I splurged on my hotel in Florence…
… and it was worth every penny.
Florence was top on my list of places to visit because I had become obsessed with seeing the Duomo in person. I have a mild obsession (can obsessions be mild?) with architectural history, historical dramas, and Richard Madden… so when he played Cosimo de Medici on the TV series, it was decided—I had to go see the capital of the Renaissance.
I flew into Europe through Paris, stayed overnight there, then took the morning flight to Florence. Seeing Tuscany from my window seat on the plane was surreal. Its rolling hills and trees and plots of land with red-roofed villas was exactly how I had pictured it. We stepped out of the plane and walked down the tarmac to baggage claim, and I immediately felt the sun on my face. Everything about the region embodied warmth.
Even my cab driver, who was blasting dance music as we drove through the winding roads that took us from the airport to via de Tournaboni, was warm and welcoming and friendly (I mean, she danced as she drove). The yellow-tinged buildings and cobblestones of my hotel's street were old and vibrant and beautiful.
I stayed at Room Mate Isabella, a four-star boutique hotel recommended by a Florentine friend of my brother's. This was my first time ever splurging on a hotel (I've only ever relegated myself to Airbnbs and hostels, so while I'm fully aware that five-star, full-on luxury is out there, it is still way beyond my reach). OMG it was the BEST. DECISION. EVER. It took me a while to figure out where I was going to stay in Florence, but after some very thorough research, I decided to overshoot my budget for a few reasons:
- It was going to be my first time in Florence and having a 24-hour front office was quite comforting.
- Free breakfast. I wake up at the crack of dawn and am always ravenous by 7am so the prospect of a full breakfast spread won me over.
- Five minutes from the Duomo? SOLD.
- Even online, the rooms seemed to possess a very quirky, fun vibe. I normally lean toward modern lines and really sparse color, but when designers do classic-revival and color right (read: not gaudy), I am all in.
I booked the single room which was perfect for a solo traveler—it had everything I could ever need or want. Comfy bed with lots of fluffy pillows? Check. Desk space? Check. Lots of closet space? Check. The minute I walked in my room, I fell in love with the vertical striped wallpaper, the bold bumblebee yellow, and the smattering of black and white prints everywhere.
The room also smelled divine. My best friend and husband, who were staying at a friendlier-priced place by Santa Maria Novella Station immediately latched on to my hotel's lovely, lovely scent (they said it was nothing like the stench of pipes and sewage from their side of town).
The art on the wall is also a nice touch. Florence is such an old city, it makes sense to embrace the traditional and plaster them all over the walls. Room Mate Isabella has gallery walls all through its interiors, from the staircase that leads you up from street level to the reception desk, to the landings between the different floors. Everything is done in perfect taste. It's also very Harry Potter! In the best way possible!
I also love the little touches: the handwritten note from the manager, the card that introduces you to whoever turned your bed down, perfectly packaged cantucci (Italian almond biscuits), and bonbons. Best of all, the hotel gives you a mobile wi-fi device to tote around the city for free.
I know I am not alone in this… but the first feature I check out when I'm looking for a place to stay is the bathroom. IT HAS TO BE GOOD. And this one did not disappoint! It was clean (no icky dirty grout on the tiles!), with an enclosed shower, a toilet, a bidet (yay), a towel warmer, generous shelf space, fluffy towels, and the sweetest-smelling 'Made from Wabi Sabi' bath products. I couldn't have asked for a better bathroom.
And the breakfast buffet I was looking forward to? It was a joy to make my way down the stairs and have all that fresh, Italian food at my disposal. I made friends with a fellow Filipino on staff, Rolly, whose first line to me on my first morning there was, "Feel at home. Kumain ka lang. (Eat whatever you want!)" For five mornings, I kicked off my days with short conversations with Rolly, who would always eagerly make me a cup of cappuccino.
While I munched on my charcuterie, bread, fruit, and the best-tasting crunchy orange-hazelnut-almond granola I've ever had, he would tell me stories about how long he's worked in Florence, about how he's holding two jobs, about his son who lives in Singapore, and how he was going to visit another son in the UK in just a few months. He told me about his home in Baguio and how he was looking forward to retirement.
By the end of my stint in Florence, I had become so attached to our morning chats that I could barely say goodbye to Rolly without tearing up! I know the Room Mate hotels pride themselves in giving their guests a home away from home, and I really felt that because of my mornings spent talking to Rolly.
PS: Those were the sweetest cherry tomatoes I've had. EVER.
As much as I dreamed of traveling to Florence and as much as I wanted to be there, it was still a new and unfamiliar place to me. Having a Filipino greet me every morning took away any hint of nervousness I had in the beginning. Rolly even saw me off with a doggie bag of fruit and bottled water to take on the train to Milan! <3
Florence holds so many charms, I cannot possibly contain them all in just one post. But my story starts here, by this window, where I would sit and take my breakfast while telling my surrogate Filipino-Florentine uncle all about my plans for the day.
And now? I'm currently reliving my Room Mate Isabella experience by using the Wabi Sabi stuff I took home with me. If I close my eyes a little longer, I can pretend I'm back in this lovely, lovely hotel.
I can hardly wait for my next Room Mate experience.