Helvetia & Bristol
Via Dei Pescioni 2, Florence, Italy, 50123
- Recommended for:
- Couples, Culture vultures, Mature travellers, Shopping, Special occasions
Expert review of Helvetia & Bristol
I’ve always had a soft spot for the venerable old Helvetia & Bristol, which first opened its doors to guests in the late 1800s and is now one of Florence’s best small (ish) hotels. It successfully combines a feeling of old-fashioned luxury with the sort of modern services to suit today’s travellers and is a perfect foil to the more contemporary-look places that feature quite strongly on my list.
Certain features of the place - the antiques and paintings (from the owner’s superb collection), the big open fireplace in the lobby, the retro style of the bedrooms - will have changed little since the days of the Grand Tour when the likes of Igor Stravinsky and Bertrand Russell stayed here.
The location - on a side street just opposite Palazzo Strozzi - is great. Walk out of the front door and you are a stone's throw from the designer stores of Via Tornabuoni and five minutes from the Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi gallery and the Duomo. Lower floor rooms may get some traffic noise in spite of good double glazing.
Not everyone will go for the opulent style of the décor in the 68 rooms and suites arranged over five floors, but it’s very classy. Silk wall hangings, rich fabrics, antiques and fine paintings may not be what you’d choose for your home, but it’s fun and romantic in a hotel. Soft feather duvets, flatscreen TVs and smart marble bathrooms bring the rooms bang up to date. The two top-floor suites have fabulous views of the city and hills beyond through huge picture windows. Rooms on the third and fourth floors also have good light and views; those below this level are a bit dark.
The welcoming lobby with its huge crackling fire, fine antiques, impressive paintings and sculptures and velvet-covered sofas and armchairs gives an atmospheric first impression of the hotel. There’s a Belle Époque Winter Garden with a tinkling fountain and a slightly claustrophobic -feeling restaurant and bar, which spill out onto the pavement in summer.
The Hostaria Bibendum restaurant and bar on the ground floor are done out in plush deep orange/paprika velvet - it’s a bit overwhelming. But the food, unfussy renditions of Tuscan dishes, is good and the bar is popular with the locals.
Efficient, unstuffy and comfortably old-fashioned; many of the staff have worked here for years.
It caters mainly to the leisure market and will appeal both to older travellers who appreciate the old-school style and younger people for whom old-school style is hip.
More information on Helvetia & Bristol:
- Price from:
- Via Dei Pescioni 2, Florence, Italy, 50123
- Business Centre, Room Service, High-Speed Internet, Restaurant, Parking
- Piazza della Repubblica