Most of my holidays are short breaks, usually a 3-night weekend break, or in the case of Florence this week, 5 nights. I’ve got into the habit of booking flight and hotel through British Airways as the package is usually a good deal and living so close to Heathrow I always prefer to fly from there. This is how I came to find Hotel Cellai in Florence. It describes itself as a ’boutique hotel’ and from some research online, as well as the BA recommendation, it sounded very nice. But of course you can never really tell what a hotel is like until you experience it.
Hotel Cellai sounded friendly and when you’re travelling alone that’s very important. It’s nice when hotel staff bother to greet you as you come and go, ask how your day’s been, be happy to give advice or directions. Hotel Cellai went even beyond this. I’ve only experienced such friendliness before at my favourite hotel in Venice, where I’ve been many times, and the hotel I stayed at in Bologna three years ago. All the breakfast staff would greet people with a big smile and buongiorno, the maids cleaning rooms would give a big smile and say hello. The reception staff were friendly and helpful. For me, being on my own, it gave me a little feeling of ‘going home’ each time I went back and I felt it a cosy haven in the wonderful but rather manic centre of Florence.
I’d been in touch before I arrived. Firstly to upgrade my room. When booking I wasn’t given the chance as usually happens to choose a standard double room for single use, and I wasn’t keen on sleeping in single bed and fairly small room for 5 nights. So I emailed the hotel and it was all sorted to reserve a bigger room for me. Obviously at an extra charge. I continued the correspondence to ask if they could recommend some restaurants, explaining I wrote the blog and hoped to find some nice restaurants, preferably not the usual tourist ones but also simple trattorias rather than posh restaurants. They sent me a list and one of them ended up being my favourite restaurant of the trip.
The hotel has nice touches. My room – I think I ended up with one of the bigger ones! – had a kettle which I always love. It’s so nice to be able to make a tea when you wake up, have a nighttime tea as you go to bed; make a hot drink when you go back for a rest in the day. The bathroom had the usual shampoo, shower gel and soap but also toothpaste and a beauty kit with things like cotton buds.
The only negative to the room was it was at the front with a busy road outside so it was never really very quiet, other than in the night. But then I was in the middle of a major city. There were though double windows to block a lot of noise out and air conditioning to keep the room cool.
Breakfast was included and it was one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve seen. Juices, cereals and yoghurt; steaming platters of scrambled egg brought regularly from the kitchen; pastries and freshly baked cakes; platters of meat, cheese and tomato bruschette. There was a big urn of hot water and choice of teas, coffee with the option of asking the staff to make a cappuccino if you wanted.
You could sit in the dining room but they also made up more casual small tables in nearby sitting areas.
There were lots of cosy little seating areas with artworks, books, paintings, all around the hotel which added to the attraction. You often read about hotels being ‘charming’ but Hotel Cellai really is.
One of the really special things was that between 5 and 6pm complimentary tea was offered in a sitting room with a big choice of teas and some cake. Just perfect for an afternoon rest after a day of sightseeing before going out again for the evening.
The hotel is very conveniently situated, just a 10-minute walk from Florence’s main railway station, Santa Maria Novella. And it’s only about a 15-20 minute walk to the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio; a 10-minute walk to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s ‘David’. It really couldn’t be much better – unless very posh and expensive is your preference – and I’ll certainly go back to Hotel Cellai next time I go to Florence.