the latter made of white sandstone). All but one have kitchens, so amateur chefs can whip up a meal with purchases from Mercato Centrale. Reserve a suite with a terrace, or, if you bring your kids, go for one that opens directly onto the garden. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, the Riva Lofts are a fifteen-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio.

Lounge at St. Regis Florence, Florence, Italy

St. Regis Florence

Once a stopping point on the Grand Tour, and originally designed by Renaissance architect master Filippo Brunelleschi, this hotel on the Arno has always had one of the most iconic positions in all of Florence. Now, the interiors are on par with the spectacular setting after a multi-million dollar renovation in 2011. Of the 100 rooms, 19 are suites. The design mixes old world touches—think heavy velvet curtains, frescos and ornate wallpaper—with lighter contemporary furniture and huge windows that provide the perfect view onto the river and the landmarks that line it.

The service is also one of the main draws here: from the cheery doormen who greet new arrivals and patiently help with map reading, to the family-friendly waiters who seem genuinely happy to be working in a town that can feel tourist-weary.

Don’t miss a meal at the nearby Enoteca Pinchiorri (book an outdoor table in balmier months) and an Aperol Spritz at the street side bar, which also draws well-heeled locals. The Clarins spa with treatment suites for two boasts a Jacuzzi, butler service and Bentley transfers for those not staying on property.

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Located on the Piazza Santa Novella, THE PLACE Firenze is a sleek, boutique hotel with just twenty rooms that feels like a very stylish friend’s elegant European home.

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Suite at  Villa La Rose, Tuscany, Italy

Villa Le Rose

The former private home of the Ferragamo family, Villa Le Rose is perfect for a family or group of friends who want the comfort of a private home and the convenience of Florence fifteen minutes away by car.
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Suite at  Villa La Rose, Tuscany, Italy

Villa Le Rose

Located a 15-minute drive outside Florence and the heart of Chianti, the 15th-century Villa Le Rose is the perfect base for families or groups of friends from which to venture into the city and surrounding Tuscan countryside. The property offers six en-suite bedrooms with varying traditional design, a grand ballroom with a chandelier, frescoed walls and ceilings, extensive grounds and a pool.

While the villa is indeed grand, it does welcome small children, because the Ferragamos raised their own children here until 2004. An extra treat: the chef invites guests into her kitchen to enjoy a glass of wine and the scents of freshly baked Tuscan bread and just-picked herbs. While the upstairs dining room is spectacular with original frescoes, the majority of guests, especially children, end up eating most of their meals in the homey kitchen.

The villa will arrange excursions in the city or countryside including wine tastings and food or historical tours of Florence, as well as walks and horseback riding on the property’s 30 acres.

Suite at Villa Mangiacane, Tuscany, Italy

Villa Mangiacane

When you first drive up the lavender-lined path that leads to the Villa Mangiacane—a unique hideaway some eight miles south of Florence—you feel as though you’d stumbled onto a Bernardo Bertolucci set. The sculpted gardens, lush with jasmine, citrus trees and slender cypresses; the gnarled olive grove; the surrounding vineyards; the huge terraces with views of Florence—everything has an air of orchestrated flawlessness that makes you question its authenticity and age. But then you learn that the pink stucco villa was commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Maria Machiavelli (uncle of Niccolò), that Michelangelo is rumored to have been consulted on the façade and that the frescoes on the first-floor terrace, discovered during the renovation, date from the 16th century. And you realize that Mangiacane is the real deal.

The villa opened its doors to guests in 2005. Occupying 740 acres, Mangiacane comprises two sumptuous villas; three swimming pools, including one with an infinity edge; manicured gardens; and elegant common spaces decorated with a mix of antique and modern furniture. The heart of the property is the 16th-century Main Villa, whose façade is similar enough to that of the nearby Villa San Michele, the region’s most famous hotel that is housed in a former 15th century monastery, to lend credence to the story that Michelangelo was involved in its conception, as well. Mangiacane contains two large loggias, outfitted with lounge chairs and day beds, that look toward Florence. From either one, Brunelleschi’s cupola of the Duomo appears, perfectly centered, in the distance above the treetops. It is said that when Niccolò Machiavelli was exiled here from Florence, he most appreciated the fact that Mangiacane was built on a straight axis facing his beloved city-state. (He wrote The Prince down the road, in nearby San Casciano.)

Perhaps the most exquisite details at Mangiacane are the beautifully restored pastel-colored frescoes that ornament the Main Villa. Depicting hunting scenes, they were lost for decades behind layers of paint. The twenty-six guest rooms are located in the Main Villa and in the recently completed and more modern Vineyard Villa, which has a pretty courtyard, furnished with tables and cushy wicker daybeds, that is edged by a small herb garden. Once you’ve arrived in the idyllic Mangiacane setting, chances are you won’t want to leave, although the sights, museums and shops of Florence are only a twenty-minute drive away.

There’s also a small spa with four treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room and a dramatic underground lap pool area, whose mood lighting, gurgling fountain and marble columns evoke the steamy atmosphere of a Turkish hammam. Dinners can be served at a different spot on the property each night, so if you’re there for a long weekend, you won’t eat in front of the same backdrop twice. The menu consists of fresh Tuscan fare. If you’re lucky, you’ll dine one night on the second-floor loggia of the Main Villa, where you can watch the countryside turn crimson during sunset and gradually transform into a sparkling wonderland as small lights illuminate the surrounding hills.

Facade - Westin Excelsior, Florence, Italy

Westin Excelsior

Sitting along the Arno in the Oltrano neighborhood, this hotel is located just outside the busy city center and offers a low-key alternative to its extravagant sister, the St. Regis. The 116 rooms and suites are decorated in light tones with pops of color added in the accents. The well-appointed bathrooms feature a traditional Italian style and are adorned with marble; the majority offer double vanities and separate showers and bathtubs. The public spaces throughout the hotel have a light and airy feeling.

The rooftop bar SE STO offers live music each night and panoramic city views that draw a crowd of locals and guests. While this hotel is situated a bit farther along the river than some other options, Florence is such a manageable walking city that guests can reach the Ponte Vecchio via an easy 10-minute stroll.

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