Florence is my favorite city in Italy. The whole city is a museum and as you all know I am a museum nut! I have been to Florence three times this year, so here are some of my favorite photos from my visits.
Nothing will catch my attention faster than the word museum being in the name of a hotel. Sitting in Gubbio, Italy, I was planning where to sleep for the night. I was having a tough time deciding between staying Gubbio or heading to Assisi, Italy. In an unusual manner, I had not booked a hotel for the night or even decided if I was going to stay away from my apartment in Umbria. After searching for hotels in Gubbio and deciding that the one I wanted wasn’t available, I moved on to Assisi.
Choosing to sleep in Assisi might have been the best hotel choice I have ever made in my life! As I said, I was caught by the word museum in the name of the hotel and the gorgeous photos of the spa. To be honest, I don’t think I looked at pictures of the rooms at all. And normally I do some kind of research on the hotel, but I only read the TripAdvisor reviews and booked the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum! The hotel looked stunning on my tiny iPhone 5, and that was enough for me. Only later did I discover it was a 13th-century monastery for Benedictine nuns.
When I arrived, I did not think my room would be ready as I had only booked the room about two hours before. However, my room was ready, and they never let on if my last minute reservation was stressful. I had gone to the wrong entrance when I arrived, and my bag had been left at the spa entrance. While I was waiting for my bag to be brought up, I was offered a drink while I waited. During that time, they took my bag directly to my room, which was great since there is no elevator in the Nun Assisi Relais.
My room was room 12. Each room is different, and there are only 18 in total. Entering through a small double door, I walked into a small sitting area with the television. The seating options were a bench area and one lounge chair with a footstool. From the lounge area, you walk down a hallway to the bedroom. Along the way, you pass the closet and bathroom. The closet is a walk-in and is larger than almost every closet I have ever had! The bathroom is not large but has a wonderful rainfall shower and shower gel that smelled so good I brought it back to Doha with me. My only complaint about the bathroom was the mirror was up so high that I could only see my forehead.
The bedroom contained a large and very comfortable bed. There was also a television in there. Once I laid down on the bed, I realized I had a stunning view of the Rocca Maggiore. The view was even better as the sunset. The room had air conditioning, but it was not what most Americans are used to, but I wasn’t hot through the night as I thought I would be. I discovered the reason why in the morning, linen sheets! I wanted to take them off the bed and bring them home with me.
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Once I arrived, I decided that I was in need of a massage from all the walking I had been doing all over Italy. I booked a massage for later in the day so I could still sightsee during the day. I was told to put on the robe in my room and go down to the spa a few minutes before my appointment. Since I was going for a massage, I didn’t take my camera, which was a mistake. This is also where the museum portion comes into play. The spa is in the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. The space is gorgeous and immediately calming. Despite my wanting to explore the whole space, I had to go directly to my treatment.
The massage is one of the best I have had in my life. Unlike in the US, you lay on the table without a towel. I am assuming it is because Italians are less concerned about nudity than us Americans. It didn’t matter though as the table was heated and the massage therapist made me feel comfortable. It was a rough massage, but I felt so relaxed, I almost fell asleep. What I also liked is that the room was dark, there was relaxing music playing, and the massage therapist did not talk much.
There is also the option to do the Nun Circuit, which is entering several different rooms of different temperatures. It is supposed to bring immediate purifying and regenerating effects. There is also a multi-massage pool. All of this is just an excuse to go back since I wasn’t able to do any of this because I had a reservation at the restaurant.
The hotel has a restaurant on the property. I found it amusing that the restaurant is called “Eat Out” since if you are staying at the hotel, you could consider it eating in. Anyway, the view of Assisi from the restaurant’s terrace is worth a visit alone. You can see most of Assisi from there, and it is especially popular when the sun is setting.
While Assisi is awash with ancient structures, Eat Out is thoroughly modern inside. The interior is clean and simple with neutral tones and dark wood. Some of the kitchen is open plan, so you can see the chefs working.
The menu changes with the season. Much of the ingredients are sourced locally and are organic. The portions are not large; the food is not complex but flavorful. The wine list was carefully selected and paired well with the menu choices. I ordered linguine with pork. I tend to order lots of pork when not in Qatar! The desert was a kind of cake covered in chocolate. Given my lack of enthusiasm for chocolate, I should have ordered something else. Overall, I loved the food and the experience and only wish I had been there longer to have a chance to taste more of the menu.
Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum is located in Assisi just inside the historic gates of Assisi. Look for the white church across from the parking lot next to the bus stop. The exterior is plain white stone, so it blends in, and the sign is not obvious. The entrance is actually through the garden as I discovered after I entered through the spa. The hotel does offer parking, but I am not sure of the price as I parked in the public parking lot, which was not expensive for the 24 hours I was there.
Classic luxury is the phrase I would use to describe the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi in Florence, Italy. From the Murano glass chandeliers to the gold-plated elevators to the elegant rooftop bar and pool, the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi makes you feel special when you stay there.
Both weekends I visited Florence, I stayed at the Plaza Hotel Lucchesi. I originally chose the hotel because it was close to the sights, had parking, but was outside the limited traffic zone. This is an area in which you have to be a resident to drive through. After the first weekend, I knew I would come back to Florence, and I knew I would stay at this hotel again.
My first weekend there, I was given a room with a view of the Santa Croce and the Duomo! To this day, I am still not sure how I got that room. In addition to the amazing view, it had two balconies! The room was large and had a great bathroom. Once I came back for the night, I discovered the bed was very comfortable as well. While this room had a great view, it did have some negatives. One was that the wifi did not seem to want to work in that room. It worked everywhere else in the hotel. The other was that it was next to the stairs to the rooftop bar, so when people left the bar, they were loud. However, I would choose this room again and just wear earplugs!
The next weekend, I was given a room with a view of the Arno River. The room was again large. While there was no balcony, there was a bathtub. Bathtubs in Europe are rare and I definitely used it! The wifi worked great in this room, and it was very quiet. It was nice to see a different view of Florence.
The service at the hotel was outstanding. Everyone was very helpful, nice and remembered me the second weekend. The breakfast was simple but good. Both weekends, I parked my car with them. The first weekend, I had to pay because I didn’t make a reservation in their garage and it was full. The next weekend, I knew to reserve a spot. The first weekend, valet saw me checking out and retrieved my car for me right away!
One of the best things about this hotel is the exceptional views from the rooftop bar and pool. You can see the Santa Croce, the Duomo and the Arno River all at once. At one end you can see the Ponte Vecchio. I did not swim as it was still chilly for me. No one else was either. Happy hour time attracted many people to the bar. If you are planning to go there for happy hour, I would make a reservation so you can sit at a table with couches.
Staying at the Plaza Hotel Lucchesi was a splurge for me, and I probably couldn’t afford to stay there again. However, for a night or two, it was definitely worth every euro. At least when I go back to Florence, I will know where to see the sunset with a view.
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Don’t get me wrong, seeing the David in person is a wonderful experience and you should definitely see it. But there are over 72 museums (including churches and libraries) in Florence to explore! If you saw two a day, it would take you over a month to see them all. Since I only spent four days in Florence, I saw as many as I could. It was hard because around every corner it seemed like there was another one. Here are the ones I hit and the ones I want to see when I return (planning is in the works!).
Palazzo Vecchio – This museum isn’t just a museum. The mayor of Florence’s office is located here, and it is the seat of the City Council. Sign me up to run for local office if this is my office! The museum starts before you even enter the building in the with a replica statue of the David out front. The beautiful decorations begin in the first courtyard with its beautiful frescos. Unfortunately, I didn’t know you could tour the secret passages. I did get to see someone go through a hidden door in the Map Room.
Museo Galileo – Walking down the Arno Riverbank towards the Ponte Vecchio, you can’t help but see the Museo Galileo due to the large sundial out front. I will say I was disappointed by this museum. This was mainly because I was expecting more on Galileo himself, but it is mostly a collection of scientific instruments. Many of them were very intriguing, but the labels only gave a title of the item and not what it was used for. Not the ideal for a non-science person. But if you are a science person, then this is the place for you! There must have been thousands of pieces on exhibit.
Museo Gucci – This was the only museum I went to that you couldn’t get into with the Firenze Card, which is a 72-hour pass for most of the museums in Florence. The Gucci Museum takes you on a tour of the brand from the beginning of the label through its current designs for the red carpet. The only unfortunate thing is that you cannot take photos inside, but their website has great photos of the exhibition rooms.
Uffizi Gallery – Beautiful architecture abounds in Florence and Uffizi Gallery is no exception. I would have gone in just to see the inside! However, everywhere you look there is art. Look up because much of it is on the ceiling. Also, look out the windows to see great views of Florence, including the Ponte Vecchio. Allow yourself a few hours as there is a lot to see and lots of people also trying to see it.
Palazzo Pitti – Looking more like a formidable fort than a palace, Palazzo Pitti is a huge museum now. The original building was started in 1458 by Luca Pitti, a banker. There are several museums inside the Pitti, and you can also get a ticket for the Boboli Gardens there. Bring your walking shoes as the Pitti is huge!
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – This magnificent museum has been renovated. Did you love the outside of the Duomo and the Baptistry? Then you will love this place because it features the original decoration and the gold doors of the Baptistry. Didn’t know you were looking at replicas? Sorry to burst your bubble. However, you can get much closer to the carvings and figures in this museum. The attached coffee shop is a great place to rest after seeing the Duomo and the museum.
Museo Salvatore Ferragamo – The ultimate shoe lover’s museum. While the museum is small, it is dark and moody just like fashion. There are several decades of Ferragamo shoes on exhibit and foot molds of famous people. The museum was running a temporary exhibition at the time that featured some famous clothing designers as well. They do let you take photos, and there is free wifi, which is good because it’s in the basement with no signal.
Accademia Gallery – As I stated early, you still need to see the David while in Florence. Get the pass or buy your tickets in advance. Even with an advanced ticket, I had to wait in line for a bit. Be prepared for crowds inside. Do not go on the first Sunday of the month, as admission is free and the line will be even longer.
Medici Chapel – The chapel screams opulence that the Medicis family is known for. The Cappella dei Principi is an array of marble and stones of every known color. However, you wouldn’t know it from the outside as it looks like an abandoned building from the outside.
Museum Wish List
With 72 museums and counting, it will take me years of visits to Florence to see them all. However, I am already stalking the ones I didn’t get to visit.
Museo Nazionale del Bargello – The building called to me every time I walked past it, but I was already on a set path for the day. I didn’t even know what was in it until I looked up when I returned home. The main collection consists mostly of sculptures. Sculpture doesn’t attract me much, but it was once a prison, and that is worth seeing.
Basilica of Santa Croce -My white whale! Every time I tried to visit, it was closed. That is the bad planner in me and the fact that a historic football game was being played both weekends. Having read about the Basilica in the book “Dark Water,” which explores the floods of Florence, I knew I needed to visit it. Better planning will allow me to capture her next time!
Vasari Corridor – The mysterious walkway from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti. It tempted me from the Uffizi and heckled me from above on the Ponte Vecchio. Now, I know I can actually walk it. You have to book a private tour to see it, though.
Museo del Bigallo – Located in the same Piazza as the Palazzo Vecchio, this was another building that intrigued me. Not only that but the sign said free. Learning more about it, there are some stunning frescos inside that I will inspect next time.
I have intentionally kept the wish list small as I love the art of discovery while traveling. This leaves me room to stumble upon a place and truly enjoy it without expectations.
What museums in Florence are your favorites? Share with us in the comments.
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