Casa Howard Florence
This affordable guesthouse—opened in 2005 as a Florentine outpost of successful Roman experiment in a new kind of Italian lodging—features 13 themed accommodations in a prime location near Santa Maria Novella church. This is not a full-service hotel: There’s no concierge, no porter for your bags, not even a receptionist—a housekeeper checks in guests and gives them the keys (though you should advise them about any unduly early or late arrivals so they'll be sure to have someone around). The idea of the guesthouse is to treat is as more of your private Florentine flat, complete with WiFi and LCD TVs. Each room is unique, with unusual colors and quirky furnishings—the Oriental Room is filled with pieces collected on the owners' Asian travels against tomato red walls, the large Drawing Room has Venetian mosaic marble floors and black walls with eye-popping white trim, the cozy Hidden Room has a padded wall and sunken tub, and the Garden Room has its own Turkish Bath.
Room to Book: The Library Room has wall-to-wall shelves filled with books in English. The family-friendly Play Room has a private climbing wall.