Casa Howard, Florence $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
Casa Howard more or less invented the luxury Italian guesthouse in its two original Roman locations. This discreet home-away-from-home exports that winning formula to Florence, offering high standards of comfort and service at great rates. The look is colorful and vaguely eccentric; furniture is an eclectic mix of antiques and custom-made pieces combined with fine fabrics and strong tints. No two of its 13 bedrooms are alike: The spacious and dramatic Drawing Room has black walls and white cornices, while the Hidden Room is a sexy little den with deep red walls hung with erotic Japanese prints (plus a sunken bath). The Fireplace Room has two working fireplaces, an oversize black-velvet sofa, and honey-colored silk curtains. There is no communal space to speak of (unless you count the Turkish bath), so breakfast is served on a tray in one's room. The location is central, just steps from the Santa Maria Novella church.