A top-floor-dwelling Marchese will be your neighbour at AdAstra, an 18th-century palazzo in Florence’s authentic Oltrarno district. His former family home has all the expected grandeur: chandeliers dangling from frescoed ceilings, glossy wooden floors and freestanding claw-foot bath tubs in every bedroom. Overlooking one of the biggest private gardens in Europe, the building adds to its heritage charms Italian design flourishes from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, and each room has its own quirks (framed scarves on the walls, faded football photographs, Lego constructions).
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Torrigiani wine and a Betty Soldi-designed tote bag
10.30am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm, also flexible if your room’s ready.
Double rooms from £122.40 (€139), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.80 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include a lavish Continental breakfast.
Though the hotel is set within the expansive Torrigiani Gardens, the 17 acres of this landscaped city-centre oasis are privately owned and therefore inaccessible to guests – but you can admire it all from the terrace. The families still live on the grounds and do occasionally offer guided tours.
At the hotel
Concierge, free WiFi throughout, lounge, terrace, parking, air-conditioning. In rooms: espresso machine, DVD player, HD TV and CO Bigelow bath products.
Our favourite rooms
For easy access to the wraparound terrace, choose one of the three rooms that open out onto it – we especially love the view from Room 3. If it’s a cosy hideaway you’re after, choose either of the two suites 100 metres away in the garden cottage, each with its own terrace.
Pucci prints to match the framed scarves on some of the walls and bold colours to complement the eyecatching artworks.
Due to its 18th-century constraints, the hotel is not especially suitable for wheelchair access, but there is a lift and it is all spread across one floor.
Young Smiths are welcome, but the garden, which is private, is off limits for playtime.
Breakfast out on the terrace if it’s sunny; if it’s not, nab a table by the window so you can glimpse the garden anyway.
Something bloomin’ lovely to match the glorious gardens.
There’s no restaurant, just a salon, with inviting sofas, a chandelier and a fresco-covered ceiling, and a terrace where breakfast is served – expect an array of cornetti, cookies and cakes, as well as cheese, meats, eggs and juices.
There’s an honesty bar in the palazzo’s salon, offering a selection of wines and spirits, which you can take out onto the terrace.
The hotel is on the south side of the river Arno in Florence, amid the bohemian bars and boutiques of the Oltrarno neighbourhood and a 15-minute walk from the city centre.
Florence’s airport is well served by flights from the UK, but near-enough options include Pisa and Bologna. The Smith24 Team can book flights on request; call anytime on 03334 143 546. The city’s Peretola Airport is 12 kilometres from AdAstra; private transfers can be arranged via the hotel and should take around half an hour. A driver can also fetch you from Pisa, but the journey time’s a little longer (one hour).
The nearest train station is Santa Maria Novella, a two-kilometre drive from the hotel. Trenitalia trains run from here to other cities across Italy, including Venice, Rome and Milan (www.trenitalia.com).
The hotel has limited parking (three spaces) allocated on a first-come, first-served basis and costing €15 a night. SatNavs should be inputted with ‘Piazza Torquato Tasso’; from this square, you’ll be able to access the part of Via del Campuccio where the hotel is located. You might notice a red restricted-traffic light, but the hotel will register your car on arrival and you’ll officially be permit-holding locals for your stay.
Worth getting out of bed for
Florence’s magnificent marble centrepiece, the Duomo, is within 15 minutes on foot and is not to be missed, if only to attempt to grasp how such a building could have been constructed in the Dark Ages. For the city’s finest silks and fabrics, make a trip across the river to Antico Setificio Fiorentino; or have a bespoke scent created in your honour at AquaFlor. A skip over the Ponte Vecchio is a must – stop on the other side to marvel at Palazzo Pitti's grandeur. If you're in the mood for more gilding and old-school bombast, the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Vecchio will provide the pomp.
Just outside of the Torrigiani Gardens on Viale Vasco Pratolini, you’ll find the typically Tuscan Alla Vecchia Bettola, where everything, including the wines, comes from the local area. It does a fine line in bistecca, but if you want to try it, be sure to book ahead. On Piazza Torquato Tasso, Culinaria Bistrot by De Gustibus, a network of family-run farms in Tuscany, is where to go to try some of the region’s finest produce – almost everything is locally grown. And if it’s a really special occasion, splash out at Enoteca Pinchiorri, a wine bar turned exquisite much-applauded restaurant near the Santa Croce church.
Enjoy excellent local wines and a view out to the Pitti Palace at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, where tastings can be supplemented with fresh pasta, charcuterie and cheese.
I’d never dreamed of being the lady of my own Italian country house before. One stay at AdAstra Florence later, and I’m rethinking my life goals.
Located on a quiet street in Oltrarno, its secretive doors hide the largest private garden in Europe and an ancestral family mansion that will make you feel like you’ve just discovered Florence’s best kept secret.
After days of emailing the team with various, potentially annoying questions, Mr Smith smiled knowingly when, upon arrival, I pressed the hotel’s intercom to hear a voice say ‘Oh yes, Nicola!’
‘Someone knows who you are!’ he teased. Personally I put it down to my thorough holiday planning and their attentive service. And it appeared I was right – the door clicked open and there was the lovely Giada, insisting that she would carry our bags for us, almost embarrassingly taking my boyfriend’s with more ease than I’d seen him do all holiday. Now it was my turn to smile.
To say our room was decorated with a personal touch would be an understatement. The walls were packed with paintings, prints, photographs, books, postcards, and even a framed ticket from a visit to the Uffizi Gallery as a memento. It was like visiting your most stylish friend and thinking you must redecorate when you get home.
But there was more to come – the centrepiece of every Deluxe room (bigger than my actual apartment, by the way) is a roll-top bath in the corner of the bedroom. Yep that’s right, bedroom, not bathroom. For those who don’t want to bathe naked in front of their travel partner however, fret not, there is also an equally large shower behind the privacy of a closed bathroom door. But after cracking open AdAstra’s very thoughtful and very free bottle of wine you might feel like cracking open the bubble bath too.
We decided we needed tea to revive us. In keeping with their make-yourself-at-home vibe the hotel’s living room is open day and night, with the staff leaving out tarts, pastries, tea, and coffee after breakfast has ended for guests to help themselves. Decorated with a fireplace, plush sofas, and board games scattered around, it feels like you are at home but, unless you happen to own a chandelier, a much more glamorous version of it.
For those who need something stronger you can also help yourself to the liquor selection, just don’t forget to feed the piggy bank with a few coins if you fancy a tipple…
We’d thought that bath was impressive but it turned out the main star of the show is the hotel’s terrace, which looks out onto the private garden and what we later dubbed ‘the Rapunzel tower’.
While we were basking in the glow of golden hour, Giada’s colleague Diana popped by to see us. ‘I’m leaving now, but call one of us if you need anything’ she announced like a friendly flat mate heading out.
When we woke up the next day in our super king bed (it was so big Mr Smith actually complained he was too far away from me although personally I was enjoying the space to sprawl) I flung open the window shutters onto our street for a view of local life.
‘It’s like this is our apartment!’ I shrieked back to him, feeling like a fully-fledged Florentine. Of course, this also meant I was justified in eating chunky chocolate biscotti for breakfast…
As the day before, Giada had appeared to be our girl-about-town, scribbling down the names of bars, restaurants, and sights all over our city map. We decided to take her local advice for the day’s itinerary. We hadn’t been inside the Duomo yet but when she told us that, in her opinion, the Basilica di Santa Croce was the most beautiful church in Florence we made this the priority of the day. Any recommendations that took us away from the selfie sticks in the main square were also welcome – luckily Giada had plenty.
We also took Giada’s advice for our last supper in Florence, heading to the nearby family-run restaurant 5 e Cinque that evening. We didn’t make a reservation and arrived quite late (it was that bath again) but luckily they had no problem fitting us in at a quaint little table overlooking the square. Giada was right about the food, all home-cooked, all delicious, and surprisingly, all vegetarian, although this does seem to work far better when vegetarian means fresh pasta and plenty of cheese.
The next day not only meant leaving AdAstra but also the end of our summer holiday. I felt sad to leave and return to my own bath-less apartment, but I consoled myself by leaving with many happy holiday memories and a headful of interior design inspiration. Oh and a pack of the chocolate biscotti for the next morning’s breakfast, of course…