Arriving in Florence it’s hard not to fall in love with the renaissance architecture and beautiful cobbled streets. One of the most breathtaking buildings in the city is the Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as The Duomo. It stopped my wife and I in our tracks as we made our way to Brunelleschi Hotel.
Situated just around the corner from the Duomo, Brunelleschi Hotel is named after the architect responsible for The Duomo. 600 years later, Filippo Brunelleschi’s impressive design is still the largest brick and mortar dome in the world.
As we walked away from the busy area around The Duomo we very quickly found ourselves in a quiet courtyard, a type of oasis in an otherwise bustling city. Aside from the smart decor, one of the most striking things about the front facade of Brunelleschi Hotel is the ancient-looking tower to the right of the main entrance. More about this tower later, it’s actually a fascinating story.
Walking into the reception area we were greeted by a very friendly member of staff who welcomed us and quickly checked us in. It was very late when we arrived so we were tired and glad to be greeted by a friendly face. The gentleman also took the time to take us through a city map highlighting some of the key attractions in Florence.
Entering our room we found a bottle of really tasty Prosecco waiting in a bucket of ice. It was a sight for sore eyes. With no hesitation, we immediately opened it. Our enthusiasm was partly down to long bus ride from Annecy and partly down to being Irish 🙂
Within our first 10 minutes in the Brunelleschi Hotel, we got the sense we were about to spend three nights in a place that stays true to Florence. It’s a place where luxury and comfort meet history and culture. Every corner, hallway or passage displays some artefact from the city’s past.
As soon as you walk into the hotel you’ll notice the beautifully exposed stonework and ceiling beams. To your right is the tower bar and restaurant – both of which serve to an outdoor seating area in the courtyard from April to November. The courtyard is a relaxing space. No cars, no noise, just the occasional tourist walking by. And knowing throngs of tourists are bustling around The Duomo less than 50 metres away makes you appreciate this space all the more.
The restaurant is led by Head Chef Rocco De Santis. He has been there for two years, and according to staff, has helped build the restaurant to its current high standard. The Santa Elisabetta Restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star for 2020. Very well deserved, you can read the reviews for yourself on Trip Advisor and all the top food guides.
The menu itself focuses on seasonal ingredients and changes two to three times a year. Ingredients are traditional Italian and Mediterranean, however the preparation and presentation anything but traditional. There is an attention to detail, passion and creative flair that can be seen and tasted. Reservations are recommended.
Having enjoyed a delicious meal, my wife and I decided to find out more about the mysterious museum buried deep in the hotel’s basement. We read that we could find some interesting artefacts and Roman walls down in the foundations of the hotel. We asked a member of staff for more information.
The hotel was opened in 1988 after a thorough renovation – 20 million is the figure I was given. I mentioned a rather striking tower earlier. It is the oldest standing building in Florence and the impressive structure can be seen from the main courtyard as you enter the hotel. It dates back to Byzantian times around the 6th century.
Special attention was paid to the tower during renovation, especially the foundations. The architect wanted to ensure the tower was structurally sound. While digging into the foundations of the tower, a Roman villa was uncovered along with some very opulent ceramics and other items from the time.
If you visit the museum you can see these various items on display and walk around the villa ruins. The walls you see are actually the remains of a series of baths contained within the villa. Each bath comprised of increasingly hot water and the owners would jump from bath to bath gradually getting hotter and hotter.
There is also a fascinating story about the tower being used as a prison for witches. But I’ll leave that story as a surprise. You can read about it on your visit. We found out that Brunelleschi Hotel has suites within the tower offering a panoramic view of the city. I am pretty sure these are their top suites so expect to pay a considerable rate.
All in all, our stay with Brunelleschi Hotel was excellent. The staff are friendly and helpful, the breakfast was incredible and had everything from freshly made fruit and veg juice to the standard eggs and bacon – and a whole lot more!
Would we stay here again? Most definitely, the location is excellent and the experience was even better. Five stars!