Boutique B&B Soprarno Suites is part Renaissance restoration, part hipster hideaway. Housed among the palazzos of the characterful Oltrarno neighbourhood, this Florence stay bears the hallmarks of its glamorous past, though its high ceilings, detailed frescoes and exposed timber beams have been brought up to date with a dose of contemporary quirk. Each of the 13 rooms has its own individual flavour, peppered with vintage finds, roll-top baths and a scattering of original artwork. Enormous beds, fresh pastries and the Pitti Palace just down the road: here’s the perfect recipe for a Tuscan getaway.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Torrigiani wine and a Betty Soldi-designed tote bag
10.30am. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability, but let the hotel know if you plan to arrive after reception closes after 4pm.
Double rooms from £122.07 (€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 include a Continental breakfast of pastries, fresh fruit and juices, cereal, cheese, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs, yoghurt and jams.
Owner Betty is responsible for some of the handmade objets d’art in the suites – have a browse of her wares in the shop downstairs for a Florentine memento to take home.
At the hotel
Lounge, library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player on request, minibar, espresso machine, kettle, CO Bigelow New York toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Kitted out with retro furniture, super king-size beds and original artwork (one of the Superior rooms is dressed with delicately detailed paperwork), each of the 13 rooms has its own quirky, mix-and-match personality. These are boltholes for Renaissance floozies: look out for apothecary storage, roll-top baths and subway-tiled showers. All are delightful; the Deluxe rooms are just a bit bigger. With its high ceilings, Persian-inspired rugs and detailed overhead fresco, the blue Deluxe room took a special place in our heart.
Leave any skyscraping Ferragamos at home – Florence is best explored in flat shoes.
Rooms are accessed by a short climb up a flight or two of stairs.
Leave the little ones at home: Soprarno Suites is more of a grown-up retreat.
Soprarno Suites is right at the heart of Oltrarno, a vibrant neighbourhood popular with locals just a 10-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio.
A 40-minute drive away, Florence Peretola Airport has links to many European destinations. Hop in a taxi (about €20) or ask the hotel to arrange a private car transfer (from €50, or call the Smith24 Team on 03333 319 601 to arrange transportation). From the UK, flying into Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport will give you more choice; there’s a direct train to Florence for €5 one way, which takes about 45 minutes.
A 15-minute walk away, Santa Maria Novella station can be found just behind the piazza of the same name. Trains go from here to Milan, Naples, Pisa, Rome and Siena, as well as Nice and Vienna. You can get to Rome in under two hours by high-speed train, and to Milan in about three.
Florence’s winding streets and restricted central zone (ZTL) mean a car is best avoided. If you’re bringing your own wheels, there’s a public car park a 10-minute walk away (from €28 a day); skirt the ZTL studiously to avoid hefty fines.
Worth getting out of bed for
Soprarno Suites is perfectly poised for a taste of Florence’s fascinating Renaissance past. Overlooking a 12th-century courtyard, the building used to belong to the Vellutis; history buffs need only look up on Via Maggio to gawp at the grand palazzos which once bore witness to the wealth of great Florentine families. Palazzo Pitti and the Santo Spirito basilica are just around the corner. Take a gentle stroll down the street to Santa Trinita bridge for postcard-perfect views of Ponte Vecchio. Stop by Madova before crossing over to the historical city centre: the ladies there can size you up for a pair of butter-soft leather gloves (there’s one in practically every Pantone shade) with just one look. Avoid patience-defying queues at the Uffizi Gallery by booking ahead, or skip the Botticellis, da Vincis and Caravaggios altogether and spend your afternoons flitting from wine bars to gelaterias instead.
Round-the-block Enoteca Pitti has imposing views of the Medici’s Pitti Palace. Graze on local cheeses and lesser-known vintages, then walk it all off in the Boboli Gardens. Gurdulù is a stylish, pared-down spot for a romantic dinner; the chef is as enamoured with bold-coloured dishes as with impeccably sourced produce. Buzzy Il Santo Bevitore is a popular eatery – its stylings may be contemporary, but it takes its cues from classic Tuscan dishes such as ribollita soup, squid-ink risotto and truffled turbot.
One could easily get into seriously heated arguments about the best ice-cream in town; cool tempers off with a visit to Grom for perfect flavours that change with the seasons. On-trend Carduccio bills itself as an organic living room, but stacks of fresh local produce, exposed brick and rustic wooden tables give it the air of a chic village deli. The menu changes daily: expect raw juices, oven-baked Tuscan fare and farm-fresh salads and soups.
Smith favourite Continentale’s rooftop bar La Terrazza has bags of cinematic 1950s glamour. Go there to sip and be seen; the sweeping city views aren’t bad, either.
In need of weekend away filled with both culture (for Mr Smith) and carbs (for myself) we pick Florence as our destination. It’s a city that’s as breathtaking in its beauty as it is in its food. And its wine come to mention it. Oh, and its negronis…
As Tuscany’s capital, it’s a place that has all the aforementioned wants of a great city break but is in close enough proximity to Chianti’s vine-covered hills to be the starting point of a flavoursome Italian adventure.
We pack our weekend bags and leave London one Friday lunchtime and arrive at the Soprano Suites early afternoon. Leonardo, the owner, greets us with warmth and a willingness to do everything to make our stay as perfect as possible. From dinner reservations to tours, nothing was too much.
The Soprano Suites has a genuine character to it – a true boutique feel, where everything has been considered. Decorated with a delicious mix of kitsch finds and antique Italian heirlooms – nothing flat-packed or mass produced here, just unique and full of character like the city itself.
Also part of its charm is being able to lie on your bed and look up at a ceiling that Michelangelo would be proud of. Elaborate, detailed and very Italian. (No two rooms are the same, we’re told, but ask for number 24 should you fancy a vast double rain shower, too.)
It’s not just the style that impresses; the location is ideal, too. We venture out for our first evening – a quick three-minute stroll from the hotel and we’re greeted with the view of Florence’s most famous medieval bridge: the Ponte Vecchio. By day or night, it never fails to disappoint. We head on to one of the many side-street bars and raise our glasses to the start of the weekend. Our evening unfolds perfectly: negronis, Florentine steak, red wine, tiramisu… I can’t think of a better welcome.
Next morning we head for breakfast, served in the deli on the hotel’s ground floor. It’s the moreish mix of strong coffee, fresh fruit, pastries, cheese and meats. It’s a visual feast, too: the are walls covered in variety of artwork from their favourite restaurants and delis around the world. With coffees in hand we set off on our Saturday of exploring.
We wander through side streets, past historic landmarks, cafés and shops. This city has some seriously stylish locals offering endless fashion parades in the piazza – it’s perfect for people-watching. From Chanel to Cos, it’s all here – style being synonymous with Italian city living (and best witnessed over a cappuccino).
An institution, as far as Florentine cafés go, is Café Gilli. It’s here we witness a group of five who dare to question the speed at which their waiter delivers their chilled prosecco and, as such, are immediately asked to leave. A passionate protest over prosecco ensues, involving a man in a crisp white tuxedo. Only in Italy…
The rest of our day is spent exploring the famous sights – it’s my first time seeing the Duomo and it leaves me in awe. (Mr Smith had been several times before and patiently waits as I rattle off endless photos.) That afternoon, after a day of getting the right kind of lost, we head back towards the hotel and pop into another of the side-street bars for a pre-dinner drink.
We wake on Sunday to a thunderstorm that Roman gods would be proud of. Does it falter our plans? Not one bit. Our suite is the perfect hidden spot to a watch the storm pass, read, drink coffee and enjoy a wonderfully lazy start. It’s Sunday, after all.
Somewhat reluctantly, post-breakfast and post-downpour, we emerge to hunt one last lunch spot before our flight home. ‘Unfortunately’ it starts to rain again, which means cracking on with Campari spritzes shortly after noon – then wine and more amazing pasta. And not one shred of guilt, either.
We head to the airport, stomachs full, heads rested, bodies relaxed– our weekend away is officially a mission accomplished.
Florence doesn’t disappoint. And nor does the Soprano Suites, its staff, its charm and its character. We’re entirely won over, and leave feeling like we know just the secret spot for when carbs and culture inevitably call us back.