Instead of staying in a soulless hotel, imagine coming home from a day's sightseeing or shopping to your own cool, private apartment and relaxing in the dappled shade of a spreading tree in a sleepy garden, sipping a glass of chianti and feeling the warm, scented breeze on your skin and hearing the songbirds and the church bells chiming melodiously all over Florence.......It is easy to wax lyrical about this place – it is not the last word in luxury but it is a charming and comfortable haven.
These apartments were recommended to me by a work colleague who had stayed here several times herself. I am so glad I took up her recommendation! I feel strangely reluctant to share this 'secret' for fear of not being able to get back in the next time I visit Florence! My friend and I had a week to spend in Florence and we wanted to be "in amongst" the Florentines. This Residenza was just perfect. It is safe, secure, clean, comfortable, economical, well situated and oh, so pretty. The owners/caretakers live on the premises and are so friendly, helpful and kind. The Residenza is within easy walking distance of just about everywhere in Florence you could wish to see (and all the walks are lovely anyway!).
The Residenza il Carmine is fronted by the original old Palazzo which contains 3 luxury apartments. Entry to the entire property is through a massive door on the Via d'Ardiglione, then a walk through the impressive hallway of the Palazzo and lastly through the Residenza's pretty garden. To the left are the 3 garden apartments which branch out back towards the Chiesa il Carmine (the beautiful Church decorated with magnificent Fillipo Lippi frescoes) and to the right of the garden is the owner's home. You have a key to the huge front door and also a door from the Palazzo hall before you can access the garden and its apartments, so it is ultra-secure.
We had the 'Mirra' apartment which is the closest one to the church - it practically backs on to it. The lovely Miriam met us on arrival and showed us around and how things worked. Our apartment was spotless, charmingly decorated, incredibly comfortable and freshly aired. Miriam left us a complimentary basket of breakfast goodies (crispbreads, sweet rolls, cheese and fruit, water etc.) to start our holiday off. The kitchen has gas hotplates, a microwave and little refridgerator. The shower was excellent (if you are searching for towels, you will find that they are the large linen squares under the bathroom sink - strange to me, but worked well!). The rooms are airy and deliciously cool after the hot sunshine outside.
Miriam, her husband, son and delightful daughter, Caterina, are very approachable and happy to help with directions, recommendations, wifi password, wrestling corks out of bottles (haha) and the ordering of taxis although they never impose or intrude.
Near to the residenza there are a number of bars, bakeries, delicatessans and excellent trattorias. There is also a laundrette and a well-stocked small supermarket very close by (you can also buy delicious local wines here!). Our favourite trattorias were the Cavolo Nero (just 2 doors along from the Residenza) - delicious meals and a pretty restaurant with an airy vine covered loggia at the the back and (our absolute favourite) the Trattoria Da Ginone on Via de Serragli - simply the best Tuscan food and service I have ever experienced. The most luscious scallopine limone in the world, a divine creme brulee and all with the friendliest service and genuine warmth around. Once we found this trattoria, we went back for dinner every night!
An easy (and lovely) 15 minute walk, crossing the Arno River by one of the beautiful bridges, will get you to the Ponte Vecchio. Outside the Residenza's front door, walk about 100 metres along Via d'Ardiglione, then turn right onto Via Serragli then left to go over the bridge. Once on the bridge you will have magnificent views up and down the Arno, with the amazing Ponte Vecchio to be seen (and photographed) on your right hand side. 10 - 15 minutes in the opposite direction will get you to the lavish and extensive Boboli Gardens (take water – drinks are hard to find here and it is a very large place!).
During our stay we also went on a “Tuscany in a day” tour – a fantastic and value packed capsule tour of the Tuscan countryside (lunch included) which included Siena, San Gimingano and stunning Pisa. I would not have missed these for the world – they are each so utterly beautiful. The tour conveniently started from the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence. It was a very long day – 12.5 hours all up, but well worth it.
There is so much to see and do in Florence and you can get to just about everywhere by foot. The city is eminantly walkable. As well as the usuals (Duomo, Uffizi etc., each astonishing and glorious), try not to miss the Lippi frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi (right near the fabulous San Lorenzo market) and don't forget to check out the beautiful little church right behind your apartment! I absolutely cannot wait to go back and would not hesitate to recommend the Residenza il Carmine to anyone wanting comfort, convenience, value and a really special experience of Firenze.
2 little tips:
1. We couldn't get our laptop to connect to wifi inside the apartment but if you sit in the doorway or at one of the tables in the garden, it works just fine
2. If you intend to post any packages home from Florence - take your passport with you!! We found out (the hard way) that your passport is required in order to do so.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Residenza il Carmine is the ideal alternative to a standard hotel.We are located in the Oltrarno ( meaning "Beyond the river Arno ),in Santo Spirito area,just few steps from Ponte Vecchio,Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery.One of the most fascinating parts of the city,where the narrow streets,little squares,old trattorias,markets and craftsmen'sworkshops,still breathe the spirit of old Florence.Our apartments,well furnished and particulary warm,are located in our beautiful garden and in the historical 17th century Palace.Residenza il Carmine è la perfetta alternativa ad un hotel.Ci troviamo nell'Oltrarno,nella zona di Santo Spirito,proprio a pochi passi dal Ponte Vecchio,Palazzo Pitti e la Galleria degli Uffizi.Questo è uno dei luoghi più pittoreschi e affascinanti della città,dove le stradine, le piazzette, le vecchie trattorie e i mercati ci fanno ancora respirare il legame con la Firenze antica.I nostri appartamenti,totalmente e finemente arredati,si trovano nel giardino della Residenza e nel Palazzo storico del 1600. ... more less