Florence, the jewel of renaissance Italy, remains a city of timeless beauty. High-fashion boutiques sit side by side with centuries-old palazzi on the medieval streets, while a picture-perfect skyline includes such iconic treasures as Giotto's Campanile, Bruneschelli's Dome and the Basilica di Santa Croce.
Florence was once the inspirational home of some of history's most prominent artists; Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli and Donatello all left their mark on the city, and their works still hang in renowned galleries such as the Uffizi, the Pitti and the Accademia.
The result of this illustrious history is an almost-tangible air of creativity through which modern-day Florentines move with effortless style.
Tuscan cuisine is another of Florence's great assets; simply prepared ingredients yield exquisite flavours, washed down with a glass or two of the region's excellent Chiantis.
A city which never fails to impress, Florence makes an excellent base for exploring the region of Tuscany. Take a day trip to Siena, Pisa or Lucca, or simply lose yourself in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
Florence Bed and Breakfasts
Located on the outskirts of Florence, surrounded by parkland and beautiful Tuscan scenery, is Ape Rosa Relais. Recent restorations to this elegant Florentine villa have completely modernized all the facilities, while still maintaining both the structure and the personality of the original 18th-century building, which was once home to Leopoldo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, as well as Napoleon's brother.
The light and airy guestrooms have been tastefully furnished with family heirlooms and antiques. Facilities include air conditioning, LCD TVs and well-appointed bathrooms decorated with colourful, hand-painted tiles. Despite its green surroundings, the property is within easy reach of the city centre as well as being close to Firenze Peretola Airport.
A traditional Florentine palazzo set on one of Florence's most ancient streets is home to B&B La Signoria di Firenze. The 5 rooms in this recently restored property boast modern facilities such as en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning and WiFi, while still retaining original elements such as beautifully decorated beamed ceilings, luxurious fabrics and Tuscan oak floors. Each room is named for an influential renaissance artist whose work can be found in museums and galleries close by.
This Florence B&B enjoys an ideal location between the Mercato del Porcellino and the magnificent Piazza della Signoria, within a 10-minute walk of all of Florence's major points of interest.
Presenting a fresh approach to classic Italian style, Soggiorno Rondinelli is set in an 18th-century palazzo in a prestigious area in the centre of Florence, just a few minutes away from Maria Novella Station and the impressive Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence's cathedral.
The 4 spacious guestrooms, each themed after a different element of nature, are simply but elegantly decorated in soothing neutral tones with antique furniture and modern bathrooms. The property also boasts a charming roof terrace, a peaceful haven hidden away above the hustle and bustle of Florence's busy streets, where guests can relax in the sunshine and enjoy the soft scent of Jasmine floating on the breeze.
Set on a hill overlooking Florence, amid a beautiful garden of ancient cypresses and olive trees, is luxury farmhouse B&B The Five Star Villa. With terracotta tiled floors, a graceful stone staircase and antique furniture, this 19th-century villa and its lavishly decorated rooms and suites are brimming with Italianate charm.
Despite its proximity to the heart of Florence (the famous Ponte Vecchio is just 3km away), the only sounds to disturb the peace are the distinctive chirping of the crickets and cicadas. A free shuttle service is available to bring guests quickly to the city centre, but many prefer to reach it at a slower pace, enjoying a scenic stroll through the vineyards and rolling hills of Tuscany.
Designed to offer a truly exclusive accommodation experience, Casa Howard Guest House is set in an intimate and elegant mansion at the heart of Florence, just metres from the church of Santa Maria Novella.
Each room in this boutique guesthouse has been individually designed and reflects the artistic personality of the creator as well as the city of Florence itself. Themes include the Oriental Room, the Drawing Room and the Fireplace Room and each room boasts its own unique features; the Garden Room even has its own Turkish bath. All of the rooms retain the beautiful original floors and ceilings of the historic building while being equipped with modern facilities such as satellite TV, air conditioning and WiFi.
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By Eleanor Brown