So wrote Dan Brown in his novel The Da Vinci Code—and now it is our handpicked hotel in Florence, Europe’s artistic capital. Explore the richest cultural flowering the world has known—with an early start to beat the crowd

The treasures of the Renaissance fill every niche and alleyway of Florence, and the famous names of this magical Italian city’s past provide a roll-call of European art and history: Dante, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, the Medicis, Giotto, Donatello, Piero della Francesca, and more. In a few short hours you can be part of an artistic odyssey: you can compare Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Galleria dell’Accademia with that of Donatello in the Bargello; see for yourself which was the winner in two competing reliefs of the Sacrifice of Isaac, Brunelleschi or Ghiberti; and run the gamut of artistic achievement from the monk Fra Angelico’s early Passion of Christ to Leonardo’s Adoration of the Magi, Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, Michaelangelo’s Doni Tondi, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Titian’s Venus of Urbino.



Florence, for all its ravishing beauty, can be maddeningly crammed at times, especially when the tourist season hits full stride during the spring and summer. Beating the queues and enjoying some precious quality time alone with Michelangelo or Lorenzo the Magnificent is not always easy. That the centro storico is so compact and easily walkable is one of the city’s greatest plus points; it is also, of course, one of its few downsides. Trying to make your way across the Piazza della Signoria or through the cobbled streets of Sant’ Ambrogio without finding yourself caught up in a slow-moving coach party from Wisconsin or Stuttgart can be a major challenge.

One obvious solution is simple: make sure you are up and about before everybody else. You can breeze your way through the Uffizi or skip up the 400 steps to the top of the Duomo at a decent time in the morning (nothing too drastic either; before 10am should do it), before our tour package friends have formed an orderly line on the steps outside their hotel.

Equally, a late-night visit can be just as hassle- and crowd-free, with plenty of locals in on the secret too, adding to the feeling that you have just stumbled into a private party (the Palazzo Strozzi, for example, stays open until 11pm on Thursday nights). Opening and closing times can often be seasonally adjusted, so best check with the concierge at your hotel first, but a general rule of thumb is that the city’s churches (including the cathedral) are open to the public from 10am to about five in the afternoon (and often a bit later in summer), though this can often change at weekends and, of course, during religious festivals, while most museums and galleries begin their working days at about 9am. Both the Uffizi and the Academia Gallery are open for business bright and early at 8.15am.

Florence is also a haven for high-class shopping, being the home of shoe king Salvatore Ferragamo and the place to find fine leather, clothes, jewellery and antiques. The food is delicious, and so are many of the wines. Music lovers should check out the schedule of Florence’s world-class classical music and opera venue, the Teatro del Maggio Musicale (www.maggiofiorentino.com), before planning a trip; it is also worth looking at the exhibition calendar of dynamic arts centre Palazzo Strozzi (www.palazzostrozzi.org), which puts on some top-flight shows.

Where to stay? The four-star Hotel Brunelleschi is the hotel referred to in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in the following response: 'We’d be living in luxury. They’re giving me a room at the Brunelleschi.' It is not only luxurious but historic, right in the centre with one of the best locations in all Florence, hidden away in the Piazza Santa Elisabetta, seconds from the Duomo, with amazing views of some of Florence's great architectural sights.

The Brunelleschi was itself created from a mediaeval church and a circular Byzantine tower, the Torre della Pagliazza, dating from the 6th century and famous for being the oldest standing tower in Florence. The unique mediaeval tower houses an ancient Roman caldarium, similar to that of a Jacuzzi, and a popular museum of ancient Italian artifacts. The bedrooms, which have been recently renovated, are designed for elegance and charm, and to focus your eye on the fine views over the Cathedral and city.

Getting there

Direct flights to Florence from the UK take about two hours, and the hotel is about 6 km from the airport.

Exclusive hotel rates

Please call Member Services (020 7399 2960) for full details, to check availability, and to be first to book the exclusive Blue Ribbon Club deal, or follow the link below.

Enquire about availability.

 
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¶ Our exclusive Club rates are available to Members and their travelling companions only. To check the hotel's availability on your preferred dates, please click the specific hotel link (above or left) or visit the Club website Travel pages to browse more hotels (click here) or call Member Services on 020 7399 2960.




All rates and rooms are subject to availability and price fluctuations at the time of booking.
Bookings are made subject to our full Terms & Conditions (please read them by clicking the link below).


11 Princes Street, Mayfair, London W1B 2LJ. UK. Tel: 020 7399 2960. Web: www.countryclubuk.com.