Villa Florence Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Union Square, San Francisco, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

The 182-room Villa Florence in Union Square admirably rises to the challenge of bringing Italy's culture and countryside to one of San Francisco's loudest, busiest, and most commercial districts. Rooms combine up-to-date technology with old-world style, but the hotel goes overboard on the Italian theme, and its amenities and services are uneven.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

An overly enthusiastic tribute to Italy that packs a lot of visual punch, but falls short on delivery

Tribute to Italy sometimes goes overboard.
Tribute to Italy sometimes goes overboard.

Columns, a cherubic fountain, and a beautiful sidewalk tile mosaic greet guests of Villa Florence, a gushing monument to all things vaguely Italian. The theme's charm depends on how much you love Italy, or else how amenable you are to an unabashedly kitschy representation of its culture. But if the decor is overdone, at least it's consistent. The color scheme of burnt orange, cream, and pale green provides the backdrop for a gallery of photographs evoking scenes from around the boot-shaped country: villas, terraces, gardens, gates, and statues. And in a refreshing departure from the countryside, each bathroom comes with a photo of a sultry, negligeed Sophia Loren.

Villa Florence's large lobby packs a lot of visual flair: high, heavy curtains framing Venetian murals, full-glass windows into the hotel restaurant, scalloped ceilings, and Da Vinci and Michelangelo coffee table books. Bar Norcini, the lobby wine bar with a cheap, daily happy hour and cafe-style sidewalk seating, draws a mix of hotel guests and passers-by. A 2008 renovation introduced a classy lobby business center, a disappointing fitness center on the 2nd floor, and new room furnishings.

 Service

Capable and friendly service, but inconsistent

Villa Florence has a pretty visible fleet of bellmen and desk staff, but they are not always on-hand to deal with crowds during check-in.

  • The front desk attendants ask at check-in which free newspaper guests would like delivered to their rooms -- the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, USA Today, or The Wall Street Journal are offered -- and it is hanging on the room's doorknob the next morning.
  • Limited room service hours (5 pm to 10 pm daily) from Kuleto's Italian restaurant
  • 24-hour concierge
  • Complimentary business center in the lobby, with two computers and two printers
  • Turndown service, but only on request
  • Pricey valet parking, about standard for San Francisco
  • Guests can call ahead to arrange child care services

 Location

In Union Square, on a block crowded with shops and restaurants, near two cable car lines

Villa Florence is a block south of Union Square, famous for its couture shops and not much else. Home to enormous outposts of Niketown, Saks, Tiffany, Macy's, Louis Vuitton, and Neiman Marcus, among others, Union Square is to San Francisco what 5th Avenue is to New York and Rodeo Drive is to L.A. Locals don't hang out here, but the square is great for people-watching, nonetheless, and it occasionally plays host to small festivals and demonstrations. Still, if conspicuous consumption isn't a priority, you might prefer a neighborhood closer to the city's biggest attractions, like Nob Hill or Fisherman's Wharf.

  • About 40 minutes to the Golden Gate Bridge, 15 minutes to Golden Gate Park, and 10 minutes to Fisherman's Wharf and ferries to Alcatraz
  • Right on two cable car routes -- the Powell/Mason and Powell/Hyde lines -- both of which run north through the scenic, hilly and largely residential Russian Hill and Nob Hill neighborhoods and terminate near Fisherman's Wharf.
  • 30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

 Rooms

Old-world style rooms are up-to-date, but small.

Each bathroom has a sultry photo of Sophia Loren.
Each bathroom has a sultry photo of Sophia Loren.

The rooms continue the lobby's decorative motifs, with a high valance and curtains over the bed, marble-topped tables, and lamps that dim. They're well-stocked, and features fall somewhere between luxury and budget grade -- plush bathrobes on the one hand, instant coffee on the other (Colombian instant in Italy?) This spot bills itself as a "modern Italian villa," and while the characterization requires imagination (ignore the street noise and view of tacky gift shops on the streets below), it's not far off.

  • Standard rooms about 350 square feet; average, if not a bit larger, than other boutiques
  • Comfortable beds are FeatherBorne, Larkspur Hotels' signature model, with 250-thread-count sheets and a quilted down comforter.
  • Nice updated electronics: Philips 31-inch flat-screen TV, Sony DVD player, and Boston Acoustics clock radio with an iPod dock
  • Immaculate, bright bathroom has stainless steel hardware, L'Occitane toiletries, shower/bath combo, and a sultry photo of Sophia Loren.
  • Turndown service is available by request; reasonably priced minibar is stocked with liquor, beer, snacks, and candy.
  • Suites are about 500 square feet, with a pullout sofa; bedroom and living area are separated by a half-wall.

 Features

On-site features are a mixed bag when it comes to quality.

Tiny fitness center in former guest room
Tiny fitness center in former guest room

Villa Florence's 2008 renovation added some features and improved existing ones. Some are great and others disappoint. Unlike a lot of Union Square hotels, which merely provide a home base to return to after a day of shopping or sightseeing, Villa Florence offers a nice place on-site to unwind. Bar Norcini, the lobby wine bar (with tasting flights available as well), has cafe-style sidewalk seating and serves Italian-style cocktails and a range of cheeses, coffees, and panini. Happy hour, with its cheap glasses of wine, attracts a youthful crowd looking for a drink before venturing elsewhere for dinner.

  • New fitness center isn't much to brag about; located in former guest room, with minimal equipment; towels and apples provided; headphones available at front desk
  • Free 24-hour, lobby business center has two computers, two printers, and an ATM; wood paneling and low lighting give it the pleasant feel of a home office.
  • Guests can call ahead to arrange child care services
  • Lobby wine bar hosts a solid happy hour

 Family

Not particularly good for families

Families may want to book a suite with pullout sofa.
Families may want to book a suite with pullout sofa.

With its relatively small rooms and lack of kid-specific amenities, the Villa Florence is unlikely to appeal to families. The location isn't that close to major attractions, but there are nearby cable car lines for public transit options. The Handlery Union Square, just around the corner, however, has comparable rates and room sizes, and also offers a pool that kids can enjoy.

  • No pool on-site
  • Children's room service menu
  • Free cribs; rollaway beds are charged per night, but rooms are tight.
  • Location near cable car lines offers good public transit options.

 Food

A wine bar in the lobby and an Italian restaurant just off of it

A hopping scene at Kuleto's
A hopping scene at Kuleto's

The Italian restaurant Kuleto's, just off the lobby, is hardly just a repository, like some hotel restaurants, for travel-weary guests. It can be a hopping place.

  • Kuleto's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Bar Norcini, the lobby wine bar (also featuring tasting flights), has cafe-style sidewalk seating and serves Italian-style cocktails, breakfast, lunch, and a light evening menu: panini, pizzas, cheese and meat plates.

 Cleanliness

Perfectly clean

Although there are some slight chips in furniture and faded colors here and there, it adds to the sleepy, lived-in Italian villa sensibility. Overall, the hotel is quite clean.

 Bottom Line

The 182-room Villa Florence in Union Square admirably rises to the challenge of bringing Italy's culture and countryside to one of San Francisco's loudest, busiest, and most commercial districts. Rooms combine up-to-date technology with old-world style, but the hotel goes overboard on the Italian theme, and its amenities and services are uneven.

Things You Should Know About Villa Florence

Address

  • 225 Powell Street, San Francisco, Ca 94102

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Hotel Florence Larkspur Collection
  • Larkspur Collection San Francisco
  • Villa Florence Hotel - Union Square, A Larkspur Collection Hotel
  • Villa Florence San Francisco

Room Types

  • Deluxe Double Double Room
  • Deluxe King Room
  • Deluxe One Double Room
  • Deluxe Queen Room
  • Junior Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 182
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Union Square, San Francisco
Address: 225 Powell Street, San Francisco, Ca 94102
(See Map)
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