If you were to combine the timeless elegance of Aubrey Hepburn, the classic styling of Salvatore Ferragamo with the breathtaking views of the Arno River, you will get the most incredible hotel collection I've ever had the pleasure of staying in - The Lungarno Collection. This group of unique properties are all located in the most coveted location in Florence, just steps from the Ponte Vecchio, and are the perfect accommodations to compliment any savvy traveler's vision of an Italian dream vacation. I'll take you on an inside look at three of their four boutique hotels - Portrait Firenze, Continentale and Hotel Lungarno, each with its own unique look and feel ensuring that every type of traveler's needs are met.
But first... Some delightful perks when staying at a Lungarno Collection hotel
Since the Lungarno hotel collection is owned by the infamous Italian fashion legend, Salvatore Ferragamo, the creator of the wedge and who has designed one-of-a-kind shoes for a multitude of A-list celebrities from Katherine Hepbern to Sophia Vergara. Guests of any of the Lungarno Hotels receive the following perks:
- Free entrance and to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum
- An exclusive shopping experience at the Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques, including a surprise gift with purchase
- Of course, a stay at some of the primest real estate in Italy. If you've ever been to Florence, you already know that there is no better spot in the city than near the Ponte Vecchio; it's quieter, less commercialized, has the best views and is within short walking distance to every major sight in the city from The Duomo to The David to the Boboli Gardens.
Located on the north side of the Arno River, just a few yards from the Ponte Vecchio, is the Lungarno Collection's latest five star hotel - The Portrait Firenze. Distinguished as one of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) properties, The Portrait Firenze is the most lavish of the four properties, providing celebrities and elite travelers with private butler service and customized itineraries to meet every need. Not a detail was left untouched when it came to decorating these suites - rich mahogany wood finishes, porcelain claw foot bathtubs, and wall to wall windows overlooking the river. But the real romance of The Portrait Firenze is in the details, like the black and white historical photos, the tasteful touch of color in the fabric choices and the one of a kind art deco inspired furniture pieces - it will make you want to go home and completely redecorate.
As you can probably imagine, the two bedroom luxury suites on the 6th floor provide the utmost sophistication and grandest space for both relaxing and entertaining. This 50's inspired miniature penthouse is equipped with a fireplace, kitchenette, separate dining room and living room as well as a full sized bedroom and bathroom on each end. Sprawled across the entire length of the suite is a spacious balcony with unobstructed views the Arno River and a picture perfect glimpse of the hills of Fiesole in the distance. If you are looking for the ultimate Florentine escape, you've found it.
Even the lobby feels different than other luxury hotels - it's more intimate, like stepping into a museum reserved for you alone without oversized desks and ringing phones to distract you; surprisingly serene considering its prime location. Breakfast is equally as grand, with champagne, artisinal meats, cheeses and breads along side a buffet of hot and cold options with delectable accompaniments, including an array of local honey.
The Continentale Hotel is my personal favorite of the collection. Picture chic, contemporary design, bright whites and light wood, simple yet tasteful decorations and nothing but the glow of the sun lighting up the entire room as you peek out your window overlooking the Ponte Vecchio on one side and The Arno on the other. Just across the courtyard from the Portrait Firenze, this upscale, four star boutique hotel is a trendy traveler's fantasy.
Location, location, location. If you're wondering just how close the hotel is from the Ponte Vecchio, see for yourself. It's literally the closest building to the north end of the bridge without actually being connected. At night, I would open my corner window and listen to the sounds of the guitar as musicians serenaded couples and tourists as they walk along the bridge. You can actually see my window from the photo (which I took while staying across the river at The Lungarno Hotel). There really isn't a better spot in the city in my opinion.
Rooms are spacious and bright, with all of the amenities needed for a comfortable stay. The Continentale is much simpler than The Portrait Firenze with fewer of the lux details, but just as much charm and curb appeal. It feels as if it belongs as much in an issue of Vogue as it does Travel and Leisure, with a real essence of contemporary fashion. There's an effortlessness and ease to the rooms that only comes with such simplicity. Everything is arranged purposely to optimize the space - banquette seating under the windows, modular desk and floating shelves (very Type-A if you ask me!).
On the first floor you'll find a relaxation room with floor to ceiling windows looking directly onto the Ponte Vecchio. Grab a seat in one of the numerous chaise lounges and cuddle up with a blanket and a cup of tea as you people watch for hours, making up stories for each of the window shoppers that stroll along. There's also three additional communal sitting areas for planning your day, chatting with friends or opening your laptop and working for a few hours (like I had the pleasure of doing many afternoons). Another contemporary, but quirky touch is the iPad in the elevators - strategically placed at eye level for taking ridiculous selfies on your way back to your room after finishing a bottle of wine at dinner... not my best work.
Breakfast is served just across the courtyard at the Gallery Hotel Art, the most casual and modern hotel of the Lungarno Collection, featuring some of Italy's greatest modern artists and their work - even the outside of the building is an exhibit. Since breakfast was my only real experience at the hotel, I chose not feature it specifically, but do note that it is also a four star hotel, with exquisite city views and is set just steps from The Portrait Firenze and The Continentale.
One of the best aspects of The Continentale is the rooftop bar. With exquisite view of Florence, there are few better spots you can find to sip a cocktail or two... or three. I especially love the elevator that takes you up which has banquette seating and throw pillows inside! Unfortunately, the rooftop was under renovation during my visit so I did not get to experience it firsthand, but judging from the photos I would have loved it very much! Instead, here are some photos taken from my bedroom window - imagine just how much better the view would be coming from the rooftop on the 6th floor.
the hotel lungarno
The flagship of the collection belonging to the elite SLH collection (Small Luxury Hotels of the World), The Hotel Lungarno represents classic luxury and exemplary service, best suited for those who prefer the traditional and timeless instead of modern and trendy. Located on the south side of the Ponte Vecchio (my personal favorite area of Florence), the hotel sits directly on the Arno River with an unbeatable view that no other hotel in the city can compete with.
I've always felt that the south side of the river is where you truly get a glimpse of Florentine life because it's where real people live, shop, eat and work. Of course, there's still plenty of tourism going on, but it's also where you can get lost weaving through quiet shaded alleyways, passing by artist studios, shoe maker storefronts, butcher shops and produce stands. You find that there's an authenticity that is is much harder to find on the northern side and that's exactly the feeling you get when you step foot inside Hotel Lungarno - an authentic and intimate experience. The best way to explore this area is on wheels, so be sure to borrow one of the hotel's retro bicycles, fitted with a white basket and a bell, and get lost.
Overall, there is a clear respect for the traditions of hotel culture, with dressy doormen who greet you when you arrive to a classic front desk staff ready to cater to your every need, hand written notes welcoming your arrival and a lobby bar where the bartender is sure to make you a stiff, but classy cocktail. Be sure to admire the rich art collection, that serves as much more than mere decoration. With over 400 pieces of art that adorn the walls of the hotel, it is home to some of the richest pieces in Italian art history including a one of a kind Picasso, which you can find in the main lounge.
Rooms are the epitome of sophistication, with an aristocratic feel to the decor - royal blues, rich whites and brass touches accentuating every detail. Rooms tend to run a bit on the smaller side; however, they more than make up for it with breathtaking views overlooking the Arno River below and a direct view of The Duomo and bell tower in the distance. I highly recommend the Executive Arno River View rooms, located on the 5th and 6th floors that include their own private patio, which is where we spent most of our time, both day and night, taking in as much of the priceless view that we could.
While I absolutely adore this hotel, it is important to mention that being this close to the river inevitably means mosquitos are present during warmer months and can be a nuisance. While I visited in early November, the temperatures were abnormally high; however, the hotel had shut off their air conditioning capabilities (a common occurrence during Winter in Italy), so we were left with the choice of sweating out the night or opening the sliding door and waking up to a body full of bites - so it's worth bringing bug spray due to this unfortunate force of nature during summer and early fall.
A grand breakfast is served downstairs in the dining room each morning, with everything from bacon and eggs, fresh pastries, fruit and yogurt and even mimosas to start the morning off right. The dining area also serves as the hotel's signature fine dining restaurant in the evening, Borgo San Jacopo. This Michelin Star awarded restaurant is headed by Chef Peter Brunel who is known for his original take on traditional Italian dishes.
While staying in Florence, I was lucky enough to dine at the restaurant during its monthly Spoon event, an exclusive evening where Chef Brunel invites other Michelin Star chefs from around the country to join him in creating a private tasting menu and wine pairing for his guests. An intimate group of journalists and distinct guests partake in a night of cocktails, appetizers and unique dishes designed just for this occasion. It was one of my favorite nights in Florence, but be warned that wine flows at a steady pace at this event and I have to admit that anything after the third course is still a bit fuzzy to me... but I'm pretty sure I loved every bite of it. On the other hand, the next morning on our windy drive to Modena I was a lot less enthusiastic about the over abundance of wine.