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Hotels of Florence, A Primer

Unlike the Grand, the Excelsior confines most of its antiques (including quintessentially Florentine X-form Savonarola chairs detailed with lions' heads) to the public areas and suites. But the guest rooms still look plenty pedigreed. Swooping headboards are carved with scrolls and shells. Walls are lavishly upholstered above the dado and edged with passementerie rope. Sofas are extra deep. Bathrooms are equipped with a crucial accessory that, despite its obviousness, most hotels overlook: a shoehorn.

I have a fantasy. I am the owner of a Tuscan villa. The Excelsior is my Florence pied-à-terre. Grand Hotel, 1 Piazza Ognissanti; 800/325-3589 or 39-055/288-781; www.starwoodhotels.com; doubles from $770. Westin Excelsior, 3 Piazza Ognissanti; 800/325-3589 or 39-055/264-201; www.starwoodhotels.com; doubles from $763.


Florence's First Family of Fashion is as big a force on the local hotel scene as they are in shoes and ready-to-wear. The owners of Lungarno Hotels (39-055/2726-4000; www.lungarnohotels.com), the Ferragamos run four well-bred properties. All of the city's riverside hotels have streets separating them from the Arno—except the genteel, 73-room Hotel Lungarno (14 Borgo San Jacopo; doubles from $415), which is poised directly on the embankment. With 74 rooms and a contemporary boutique sensibility, the Gallery Hotel Art (5 Vicolo dell'Oro; doubles from $373) is the family's bid for a younger, more design-aware customer. Unfortunately, you could be anywhere. The discreet Lungarno Suites (4 Lungarno Acciaiuoli; doubles from $440), whose 44 rooms all have kitchens, is tailored to independent travelers seeking an apartment rather than a hotel experience. If your idea of hell is having to greet an army of personnel before setting out every morning, this place is for you. The small reception area is the only public space (though guests have privileges at all the group's hotels), and room service is supplied by the Fusion Bar Shozan Gallery, at the Gallery Hotel Art. The sleek, fifties-flavored 43-room Continentale (6R Vicolo dell'Oro; doubles from $390), at the foot of the Ponte Vecchio, may not be for seekers of calm, but fashion hounds are pronouncing it heaven.

Housed in a well-located 18th-century building, the Cellai is one of the last family-run hotels in Florence. Staff members do many of the things staffers at the big guns do (for example, they'll arrange in advance for museum tickets, so you don't have to waste time in line) and a lot of things they can't (such as make you feel that their day hinges on your happiness). The roof garden looks out on the hills of Florence, and the Cellai's 44 guest rooms have a plain, unfussy dignity.
Hotel Cellai, 14 Via 27 Aprile; 39-055/489-291; www.hotelcellai.it; doubles from $160.

CHRISTOPHER PETKANAS is a special correspondent for T+L.


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