If you have had enough of impersonal hotel rooms with indifferent service and like the idea of a bit of luxury combined with the atmosphere of an elegant private residence, 12-room Casa Howard could provide the answer.
Occupying a handsome palazzo on Via della Scala (a rather scruffy street that is, however, conveniently situated for both the train station and the city centre), this discreet home-from-home is the brainchild of Massimiliano Leonardi and his English interior-designer wife. The idea is to offer a discreet pied-a-terre with high standards of comfort and service plus the sort of accessible prices that will appeal to leisure travellers.
Once inside, the look is stylish and vaguely eccentric with an emphasis on quality; furniture is an eclectic mixture of custom-made pieces and pickings from the family vaults while fine fabrics and strong colours play a major role. No two bedrooms are alike (apart from the tiny ‘Twins’ which are near mirror images of each other), but they are all done out with style, originality and touches of humour. The large Drawing Room is the most dramatic; white cornicing stands out against black walls while the bed heads are covered in leopard print. The Fireplace Room has two of them; one is in the bathroom where you can watch the plasma screen TV while soaking in the clawfoot tub. The Fireplace Room is just that apart from an oversized black velvet sofa and blousy pale honey-coloured silk curtains while the Hidden Room is a sensual little den whose deep red walls are hung with erotic Japanese prints and which shares its floor space with a shower in a glass box and a sunken bath. It has its own chintzy little living room too. Pooch owners will be pleased with the dog baskets and large terrace in the Game Room, smokers can indulge their habit in the Camel Room and the kids can let off steam on the climbing frame in the Play Room.
There are electric kettles with supplies of tea and coffee in all rooms plus LCD TVs and everything else you would expect from a top level hotel. Bathrooms (which all have cosy heated floors) are quirky and fun (although some are quite small) and well stocked with delicious Santa Maria Novella bath goodies. There is no communal space to speak of (unless you count the Turkish Bath) so breakfast is served on a tray in the rooms. The lack of a bar is compensated for by ‘honesty’ fridges filled with champagne, wines and soft drinks on each floor.
Casa Howard Florence only opened a few months ago, but the Leonardi’s have been successfully running two Roman versions for some years now and there are plans to expand into other European art cities such as Barcelona and Prague. Good luck to them.. it would seem they are on to a winner and there’s nowhere else quite like it in Florence.
Via della Scala 18,
Florence 50123 Italy
tel 06 69924555,
Doubles € 170- € 250