At various times in our relationship, Mrs Smith and I have argued whether size matters. With a few notable exceptions (such as wine glasses, for example, where we both opt for ample) we rarely agree. While I still have faith in small packages, Mrs Smith opines that big is best. But she is Australian and I am English. On the comfortable and efficient train from Orvieto to Florence, we are discussing the accommodation awaiting us at Floroom. While Mrs Smith is comfortable with the concept of ‘boutique’, I have ill-advisedly thrown the term ‘bijou’ into the mix, with its doll’s house connotations. Mrs Smith points out that as a rule of thumb, one’s hotel room should not be smaller than one’s suitcase.
But if we cannot agree on dimensions, then Mrs Smith and I speak as one when it comes to location. We are a couple that likes to be just a stroll from history, tradition and wherever possible, shoes. With the Uffizi, Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and Pitti Palace all within easy striking distance (not to mention Ferragamo, Burberry and Bottega Veneta), Floroom 1 on Viale del Pavone ticks every box.
Abandoned by our taxi driver, we establish immediately that Floroom 1 is not luggage friendly (there’s no lift), at least not the generous baggage with which we Smiths have travelled from Australia. But thankfully, Joel (Mrs Smith delights in the fact that his name recalls her favourite Grace Jones track – remember ‘Joel et sa valise?’) is on hand to help us with our bags to the second floor of this old Florentine house, converted creatively to a streetwise bed-and-breakfast by owners Giacomo and Francesca.
‘It’s really just a cube’ explains Giacomo, former attic apartments reconfigured as four design-savvy suites, with a communal, upper-level kitchen, dining and lounge area. There’s even a kooky, connecting glass skylight which provides upstairs with a birds’ eye view of reception and downstairs with a celestial view of the kitchen.
I agree with Mrs Smith that ours is not a room to linger in, but it’s clever and compact. If Apple launched an iRoom it would look like this. A white pod (pallid walls, towels, bedding and candles) with a bathroom I’d like to package up and send home. Nobody does bathrooms like the Italians, even in miniature. (Design lovers, note: the Zucchetti taps alone are worth the trip). And guess what? There’s no room key, just a security code and a keypad. One code fits all – from the street entrance to your room.
Giacomo and Francesca arrive early the following morning to prepare breakfast. Mrs Smith and I flick through design magazines while they make toast and coffee and suggest an itinerary for our day. We feel like guests in the apartment of a cool, handsome young Florentine couple, which is not far from the truth. It’s an Elle Decor moment.
Later in the day we transfer to Floroom 2, just across the Arno on Via del Sole, and even closer to the shoes on Via Tornabuoni. Confusingly, we are greeted by another Joel (same name, different man) who provides Mrs Smith with another opportunity to break out Grace’s accordion. As this new Joel struggles up the stairs with our leaden luggage, I wonder if Joels 1 and 2 are simply another design feature. This is Italy, after all.
The cognoscenti have known for some time that grey is the new white, which makes Floroom 2 state of the art. Add the antique poltrone, the oversized lamp and chandelier, a magnificent parquet floor (Mrs Smith says herringbone, I say chevrons) and – fantastico – a Nespresso machine, and we are a few short rungs from design nirvana.
The quieter location of Floroom 1 is preferred by Mrs Smith, but for me Floroom 2 is la dolce vita. Overlooking the street (and molto Vespas), our new room has the same distinctive artwork as before – vintage views of Florence, contemporised by clever division into enlarged, multi-images. In this room it’s an atmospheric Santa Maria Novella. And while our previous room was alarmingly white, this one is pale dove grey – calm and beyond chic.
A galley bathroom lines one wall, with separate curtained cubicles for shower, toilet and basin. Ingenious, but as Mrs Smith points out, she will be sleeping with her head perilously close to the toilet. I suggest swapping sides but she won’t hear of it. The smell of burning martyr mixes with the delicious Dr Vranjes fragrance sticks.
Mrs Smith and I love Florence and its culture, but we are not guide-clutching zealots. We agree – unusually – that on this visit we will not be joining the September throng and millipede queues around the galleries, monuments and churches. We feel strangely liberated knowing that although we may leave without seeing a single Titian or Uccello, we will instead stroll at dusk in Boboli Gardens, see shoes created for Monroe and Bergman at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and be captivated by the Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia. And we will dine like locals on the legendary butter chicken at Trattoria Sostanza on Via della Porcellana, just moments from Floroom 2. And to be very honest, after a final nightcap on Via della Spada, neither Mrs Smith nor I will much care who is sleeping nearest to the loo.