Views from the Grand Hotel Minerva are most likely what would spring to mind if asked to picture a postcard version of Florence. This luxury boutique hotel's rooftop pool terrace offers some of the most picturesque views in the city, and many of its 102 rooms offer similarly excellent outlooks (most of the Santa Maria Novella piazza, with rooms on higher floors that overlook Florence's skyline). Renovations in 2016/17 have resulted in impeccably stylish interiors throughout, including some lovely fresco-ceilinged suites and dining areas; food is also excellent. Its location puts it within an easy stroll of both the train station and most of Florence's main attractions. Unsurprisingly, this all comes at a high price -- rooms just around the corner at Hotel Palazzo Dal Borgo Aprile are a little dated but come in a lot cheaper.
Nineteenth-century landmark hotel with medieval origins and swish eclectic styling
A landmark hotel since 1869, the Grand Hotel Minerva -- with its light stuccoed facade lined with long shuttered windows -- still fits seamlessly into its picturesque Florentine surrounds. Much of the original building even dates back to the Middle Ages as part of the Santa Maria Novella convent. Little of its ancient origins are evident inside, especially after the completion of a top-to-toe 2017 renovation project. A celebration of the city's classical history is very much on display, however, with gilt-framed oil paintings and ornate antique-style seating set among more modern artworks and against a contemporary, almost industrial backdrop of cool grays and stone floors. Art books are scattered around low-profile coffee tables while a mirror-TV adds an unexpectedly futuristic element. The upscale-eclectic vibe balances the old with the new with aplomb, while keeping the look and feel distinctly Italian. A pair of polished elevators whisk guests to one of six floors, including the hotel's crowning feature -- a rooftop pool terrace with panoramic views over the city's terra-cotta rooftops. The hotel is favored by couples on romantic trips from around the globe, while also attracting a fair share of vacationing families with kids.
Prime spot on pedestrianized piazza between main station and tourist center
It's hard to ask for a better location in Florence than the Grand Hotel Minerva: set on the grassy and relatively quiet pedestrianized Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, a few minutes' walk from the main train station on one side and a short stroll from most of the city center's numerous piazzas and palazzos. The iconic Duomo cathedral is an eight-minute walk away, while other popular attractions such as Galleria dell'Accademia, featuring Michelangelo's David, and the Uffizi Gallery with the works of Botticelli and da Vinci are with 15 minutes'. The 14th-century Ponte Vecchio Bridge is also easily reached on foot. Florence Airport is a 15-minute train journey from the Santa Maria Novella station, or its around 25 minutes by cab.
Some rooms feature Doumo views, four-poster beds, or spacious sun terraces
The hotel has 102 bright and fresh rooms from 2016/17 renovations that brought a combination of natural wood floors, retro-style furniture pieces, and characterful touches such as padded paneling, open wardrobes, original artworks, or leather headboards. Some upgraded rooms and suites also feature four-poster beds. Entry-level rooms tend to overlook an internal courtyard, however most feature pretty views over the piazza or Santa Maria Novella cloisters; some top floor rooms can even see the Duomo's domed roof. Rooms start at a typically small 220 square feet (20 square meters) with suites doubling that with separate lounges. Amenities include 32-inch flat-screen TVs, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and minibars; all rooms are air-conditioned and Wi-Fi is free. A few special rooms also feature pretty frescoed ceilings with lovely parquet floors, or open to spacious terraces with loungers.
Bathrooms are spotless and stylish, finished in stone or marble with gold accents. Showers are either walk-in or a shower/tub combo. Wall-mounted hairdryers and good quality toiletries are provided. While rooms are generally well soundproofed, some guests are woken by nearby church bells.
Panoramic rooftop pool terrace and excellent on-site dining
Not only is it hard to find a rooftop pool in central Florence, but one with such fabulous views over the city is truly special. There are a few poolside loungers and a pool bar serving drinks and snacks. The terrace is open over the warmer months (May to September) and space in and around the pool can be limited. Summer 2017 also sees the addition of a gym, plus relaxation area with large whirlpool tub. A hot and cold breakfast buffet is offered each morning, with a corner dedicated to Tuscan specialties, served in the bright and stylish breakfast room overlooking an inner courtyard. Breakfast is not included in the standard rate. The hotel's restaurant, La Buona Novella Bistrot, opens for lunch and dinner with an a la carte menu of Italian and Mediterranean cooking. There's also an alfresco terrace overlooking the piazza, and guests agree that food is particularly good.
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