The family-friendly, 19th-century Hotel Savoy in Florence is super-central, with the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi and the Duomo all within easy reach, with some rooms overlooking Brunelleschi's masterpiece. Elegantly styled by Olga Polizzi and Laudomia Pucci (daughter of legendary fashion designer Emilio), the interior pays tribute to Florence's fashion heritage and grand past with signature prints, shoe motifs and Renaissance antiques. Marble and mosaic bathrooms, luxurious beds and graceful service make the Savoy a very stylish stay.
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Welcome cocktails on arrival. Goldsmiths: welcome cocktails on arrival plus a room upgrade (subject to availability)
Double rooms from £561.05 (€626), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast; buffet or à la carte breakfasts are available at the hotel for €45.
At the hotel
Gym, spa suite, library, charged laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: Smart TV, minibar, air-conditioning, bathrobes, Irene Forte Skincare products. The Special and Forte Suites come with luxurious extras too, such as champagne and fruit on arrival, and an unpacking service.
Our favourite rooms
Junior Suites feel like chic Florentine crash-pads, with views over the historic centre, woodland-themed decor and huge Carrara marble bathrooms. Or for blow-the-budget decadence, the Suite Repubblica is the most prestigious accommodation, on the piano nobile, with balconies, antiques and contemporary art in its living room and a host of special extras: museum tickets, an unpacking service, champagne… Or, if you'd like to have a wing to yourself, the best Duomo vies, and a half-day in a Maserati (among other free experiences), book the Duomo Presidential Suite.
Marvel over impressive views of Florence from Hotel Savoy’s fifth-floor Spa Suite, where you can enjoy a menu of diverse massages using Italy’s finest natural products created in collaboration with Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. And there's a 24-hour fitness studio filled with Technogym equipment sits in the basement. If you want to pick up some knowledge while you pound the streets, the hotel has devised a Renaissance-themed running route too.
Shoes that feel good (museum-hopping) and look great – after all, there's a well-heeled legacy to consider here.
Four of the rooms are equipped for guests with mobility issues, including three premium rooms and one junior suite.
Small pets (under 10 kilogrammes) can stay in rooms if agreed with the hotel in advance. But you can't hang with your dog (or cat) in the hotel's public spaces. See more pet-friendly hotels in Florence.
All children under 14 get a welcome gift, and there are super special menus, kids' DVD, PlayStations for rent and baby amenities. Interconnecting rooms, extra beds (€95 plus VAT), and babysitting all available.
All children under 14 get a welcome gift, and there are super special menus, kids' DVD, PlayStations for rent and baby amenities. Interconnecting rooms, extra beds (€20–€95 plus VAT), and babysitting all available.
Babies and up – children of all ages welcomed.
There are two dedicated hideaways for families, a room and a suite, but most rooms fit an extra bed or baby cot and many interconnect. Rooms have mini-bars, handy for storing milk in, and the concierge can help with baby kit and more.
Children aged 12 or older can use the gym. Otherwise, educational sightseeing of Florence's fabulous art treasures and historical monuments is right on your doorstep. Head to Piazza della Signoria to check out Michelangelo's David; if your children aren't impressed, distract them with delicious ices at a nearby gelateria. Alternatively, pack snacks and head to the Boboli gardens, which has large, impressive fountains to look at, pebbled paths flanked by neoclassical statuary to run along, and pretty gardens to play in. The hotel can arrange art treasure hunts, chocolate-making and baking workshops, bike and boat tours, educational adventures at Museo Galileo and beyond, and a deep dive into the curios of the Stibbert Museum.
Hotel Savoy can provide child-friendly packed lunches, and warm up milk or baby food.
Babysitters, €30 an hour until 11:00pm; €50 an hour thereafter.
No need to pack
Complimentary children's toiletries, pint-sized robes and slippers are all provided in-room. High chairs, changing mats, games, bibs, bottle warmers and cots are also available.
There's a good range of kids' DVDs, plus there are PlayStation 2 consoles and games available for hire. Young children are given a Savoy teddy bear, milk and biscuits, and those aged eight to 12 are treated to chocolates and a cartoon guide to Florence.
On the piazza terrace in summer, at the window overlooking the square in winter.
It's easy to look like a tourist – more fun to try and blend in with the chic residents.
At restaurant Irene, chef Fulvio Pierangelini gives rustic Tuscan cuisine its due, refining recipes for a modern Florentine crowd. Dishes are simple yet composed of high-quality ingredients from land and sea, changing with the season – say red-prawn tartare with ricotta and artichokes, heart of lettuce with peach and a pecorino sauce, bean soup with sage ravioli and caramelised celery, and chicken breast with lemon, snow peas and candied tomato. Lunches are light and elegant with a dedicated bruschettoni menu; and breakfasts include some Tuscan classics amid ample sweet and savoury treats: omelettes with zucchini, ricotta and mint; Tuscan sausage with country bread; cream doughnuts. The dining room is as fashion-forward as the rest of the hotel, hung with artwork and softly lit, but you might want to spill out onto the covered terrace, which is just steps from the Duomo.
With butter-soft-leather stools and a mirror-backed bar, Irene's bar space brims with vintage glamour. Champagne fizzes in Fifties-style coupes; aperitivo hours sparkle with Aperol spritzes, camparis and bellinis; and there's an all-martini menu (we like the lychee-infused take). Signature cocktails include the Gin Blossom (orange bitters, Lillet Blanc, apricot Eau-De-Vie gin), and the My Orleans (Lillet Blanc, courvoisier, honey syrup, lime and egg white); and for abstainers, the hotel has mocktails and gourmet teas. The barkeeps and sommeliers also hold wine-tasting and cocktail-making sessions.
Breakfast, 7am to 11am; lunch, 12.30pm to 3pm; and dinner, 7.30pm to 11pm. The bar runs till 1am.
You could practically hug the Duomo from the Hotel Savoy's position on the Piazza della Repubblica, right at the heart of the Renaissance city.
Fly to Florence Airport (otherwise known as Amerigo Vespucci or Peretola Airport), which is about 20 minutes from the Hotel Savoy by car. The hotel can arrange transfers in a swanky Mercedes E-Class for €120 for up to three guests (or €140 for up to eight in a V-Class). Or you can pick up a taxi from the airport, or make use of the half-hourly bus from the airport to the central Santa Maria Novella train station. You can also fly to Pisa (Galileo Galilei) airport, which is served by a greater number of airlines from the UK. You can get to the centre of Florence in about 45 minutes on the direct train from the airport.
Florence’s main train station, the Santa Maria Novella (behind the piazza of the same name) is conveniently only a few minutes’ walk from the Hotel Savoy. You can nip to Rome and back in a day (it takes less than two hours to get there on the high-speed train), and plenty of other connections are available within Italy and across Europe (Naples, Pisa, Rome and Siena, for example, as well as Nice and Vienna). If the journey's taken it out of you, transfers are €80 one-way in a Mercedes E-Class.
The hotel is ideally placed to explore the centre of Florence by foot, and driving in the busy city centre can be difficult, if not impossible on some narrow Medieval lanes; instead, hail a taxi, or hop on one of the many orange buses that service the city centre (buy your tickets in advance from designated vending machines and tobacco shops). Driving through the restricted central zone (ZTL) can result in hefty fines. If you must book a hire car, it's essential to send the vehicle details to the hotel (and give reception an estimated arrival time) so they can arrange a temporary permit for you. However, four wheels will be essential if you plan to visit the the surrounding Tuscan countryside. You can hire a car at the hotel or the airport, and private parking is available at a nearby car park (five minutes' walk away) for €50 a day, although you will need to reserve a parking space in advance.
Worth getting out of bed for
You're in Florence, so there's plenty to leave that cosy bed for. After all, it's not like you have to go far to see the city's greatest hits – the Duomo is right there, the Ponte Vecchio just a few steps away, the Uffizzi a mere trot from the doorstep. Admire the Baptistry's gilded doors and mosaic ceiling, the statuary in the Piazza della Signoria, the Santa Maria Novella Church's colourful Gothic façade and Michelangelo's David in all his glory in the Galleria dell'Accademia. Glide down the Arno in a barchetto (a sort of Florentine gondola), or tour museums dedicated to classical icons like Dante, Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci (the latter showcasing his incredible machines), and the city's inimitable style at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and Gucci Garden, where there's also a store selling one-of-a-kind pieces. You can pay your respects to poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning at Casa Guidi too, which is now a museum dedicated to the writer – she's buried in the city's English Cemetery. And, with the monuments of centuries ago still standing proud, the city feels like a living Renaissance artwork – certainly you'll find yourself face to face with paintings and sculptures by the greats throughout, at the Pitti Palace, Bargello National Museum, Opera del Duomo, Palatine Gallery… But, Florence has a vibrant modern art scene too, the fruits of which can be seen in Palazzo Strozzi. The Boboli Gardens might be the more famous of Florence's green spaces (while you're there explore the statue-clad Buontalenti Grotta), but the elevated Bardini Gardens have a more spectacular city panorama. And, the Medicis may have been infamous in Florentine history, but their legacy is lavish indeed – see their ostentatious tombs in the Medici Chapel and their hidden artworks in the Magi Chapel. Then allow yourself some time to wander the cobbled streets and view-blessed bridges, turning into the Oltrarno district to buy leather sandals and gloves, hip homewares and antiques.
The hotel can also arrange vintage-car hire through SlowDrive, or a Tuscan road trip in a Ferrari, outings to Castello Sonnino overlooking the Chianti hills, private tours of the Santa Maria Novella gardens, a tour themed around The English Patient, and romantic dinners by Maiano's Tower. And you can go truffle-hunting (in season), cellar hop around Tuscan vineyards, take a masterclass in fresco-making, or go painting with a local artist.
Enoteca Pinchiorri has three Michelin stars to its name and a creative menu of traditional Tuscan dishes. The wine list is as outstanding as the food, and the courtyard setting is perfection. Elegant dress and a reservation are essential. Fuor d'Acqua is a great seafood restaurant, with deliciously fresh dishes including black squid ink pasta with calamari. La Giostra is owned by Prince Dimitri Kunz d'Asburgo Lorena who ensures a lively and convivial atmosphere. The very good wines are complemented by rich and expertly prepared dishes such as spianata (thin slices of beef served with fresh rosemary and sage), ravioli with goat ricotta and spinach, and carbonara di tartufo, a spaghetti with eggs and white truffles. An art gallery and bookshop for 10 years, where Italian lit greats stopped by and the likes of Giorgio di Chirico displayed their work, Regina Bistecca is now a beautiful beamed steakhouse. Bistecche alla Fiorentina might be omnipresent as the city's signature dish, but the dedication of the kitchen and the care in preparation here makes it feel like the realest of real deals. For romantic views of the Ponte Vecchio, book a window seat at Borgo San Jacopo. But, it's not just the Arno-side setting that wows here – the menu takes some big swings, offering pumpkin millefeuille layered with tuna belly hazelnuts and coffee, drizzled with an orange sauce; tagliatelle tossed with sea urchin, bottarga, chervil and fennel frisella; pigeon breast with chestnuts, grapes and onions.
Set close to the hotel, on the Piazza della Repubblica, Café Gilli has heaps of old-school charm, with art nouveau interiors; be sure to get a prime people-watching spot on the terrace.
I fratellini on Via dei Cimatori off the shopping street of Via dei Calzaiuoli, is a tiny antico vinaio, or traditional wine bar, dating back to 1875. And, for drinks with a more modern feel, try Vineria Sonora – a low-key hangout with vinyl on display and artistically labelled bottles.
Nearly 20 years ago, I danced alongside Princess Margaret to ‘Le Freak’ at the Savoy Hotel in London. Sadly, we weren’t about to bump into HRH at the Hotel Savoy in Florence, but I’m pretty sure she would have approved of this Italian hotel’s perfect manners and 'stand straight at Tiffany' elegant chic.
Hotel Savoy is a regal presence on Piazza della Repubblica, right in the historic centre of Florence. The magnificent 15th-century terracotta-roofed, intricately patterned Duomo is around the corner, as is a dazzling array of the major fashion houses, treasure-filled museums and world-famous galleries. The fleet of limousines at the pavement’s edge and the top-hatted doorman tell you all you need to know. This is, without doubt, the real thing.
Of course, that often has its downside. The ‘real thing’ can be aloof, superior and sometimes downright snobbish. But not at this boutique hotel. The smiles were genuine and the welcome warm and friendly. The doorman positively beamed his ‘Buongiorno Signore’ as, with a slight bow, he swung open the enormous front door.
We were checked in with crisp, Swiss efficiency and then the charming receptionist insisted on showing us to our room personally. It was obvious that she loved working there and that she wanted us to love it too – just the ticket at a Smith hotel. First impressions? Gosford Park with high heels and an engaging heart.
On the way, we were given a tour of us public areas, decorated in a gorgeous array of off-white and beige that would give the Farrow & Ball colour chart a run for its money. Sleek contemporary furniture and thoughtful modern art complete the sophisticated, grown-up interior, and completed the ideal city-break setting for this pair escaping gorgeous, but predictable, rural Tuscany.
There’s no point being in this former ‘Kingdom of Italy’ without being able to ogle its architectural splendours and we were happy to discover that our stylish bedroom overlooked the piazza itself. Again, this hip hotel proved itself to be beautifully designed with modern, mahogany furniture, discreet lighting and swathes of neutral fabrics and linens, with splashes of mint green upholstery. In recognition of the fashionista spirit of Florence, the hotel’s artworks are themed around shoes and hats. Ours had images of high heels fashioned from chicken wire, as well as a white plaster sculpture of a trilby in the style of über-milliner and fellow Smith reviewer, Philip Treacey.
We’d planned a rather special dinner this evening at the hotel’s L’Incontro Bar and Restaurant – so we agreed that a pre-prandial pampering was essential. I spent the first hour in the overwhelmingly marble bathroom in a bath of the same glorious 'dribbled' olive oil and honey coloured stone. Extra eye candy came in the form of a large Etruscan-style mosaic and a fine collection of Rocco Forte toiletries, as well as a separate marble shower for my other half. Two ablutions for the time of one and no hanging about forming creases on the bed linen.
The bar at L’Incontro spills out onto the Piazza. Its decor is a delicious confection of chocolate brown leather and crisp mint green. Unlike most Italian restaurants, where the lighting is so bright that ladies are advised to put their make-up on in the full glare of the headlights of the Range Rover, L’Incontro also has superbly discreet lighting. If only everywhere was so thoughtful; imagine the savings on the botox.
The menu meanwhile, is traditional Florentine with a modern flourish and a few contemporary surprises. (In case you’re wondering, I jumped at the chance to devour a green apple and green curry risotto with shrimp. This was followed by a Bistecca di Maiale, which was the most succulent, juicy piece of pork that I’ve ever eaten. My other half plumped for Tagliatelle with tiny meatballs and fungi porcini, followed by Coniglio – roast leg of rabbit – both delicious.) The flavours were fantastic and the service even better. OK, it was a Tuesday in autumn and the restaurant was by no means packed, but we had three waiters dancing attendance on us. All very young, very enthusiastic and very professional. Candles were relit as if by magic, the wine and water poured consistently, and plates cleared within seconds of the last mouthful.
The next morning I woke at dawn and opened the window so that we could hear the bells of the Duomo calling people to first Mass. They started slowly and quietly, building to a breathtaking crescendo that shook the earth. It was as if we were in the campanile next to the bells themselves. Trust me, whatever the weather, the earth will move. The surprise certainly got us out of bed and into our schedule for the day – shopping.
After a morning of browsing the boutiques along Via Tornabuoni, with Gucci, Prada and Hermes fighting for attention along the way, we snuck off to our favourite hole in the wall for lunch. And when I say ‘hole in the wall’, that’s exactly what I mean. I fratellini at Via dei Cimatori 38, off the shopping street of Via dei Calzaiuoli, is an antico vinaio, or traditional wine bar, dating from 1875.
The two brothers stand squeezed together in the tiny space behind their counter. Centimetres behind them is an amazing array of Tuscan wine and to their right piles of homemade bread rolls filled with wonderful local meats. You stand on the pavement, dazzling Chianti in one hand and mouth-watering snack in the other. We loved it. And judging by the Prada and Cavalli-drenched clientele, designer shopping bag buttresses at their feet, so do the locals.
You may know what’s coming, but believe me when I say it. Hotel Savoy really is fit for a princess. It’s the essential, ideal place for a grown-up getaway for anyone who wants an escape packed with first-class shopping and unrivalled culture. Or if that sounds too demanding, just relax in the cool, contemporary surroundings and take advantage of that, so rarely found, yet 'old-fashioned' service. Even if Buckingham Palace were a boutique hotel I’d still find it hard to imagine it could rival this Fiorentino retreat.