Picture perfect Florence is one of Europe’s must-see destinations. It’s packed with so much art and culture it’s surprising the city doesn’t sag under the weight of all the Botticelli paintings, Michelangelo sculptures and marble cathedrals.
There is so much to love about the city, from its hearty Tuscan cuisine to its world-class museums and Renaissance architecture, and it’s compact enough to explore on foot. A stroll around reveals architectural masterpieces such as Brunelleschi’s dome, the stone facadé of the Basilica di San Lorenzo (one of the city’s oldest churches), and the Ponte Vecchio (a Roman-era arched bridge stacked with higgledy-piggledy shops). There are so many beautiful buildings and bridges that you’ll wish you could bottle up the view and save it for a rainy day.
Portrait Firenze might not be able to bottle up the view for you, but the rooms overlooking the Ponte Vecchio are as close as it gets. Keep the curtains open and wake up to the sun glistening on the Arno river, sip espresso in bed, and watch the city start its day.
The Packing Edit
THE SUITE SPOT
Portrait Firenze is part of the Lungarno Collection, whose portfolio of hotels are mainly clustered on the riverside street of the same name. The 37 rooms and suites at Portrait are surprisingly spacious for a city hotel, and most have a separate living area with a sofa, writing desk and a kitchenette. Rooms range from Portrait Studio’s (40 square metres) to the whopping Ponte Vecchio Suite (120 square metres) which has a balcony that stretches the length of the apartment. River View rooms are a must to see the Ponte Vecchio, and strategically placed mirrors next to floor to ceiling windows help extend the view.
Interior design at the hotel was headed up by architect, and Florentine native, Michele Bönan. His other hotel projects include J. K. Place Hotels in Capri, Rome, and Florence, and the Ritz-Carlton residence in Miami. Expect mid-century minimalism and neutral tones at Portrait Firenze. The rooms are a sea of grey, from the accent armchairs to the plush velvet sofa and panelled walls, and subtle splashes of gold on the door handles, picture frames and lamps keep things elegant.
A pre-loaded iPad can be found next to the bed with local recommendations, including the best places to shop, grab a drink and settle down for dinner. Connect your phone to the Bluetooth speakers in the ceiling for an evening boogie, or pop on your favourite yoga playlist and stretch out on the in-room yoga mat.
The Portrait team are available 24/7 via What’s App and the response is lightning fast, our request for an iron was answered within seconds and a knock on the door came just a few minutes later.
Our bathroom was surprisingly small given the impressive size of the room, but it still had everything we needed for a two-night stay, including a rainfall shower, fluffy robes and hair straighteners in the draw underneath a ‘his and hers’ sink. One of my favourite additions was the toilet paper hidden behind its own chrome door – a new level of sophistication.
Toiletries are provided by Salvatore Ferragamo (the family own the hotel) and the hand cream placed next to the bed each evening during turndown service was gratefully received.
Black and white photographs adorn the walls around the hotel and offer a glimpse into the Italian glamour of the 1940s and ’50s. Look out for Elizabeth Taylor standing next to the Arno, and Salvatore Ferragamo & Christian Dior chatting next to the Santa Croce. There’s also a framed receipt from a pair of Ferragamo shoes, the owner…Marilyn Monroe of course.
The kitchenettes in the rooms are great for making a drink, but not much else (there’s only a microwave). Instead, head out and enjoy Florence’s foodie delights; crispy sourdough pizza at Berberé Santa Croce (8 min walk); meat-filled sandwiches the size of your head from All’antico Vinaio (6 min walk), and the best gelato in town at Gelateria dei Neri (8 min walk).
For something more refined, Portrait’s signature restaurant Caffè dell’Oro is open all day – nab one of the alfresco tables lined along the riverside. The Caffè is a lovely spot for dinner and serves both an Italian menu and an Asian inspired fusion menu (a good choice if you’ve overdone it on the pasta). We tried a few dishes from both menus, starting with a fresh and zesty Amberjack Sashimi with soy and yuzu. Next came a homemade tagliatelle with a guinea fowl ragu – I sampled many ragu’s during my few weeks in Tuscany and this was one of the best. For dessert don’t miss the creamy delights of the Tuscan Tiramisu.
Breakfast is also served at Caffè dell’Oro, but it was disappointing. We found the service haphazard, and the table buffet consisted of a few rolls and some meat and cheese, which for the price of €38 for cold items and €45 for hot dishes, just isn’t worth the bother. Instead, turn right out of Portrait and take a 10-minute stroll along the river to Forno Becagli (Borgo Ognissanti, 92/r, 50123), a lovely hole in the wall bakery with the friendliest staff in town.
For a memorable aperitivo check out La Terrazza, a rooftop bar atop hotel Continentale (also part of the Lungarno collection). Soak up the sunset and watch the throngs of tourists on the Ponte Vecchio below. Booking is essential and there’s a minimum spend of €50 for two people.
YOUR TO-DO LIST
Portrait’s location couldn’t be better – it’s just a short stroll from all of Florence’s Renaissance delights, but its riverside setting is a tranquil retreat following a day of exploring. Don’t miss the Uffizi Gallery (book tickets online to skip the queue) one of the world’s best art galleries and home to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus painting. The Duomo di Firenze (which took over 140 years to complete), is another must-see, as is Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio and visit the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens (built by the influential Medici family). Next, climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo for panoramic views across the city (copy the locals and take a bottle of wine to watch the sunset).
The Lungarno Collection has implemented several COVID-19 procedures to ensure the safety of guests, including full room sanitisation, body temperature checks on arrival and hand sanitiser in all public areas. The hotel has also removed all books and paper menus (menus can now be viewed via a QR code).