Having an acquaintance living in every location you travel to is an impossibility. I often wish I did though because it would be infinitely more fun to be with someone I know instead of alone in a hotel. However, from time to time, you find a place to stay that is so welcoming it feels as if someone close is hosting you.
While searching for accommodation in Florence I came across SoprArno Suites. I was intrigued by the story of the hotel’s origins and by the online images, which showed a highly creative setting, like being in the home of a friend who has traveled all over the world to exotic places, and has collected interesting remembrances from their journeys. I was drawn to the originality and character of the place, and immediately made my booking.
Arrival at the hotel was via a 20 minute walk from the train station, Santa Maria Novella (a fantastic architectural masterpiece of sparse 30s style), to the south side of the river. This area, called Oltrarno, is less touristic and more laid back than the main city centre focused around the Duomo. Many artists and artisans have studios here.
I entered the cool, secluded courtyard of a historical townhouse, ventured to the first floor, and was absolutely enchanted by my first impression of the hotel. My imaginary collector friend, in reality the four people who collaborated to set up the hotel, had amassed an eclectic mixture of art, objects, books and furniture, contemporary and mid-century as well as older antique pieces. These were arranged to give an intensely personal appeal to the environment, while at the same time respecting and enhancing the historical building fabric. My fictional host had excellent taste, and boundless imagination.
I was shown to my room and instantly fell in love with its charming eccentricity, a pared down version of the style of the communal areas, and high level of comfort. I would have happily lingered there for a few hours, and could easily have passed the afternoon in the breakfast room browsing through the books and objects, however the splendour of Florence awaited.
The ethos of SoprArno Suites, which translated into English means Above the Arno, is all about attention to detail. Every tiny element, everything that matters to make someone new feel comfortable and at home in a strange place, is perfectly orchestrated and balanced. The final layer of this is the approach of the staff who treat guests as they would a good friend, while at the same time maintaining a professional manner and efficiency. I felt cosseted to exactly the right degree. I knew that if I required anything I only had to ask, and help would be willingly given. Needless to say, the breakfast was a superb spread, including a range of fresh local products, all of high quality and well chosen, and a staff member was discretely on hand to prepare the guests’ preferred manner of coffee.
My new imaginary best friend, and the accommodation they offered, more than lived up to my expectations and I would love to pay another visit sometime. SoprArno Suites feels like a place you would instinctively return to again and again.
The Zebra stayed at SoprArno Suites (Via Maggio, 35, 50125 Firenze)