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Hotel Helvetia & Bristol, Florence 

2 Via dei Pescioni
Italy 50123
Tel: 39 055 26651
view web site ›'s insider take:

One of central Florence's best small hotels, the Helvetia & Bristol has had a distinguished history, with Stravinsky, Gabriele d'Annunzio, Pirandello, and Bertrand Russell among its past guests. The public rooms and 67 bedrooms are filled with fine paintings and antiques, and the atmosphere is exclusive without being stuffy, largely thanks to the genuinely helpful staff. On the ground floor is an elegant salon hung with handsome oil paintings, where velvet sofas and armchairs are grouped around a huge pietra serena fireplace. Breakfast is served in the Belle Époque Winter Garden; for lunch or dinner, the Hostaria Bibendum restaurant mixes unfussy Tuscan dishes like Chianina beef tartare with more flashy Italian and international numbers. Minimalists will probably find the sumptuous decor in the bedrooms too opulent, and some rooms are seriously on the small side (try to upgrade from the poky classic double to a deluxe double, if possible). Splurge on a suite here—as Tom Ford reportedly used to do when he was designing for Gucci—and you'll be very happy; otherwise, you may find better value elsewhere.

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