Hotel Reviews: Milan, Florence, and Rome
Something I never write about on here is where you should stay if you're visiting Italy. That's because I usually bop through a town in one day; being the stingy traveler that I am, I'd rather walk around for 7+ hours and cram everything into one day than pay for a hotel or hostel. But in traveling with my family over the past week, hotels were obviously necessary. We spent two and a half days based in Milan, three and a half days based in Florence, and four and a half days based in Rome - plenty of time to decide whether or not the hotels we stayed in were worth a recommendation or not.
Like many of my travel decisions, I turned to Rick Steves for his God-like advice while choosing hotels, and 2 out of the 3 we stayed in came from his Italy book. I began booking for our late-December trip in mid-October, and I wouldn't suggest waiting much longer than that if you plan to visit during a busy tourist time (unfortunately, Christmas/New Years is definitely a busy tourist time).
Milan - Hotel Palazzo delle Stelline
Palazzo delle Stelline is a good choice if you prefer to be farther away from the busy, touristy city center of Milan. Because 99% of Milan's main attractions are clustered around the Duomo, so are 99% of the hotels. The majority of these are gimmicky and overpriced. You might think you're getting a good deal given their location, but you can save 100 Euros by choosing something a little less flashy and a little further away.
Palazzo delle Stelline is a quiet hotel in Milan that used to function as a monastery. You won't wake up next to the Duomo, but you will be right across the street from Santa Maria Delle Grazie, home of Da Vinci's Last Supper, and a ten minute walk from Cadorna Station, where you can access any of Milan's three metro lines and an express train to Malpensa Airport. To get to the Duomo area, it's just a 15 minute walk in more or less a straight line. You'll be amongst locals and have plenty of bars and cafes to pop into along your way - you'll notice that they're considerably less expensive and less crowded further away from the Duomo area.
TripAdvisor has been a bit too harsh to Palazzo delle Stelline, in my opinion. Most complaints are directed towards "boring rooms which lack charm," and "meager breakfast offerings." Like I said, if you want a lavish room, book near the Duomo, but be prepared for a lavish price. Our rooms at Palazzo delle Stelline were tidy, clean, had comfortable beds and functioning bathrooms. You don't need much more when you're spending the entire day outside sightseeing, anyway. As for the breakfast, I think we all agreed that Palazzo delle Stelline had a pretty good spread. You'll find the typical Italian breakfast fare; croissants and pastries, slices of cheese and ham, coffee and orange juice - but there's also a good selection of American fare, like bacon, eggs, cereal, yogurt, and fruit.
Single room: around 100 Euros/night
Double room: around 175 Euros/night
Suite: around 205 Euros/night
Florence - Locanda de'Ciompi
We were all rather impressed with Locanda de'Ciompi. With only 5 rooms, it's less of a hotel and more of a bed and breakfast. I'm surprised we managed to get two rooms during the busy holiday time.
The owner is Alessio, and we all found him to be incredibly warm and welcoming. He clearly would have been quick to answer any of our questions - had we had any. The rooms are spacious and very charming, and the bathrooms were very nice as well.
The best thing about Locanda de'Ciompi is its location. It's a very quick ten minute walk to Piazza del Duomo. Located right in the piazza, the hard to miss cathedral of Florence is a good orientation point for getting around. The main streets that you'll take to get to other sights in the city all fan out from the piazza, making it very easy to walk anywhere. From the piazza, it's another ten minutes to get to the Santa Maria Novella train station. This is very convenient if you plan to do a day trip from Florence, or, if you're coming/going and have lots of luggage, it's only a 10-15 Euro cab ride to/from the hotel.
Breakfast was complimentary at the cafe next door and included juice, your choice of a form of caffeine, biscuits, and croissants. Not as much selection as other hotels, but I think everyone shares my sentiment that you'll want to save your calories for dinner, anyway.
Prices fluctuate depending on whether you're visiting in the midst of tourism season or not.
Single room: 50-60 Euros
Double room: 60-85 Euros
Triple room: 90-130 Euros
Rome - Hotel Portoghesi
If you've ever seen Eat, Pray, Love, the scene where Julia Roberts gets out of a cab in Rome for the first time is shot right outside Hotel Portoghesi. Like our Florence hotel, what we liked most about this one was its fabulous location.
Rome can be incredibly confusing at first. It's rather vast and depending on where your hotel is, getting to a certain area for sightseeing can end up being costly or very time consuming. From Hotel Portoghesi, however, we were able to walk to each major area of Rome without much difficulty. It's situated right on the river and takes about 15 minutes to get to the Vatican, 30 minutes to walk to the Colosseum/ruins area (longer if you stop along the way to look at other things) and about 20 minutes to get to the north Rome/Spanish Steps area. You could feasibly walk to the Roma Termini train station as well, but with luggage, we found it easier to take a cab.
The rooms had slightly more charm than those of Milan, but lacked the character of our Florence hotel. The bathrooms were nice as well, and breakfast was average (assortment of carbs in the form of pastries and cereals, various juices, milk, and coffee). Nothing overly spectacular, but again, it's not like we planned to spend our time in the hotel anyway. With Hotel Portoghesi, the price is definitely due to the location.
Single room: 160 Euros
Double room: 200 Euros
Suite: 260 Euros
All bathrooms included complimentary soap, shampoo, and hairdryers.
All hotels charged an extra tax: about 2-3 Euros per person, per night.