One of the big highlights of my trip to Florence was the three unique and memorable hotels I stayed had the privilege to stay in.
Luckily I took a taxi from the train station to the Hotel Brunelleschi, otherwise I would have never found it on my own. It’s hidden in a tiny, dark piazza smack in the center of the city, close enough to the main attractions, but segregated from the crowds.
The outside has a formidable round tower, the oldest standing building in Florence dating back to the 6th or 7th century (the exact date is unknown). In the 12th century it became a prison for women and known as the Pagliazza, from paglia, the Italian word for straw, because of the straw beds the inmates used. I was a given a tour of the hotel and shown the dank remnants and darkened chambers of the prison. The hotel is named after a local resident, Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) who was the first modern engineer and city planner and the founding father of the Renaissance.
On my tour of the hotel I was also shown some of the suites and rooms. One suite had a four-poster bed made of white silk panels and sweeping views of the skyline and the Duomo. My airy room had a sunken bedroom with three steps leading down to it from the vestibule with dark parquet floors, high ceilings and a lovely, sheer silk flounce above the headboard.
A treat that evening was a complimentary dinner at the exclusive Santa Elisabetta restaurant with only seven tables reserved for the guests of the seven top suites of the hotel. The semi-round dining room was intimate and romantic, almost fully candle lit with the exception of a crystal chandelier hanging in the center of the room. Chef Giuseppe Bonadonna prepares a menu specializing in Florentine cuisine and the pasta Carbonara with fresh pasta, smoked pork meat cheese and aged Pecorino was one of the freshest versions I’ve ever eaten. Tiramisu came an elegant martini glass topped with a thick, gooey layer of chocolate. I couldn’t decide on a red wine so the waiter wisely proposed a glass of La Braccesca 2013 Montepulciano, which was full bodied and satisfying. Stuffed from my excellent dinner, I practically rolled back to my room and crashed on my cushy bed.
Breakfast was served in an elegant, formal dining room where I downed a few double espressos to energize me for the day. There was also a great selection of Italian cheeses and smoked meats on the buffet.
Even though I didn’t have time to workout, I was impressed with the size of the gym and the state of the art equipment, not the norm for a boutique hotel of this size.
The staff was so professional and helpful. The hotel is divided into three connected buildings and I got lost several times trying to find my room, but the genial staff came to my rescue and happily escorted me.
Piazza Sant'Elisabetta, 3, 50122 Florence
I mentioned Betty Soldi’s home boutique &CO (AND COMPANY) last week on my post about Florence and how she also is part owner of two hotels she co-designed. Betty was kind enough to invite to stay at AdAstra Hotel.
The hotel is about a seven-minute walk from Betty’s boutique in the Oltrano area, much like the Marais or Soho, south of the main tourist area of Florence. The taxi pulled up to a large, ancient building on a residential street with very few storefronts and the only way you could tell there was a hotel in the building was by the small plaque on the front. The design of the building was much like a 17th century hotel particulier in Paris, with mammoth wooden doors in front that open to a courtyard. After the hotel buzzed me in, I entered the courtyard and gasped at the huge, stunning formal garden in front of me, totally hidden from the outside. I later found out Florence is similar to Paris in that much of the city is hidden behind doors.
Giada at the front desk was warm and accommodating. She showed me the main salon, a combination of reading room (with stacks of design magazines and vintage design books), café, breakfast room and lounge. Self-serve coffee and tea plus snacks and cakes are available all day and you are allowed to use the refrigerator. The big surprise was the wrap around outdoor terrace overlooking the magnificent garden and even though it was cold outside, I spent sometime taking it in its quiet beauty.
I felt right at home in my spacious loft-like room with Italian mid-century décor, since that period is totally my aesthetic and my apartment is similarly decorated. The old-fashioned bathtub with feet in the room was a quirky addition but there was a large separate bathroom with two sinks and shower, plus Bigelow beauty products from my old neighborhood in New York upped the cool quotient. There were a number of Betty’s signature touches including he calligraphy around a mirror next to my bed and a cotton tote bag souvenir that came with my welcome kit.
AdAstra means “to the stars” owing its name to a former Neo Gothic tower and observatory from the 1800s built by The Marquis Torrigiani. The home is still owned and inhabited by descendants of the Torrigiani family, a noble family dating back to the 1400s.
The hotel has 9 rooms, each with a unique design. There’s also a sister hotel in the same area, Soprarno Suites.
I liked the whimsical, informal vibe of the hotel, much like a cool home away from home in Italy.
Via del Campuccio 53, 50125
Please note, I wrote the incorrect address for &CO (AND COMPANY) last week, it's via maggio 51r.
Eye Prefer Paris Photos
I am happy to announce a new series of Eye Prefer Paris photos for sale just in time for the holidays. Give the gift of Paris to for your Francophile friends, relatives, colleagues and co-workers.
- I’ve listed 20 new photos on my Etsy page for easy shopping.
- Photo prints come in two sizes, 8”X10”, $35 each plus shipping and 11”X14”, $50 each, plus shipping.
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- Shipping is $6 per photo in continental U.S. and shipping time is 3-5 days via USPS.
- I can also ship them UPS or Fedex for an extra charge.
- If you are ordering photos as a gift, I can write a personal note card if you send me your text.
Click here to see full selection of images.
Below are some sample images.
Eye Prefer Paris Postcards
I am thrilled to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Postcards, a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription service where the subscriber receives three physical postcards of my iconic Paris photos every month. Each month will have a specific theme, from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens to unique shots of iconic monuments. Each mailing will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, beautifully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder with a custom designed seal.
Each 6” X 4.25” traditional size postcard is printed on thick matte coated card stock, similar to traditional vintage postcard stock that enhances the vibrancy of every image.
Only $30 for a 3-month subscription plus shipping or
Only $60 for a 6 month subscription (plus shipping)or
$110 for a 12-month subscription (plus shipping)
Click here to order a 3-month subscription from my Etsy store
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Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour