Florence hotels are plentiful and there’s enough accommodation in the beautiful Italian city to suit every need and budget. But if you’re after something upscale, family-friendly and central, Portrait Firenze could be just the ticket, as Harriet Mallinson found out.
Portrait Firenze is first and foremost fantastically located, just a stone’s throw from the Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno that flows through this Tuscan city.
Consequently, holidaymakers here are bang in the heart of the action with everything within easy walking distance, whether you’re after churches, galleries or restaurants (and nearly everything in between).
Lucy Honeychurch pined for a Florentine vista during her fictional stay in E.M Forster’s A Room With a View. And she certainly would she have got one if she’d stayed in any of Portrait Firenze’s river-front rooms.
From this south-facing viewpoint, you can soak up the historic bridges, the terracotta-roofed colourful buildings on the opposite bank and the rising domes of churches beyond. No complaining here!
Relax and reset in elegant rooms away from the city’s hubbub
The rooms themselves are wonderfully stylish. The neighbouring Ponte Vecchio is historically famed for its gold shops and this is reflected in the five-star hotel’s chic interiors. Gold accents are everywhere, from chair backs to knot handle details – with crucially nothing tacky about them.
In my Portrait Studio I was blessed with plenty of space. As well as a walk-in wardrobe, the studio featured a vast kitchen area which not only came with a minibar plus full-sized bottles of alcohol – at extra cost – but also plates, cups and a microwave, should you wish to add some self-catering into the mix. There was even a mini-dishwasher!
What’s more, a small, elegant living area with a table and chairs plus a desk ensures there’s enough seating room to relax with a book or do some work.
Bathrooms come with an intriguing hidden gem!
Bathrooms are large and marble, complete with both bath and shower. A personal highlight was the loo roll and toilet brush hidden behind small silver doors for fear they offend your eyes. Perhaps something I’ll implement in my own home…
The toiletries are particularly standout – Salvatore Ferragamo all – and they not only include the basics but also eye cream, face cream, shaving gel and after-shave balm – perfect if you’ve forgotten to pack essentials in your haste to get away!
Enjoy the personal touches at Portrait Firenze
A delightful touch of the hotel is that you can share your food and drink preferences in advance, and even upload a picture you’d like displayed on the in-room iPad. I also recommend making the most of the pillow menu in advance, as the ones provided are exceptionally soft which may not be your thing.
Staff are all very friendly, introduce themselves by name and speak proficient English; not always guaranteed in Tuscany. Furthermore, the lifestyle team are on hand throughout your stay via WhatsApp should you need any advice or help with anything. At a loss for dinner plans? The staff will simply text you back with suggestions and even make the booking for you.
Book an evening-in to savour divine (and golden!) cocktails
Needless to say, Florence has many excellent, traditional and family-friendly restaurants, but do make sure you stay in one night at Portrait Firenze’s Caffé del Oro.
Again, both the name and interior design are a nod to the Ponte Vecchio’s gold shops. And, although the low-lighting at night time adds an undeniably seductive vibe, the Caffé is still very family-friendly – the big table at the end, with its long banquette, is particularly good for large groups.
Parents – you absolutely mustn’t miss the Oro Colato cocktail. The waiters liken it to a strong dirty martini, but my oh my is it superior, featuring both olive oil and edible gold. The former lends a delicious, unique and rich taste while the latter ensures the shimmering liquid pot is a veritable leprechaun’s dream.
You won’t go home disappointed with this delicious Italian food with a twist
Food is tasty too. I started with the calamari after another diner dubs it, “the best he’s ever had” and I’m not inclined to disagree. An Asian flair to the Italian cuisine makes for tiny, crunchy, juicy morsels paired with a light garlic mousse.
For “primi” I’m swayed by the waiter-recommended ravioli, which are artistically presented mouthfuls of rich goodness filled with braised short rib and provolone cheese fondue. before enjoying a fresh and succulent salmon main.
Sticking with my gold and ravioli theme I then tucked into ginger and lemongrass-infused pineapple ravioli. This, to my eyes, rather resembled exotic fish plucked straight from a tank. But to my tastebuds they were syrupy, scrumptious bites. Forgive me if I loosen my belt.
Even if you don’t stay here, do swing by for dinner, and the same applies to breakfast. The buffet is on the smaller side but everything is great quality and children will love the little kids’ table offering up sweets, muffins and mini Nutella jars.
Guests are perfectly situated to explore Florence’s many wonders
The weather was warm when I stayed so I ate breakfast al fresco to the marvellous view of the Ponte Vecchio.
Top tip: early morning is the best time to head to the bridge before the hordes descend on the ancient structure. In fact, breakfasting at Portrait Firenze makes for a great spot to appreciate the buzzy vibe of the city without the freneticism of elsewhere – ideal for easing you and the family into a day of sightseeing.
Indeed, the weekend I chose to visit Florence, the city was very busy indeed. Streets were packed with horses, tourists and, interestingly, myriad tiny dogs – all going about their day to the soundtrack of suitcases rumbling along the stones and lively Italian chatter. The smell of leather emanating from the many leather shops that punctuate Florence was another constant, mixed with the occasional whiff of horse, inevitably.
The city was just as lively at night. On my final evening, a band struck up on the Ponte Vecchio to the delight of the large assembled crowd, the musician every bit the charming Italian performer tourists expect and the music top-notch too.
Then it was back to the tranquillity of my comfortable room and the lovely scent of Salvatore Ferragamo. And I can assure you, even if your room doesn’t have a view, the memories you’ll have of this enchanting city will play on.
How to plan a family holiday to Florence
Where to stay
Portrait Firenze offers rooms starting from €594 per night, excluding breakfast.
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Florence take from just over two hours with either Vueling or British Airways.