Unlike most buildings in the heart of Florence, a city obsessed with its own Renaissance (and older) roots, Portrait Firenze was built in the 1950s, amid the city’s second heyday as a center of cinema and high fashion. That doesn’t mean the hotel lacks history; in fact, the building that stood on this spot for centuries before its destruction in World War II spent the last century and a half of its life as the opulent Grand Hotel Royal de l’Arno, lodging of choice for royalty, renowned writers, famous artists, and other luminaries of its day.
When the Ferragamo family turned the newer building into the jewel in the crown of its Lungarno hotel collection, celebrated Florentine architect and designer Michele Bönan created an homage to both the Ferragamo patriarch and the world he helped create in the 1950s and 60s. Per the hotel’s name, the walls throughout are lined with black-and-white photographic portraits of personalities of the era, from Sophia Loren and Franco Zeffirelli to Grace Kelly and Elsa Schiaparelli. Between the see-and-be-seen restaurant and the elegant and clean-lined midcentury decor, these jet-set celebrities would have felt right at home here in this modern palace outfitted with hardwood floors, angular gray sofas, and gilded glass doors opening onto private balconies overlooking the Arno.
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Overlooking the Arno from its northern bank, with the landmark Ponte Vecchio just down the street, Portrait Firenze is ideally located for both scenery and sightseeing. Its sister hotels the Continentale and Gallery Hotel Art are just around the corner, offering more dining, drinking, and spa options, and every major sight within Florence’s historic, tourist-packed center is in walking distance. Such attractions as the renowned Duomo (the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), the Basilica di Santa Croce (the final resting place of the likes of Michelangelo and Galileo), the Galleria degli Uffizi, and the Palazzo Pitti are all just a few minutes away on foot. Also, not only can the hotel’s world-class concierge service offer recommendations and help with reservations, but even the most fantastical experiences can be arranged, from private dinners in museums to behind-the-scenes tours.
Need to Know
Rooms: 37 suites. From $460. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: An elegant Tuscan bistro with midcentury-inspired decor and a riverfront terrace, Caffe dell’Oro serves fresh, seasonal cuisine from breakfast late into the night. Aperitivi and snacks can be ordered to the lobby, as well, and each room is equipped with a kitchenette and full bar, should you choose to dine in. Just around the corner, the hotel’s sister, Continentale, has a rooftop terrace bar with panoramic views of the city, perfect for a romantic pre- or post-dinner drink. Spa and gym details:The hotel has neither gym nor spa, but guests can arrange in-room massage treatments, sessions with a personal trainer, in-room workout equipment, and vintage bicycles to borrow.
Who's it best for: Couples and families who appreciate boutique luxury and vintage glamour. Our favorite rooms:All the rooms at Portrait Firenze are suites, with kitchenettes, walk-in wardrobes, Carrara marble bathrooms, iPod docks, fully stocked bars, and more, so the only way to improve upon them is with unobstructed Arno views, found in any of the River View Suites. The only trump card on those is one with a private balcony, or perhaps the rooftop penthouse, a floor-through suite with a private rooftop terrace. Perfumes and potions:Meander over to the iconic Officino Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the world-renowned apothecary founded in 1612 by Dominican monks, and at whose workshop all Portrait guests are not only welcome for free, but are greeted with a gift.