50123 Travel Guide
For The Sake Of Hotel Art / Florence Hotels / Hotel Art / Italy Hotels / Hotel Photography / Marilyn Monroe / Museum Hotels / → All Tags
OK, interactive holograms of deceased celebrities haven't quite made it into the repertoire of common hotel amenities. But how does this sound instead: a hotel lobby filled with original black-and-white pictures spanning the entire career of Hollywood's most photographed star?
That's what Florence's Gallery Hotel Art has planned for the rest of the summer, and they're throwing in a few extras to celebrate the exhibit, on display now. Like breakfast, a three-course dinner, room upgrade, and free entry to the Ferragamo museum.
Giving credence to the oft-quoted Marilyn Monroe maxim: "There's so much to smile about."
Italy Hotels / Hotel Openings / Florence Hotels / St. Regis Hotels / Historic Hotels / Starwood Hotels / → All Tags
Maybe instead you could make a beeline for Florence, and scope out the new St. Regis Florence, which opened last Thursday. Starwood, parent company of the international luxury brand, is currently pumping $100 million into its most prized properties in Europe, Africa and the Middle East—and this historic 1432 Florence landmark building—which was previously known as the Grand Hotel Florence—seems to have been high on the list.
The Westin Excelsior, Florence used to attract a who's-who of the film industry to its Roof Garden, the top-floor terrace, with such VIPs like Franco Zeffirelli, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Orson Welles, Leonard Bernstein, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. But it's been a while since some of those folks have stopped by. (Yes, we know a few of them are no longer alive.)
But the hotel is now looking to reclaim its glamorous glory by reopening the rooftop terrace with the (awkward) new moniker SE.STO on Arno in late September.
After a $4 million renovation, the rooftop is reopening as a bar, restaurant and lounge. A curved, upholstered wall marks the entrance to the bar and the restaurant, and a glass-enclosed wine cellar separates the two areas. Outside there are two large terraces; the one adjacent to the restaurant is bordered by a shallow infinity pool that gives the illusion that the water is emptying into the Arno River. The rooftop is supposedly the only in Florence with 360-degree views of the city.
Indeed, the killer view is the major selling point, as the oversized windows overlook the city, the Arno and the surrounding hills.
The Town House brand is a totally swanky range of apartment-style accommodations that is spreading across Italy. They started out in Milan and Turin and are now just opening the Town House Palazzo Vecchietti in central Florence, and this latest one certainly sounds like it's living up to the quality of the others.
The Palazzo Vecchietti is actually twelve separate apartments built into a fifteenth-century palace in a no-expense-spared kind of way. Each apartment is named after an Italian "great", with the largest one being the Leonardo da Vinci. They've got their own kitchenettes and there are mod cons including WiFi, and every room is kitted out to fit the part of belonging to a palce.
This Florence version of the Town House is actually a franchise of the original Milan brand, with three families joining forces to get the palace up to standard, and that suggests we might start to see more of this luxury-style accommodation across Italy.
Well, we might see it, but can we afford to see inside it? The funny this is that the prices at the Milan Town Houses are not too bad (promotion rates range from €120 - €200, or $160 - $270) so even though we can't book the Florence version yet, we're optimistic that it might be vaguely affordable. We'll wait and see.
It's not just celebrity chefs that are getting in on the hotel scene. Fashion designers, too and they've been doing it a lot longer than the chefs.
Like in the fashion capital of Italy, Florence. The Gallery Hotel Art, one of Florence's first real design boutique hotels, is owned by the son of the Italian fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo. If you like the hotel and have a lot of money, you can buy the clothes to match, in the Salvatore Ferragamo shop on via Tornabuoni (aka shopping street).
Eurailers heading to Florence will soon become familiar with the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. If you head out the right side of the station, take one left turn at the traffic lights and walk a couple of minutes you'll find the Hotel Aprile - Palazzo Del Borgo. It's a four-star boutique hotel run by a quirky Italian proprietor who grew up in the hotel and loves Florence so much he's even written a book about it.
Rates at the Hotel Aprile aren't too exorbitant despite the weak US$; in low season, a double costs 120 ($170) per room but if you're Eurailing with a group you'll get better deals for triple or quadruple rooms: a room sleeping four starts at 155 ($220) in low season, rising to 310 ($440) in peak season.
Features included at the Hotel Aprile are free Wifi (yay!), a courtyard garden and an American bar, plus you can vacation with your pet at no additional charge (getting your pet a Eurail pass might prove trickier though). As well as being close to the train station, the hotel is also within Florence's historic center so most of your sightseeing will be on foot.
· Hotels in Florence [HotelChatter]
· Florence Travel Stories [Jaunted]
Plenty of hotels slip the word "grand" into their name, but just a few really look like they deserve the title. The Grand Hotel Florence, built in a former palace and with great attention to detail, is one that does seem to fit the bill. Nearly every guest review makes the point that it's elegant and comfortable and has superb customer service: sounds like grand to us. The hotel itself describes:
Antique décor pays homage to the apex of Florentine history. The Grand Hotel Florence's rooms reflect the intricate details of Florentine culture with spectacular frescoes, marble inlays and other decorative touches.
Frescoes get us every time. If you're traveling this summer, be aware that the Grand Hotel Florence is scheduled to be closed for renovations from 3 August until 20 August 2007.
· Florence Hotels [[HotelChatter]
· Florence travel stories [Jaunted]