FOR location close to the action, you won’t beat the Hotel Continentale, right on the Arno River and looking down on to the photo-opportunity Ponte Vecchio bridge.
That’s not to say that once you enter its cool-as-a-cucumber environs you won’t feel a world away from the thronging streets crammed with tourists outside. Part of the Lungarno Collection of hotels, owned by the Ferragamo family of shoe dynasty fame, this boutique destination majors in self-conscious style. Being part of the Design Hotels group, it’s also a hit with the fash pack and people watching at one of the shoots that takes place on the rooftop bar is fun, if you can drag your eyes away from the 360-degree views of the Florentine skyline.
WINING AND DINING? We didn’t eat in the hotel in the evening as the whole of Florence was there for the tasting, but each morning we ate a hearty continental feast (with cooked options available) in the cosy breakfast room – with everyone else watching their figures it would have been wasted otherwise. Sushi and cocktails – the Continentale is a dry martini kind of place – are served in the White Hall indoor lounge with its white (of course) Arne Jacobsen chairs. And no, you’ve not had too many – that is indeed a pink and orange glowing bar.
ROOM SERVICE? There are 43 rooms, all white and minimalist, with clean-lined bathrooms that are all Corian sinks on light oak bases and separate WCs. Our room had a bed surrounded by floaty white drapes, the romance of which was somewhat deflated by the gap that kept appearing between the twin beds pushed together, rather than the double we had booked. There were compensations, however, in the form of a mini bar, LCD satellite TV, CD player, wi-fi and, in the heat of summer, essential air conditioning.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR? Where to start? With some of Italy’s best museums and galleries, if you don’t learn something about the Renaissance when visiting Florence, you haven’t made it out of bed. Start off with the Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic centre, where sculptures that include a copy of Michaelangelo’s David jostle for attention. Then there’s the Uffizi, to gaze at The Birth Of Venus or The Spring by Botticelli, The Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Tondo Doni by Michelangelo and that’s just the beginning. Climb the Duomo for the best views in Florence, then hit the shops and outdoor markets to bag some of the beautiful Italian leather goods; Piazza San Lorenzo and Nercato Nuovo are worth a visit. Then, when you’re exhausted, and you will be, simply sit at one of the many cafes in a piazza and watch the rather stylish world go by. Alternatively, you could just put on your fluffy robe and pad on down to the hotel’s White Iris beauty spa.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE? Boutique, darling, from the Nanna Jorgen Ditzel 1957 wicker Egg armchair suspended from a ceiling in one of the public spaces, to the black and white photographs taken by fashion designers such as Pucci and Fabiani in the 1950s and 1960s in Florence in the bedrooms. Leave your crusty Birkenstocks and backpack at home and smarten yourself up if you’re checking in here – or you might be detained by the fashion police at the door.
LITTLE EXTRAS? Free admission to the must-see Salvatore Ferragamo Museum comes with the booking, and timed entrance tickets to the Uffizi gallery arranged by the concierge are a great way to avoid a long wait.
GUESTBOOK COMMENTS? The Continentale makes for an achingly cool and serene oasis away from clamour right in the heart of the city.
• Hotel Continentale, Vicolo dell’Oro, 6, 50123 Florence, Italy (www.lungarnohotels.com). Kirker Holidays’ three-night package starts from £799 per person and includes return flights from Edinburgh to Pisa with Ryanair, return private car airport transfers, accommodation with breakfast for three nights at Hotel Continentale and timed entrance tickets to the Uffizi gallery (020 7593 2283, www.kirkerholidays.com).