It’s hard to believe I didn’t post this sooner but the end of the year came and went, and then the office got crazy busy. Anyway, I went to Italy and I never told you, my readers and clients, about the trip. Until now, and this is just Part One. The main purpose of the trip was to check out hotels since I sell a lot of Italy and hadn’t been back in a year (to Venice) or three (Florence). And I had never been to Chianti.
If you’d prefer a visual tour, click here. Otherwise, please read on.
It’s not too often I would even mention flights these days, but for this trip I wanted to try something new. Since I started from New York I took Austrian Airlines to Venice via Vienna. Overall it was nice but no rave reviews. Everybody wears red (red jackets, red stockings, etc.) The seats were red. The food was actually pretty good, too. It wasn’t red. The flight attendants were the opposite of your typical American carrier — all very young and not jaded, but they could have used a bit more experience. The Vienna airport is small and easy to connect at. I’d fly them again.
I took SWISS [the old Swissair] back from Florence to San Francisco via Zurich. Cute little airplane up and over the Alps. Very polished. We had a pretzel and a piece of chocolate. The Zurich airport is very modern and has great upscale shopping including a snazzy chocolate shop, Hugo Boss, etc. Nice place to change planes. The flight back to SFO was up there with Air France as one of the best to/from Europe. Nice, new, clean planes. Friendly service. Food was OK.
Venice | Venezia
Arriving in Venice on a spectacular late Fall day is one of life’s great pleasures. The crowds were non-existent. The weather was warm. The streets in the late morning were quiet except for the footsteps of the signoras preparing their pranzo. Yes, I wanted to stay forever.
I took the Alilaguna water shuttle from the airport just one stop and then walked to my hotel – Ca Sagredo. Goes down on my list as one of the top hotels anywhere. Doesn’t have all the services, and no spa, but the rooms & suites are authentic Venetian, the corridors hundreds of years old, and the views of the canal from the top rooms are breathtaking. 6+ stars. The other two hotels that I really enjoyed were the Danieli and the Londra Palace. These are more traditional hotels with a bit more hustle and bustle, the Danieli more so than the smaller Londra. The Danieli’s rooms are elaborate while the Londra’s more homey and unusual. I was fortunate to have had lunch at the Danieli on their terrace overlooking the Lagoon. The meal was one of the best I’ve ever had (pasta with anchovies for starters) and the view was unreal. Cocktails at the Londra Palace at their intimate bar was relaxing and dinner was fairly non-traditional Italian. I don’t think I had pasta! It was 5 star continental cuisine which would rival about any restaurant anywhere, and the dining room is small, quiet & elegant. And right on the Lagoon. I imagine that on a warmer evening you can sit outside.
I also visited the Centurion, the Bauer, Bauer il Palazzo, Bonvecchiati and the Bonvecchiati Palace. Unfortunately the Cipriani was already closed for the season.
Florence | Firenze
The train to Florence took just a couple of hours and I walked to my first hotel, JK Place, right on Piazza Santa Maria Novella, near the church with the same name. Actually the train station is named after it too — SMN. The hotel is a find. Similar in size and function to Ca Sagredo, it’s small and personal and with an amazing design sense. Very sophisticated. And both have fabulous bathrooms. JK is like your home. You ring the doorbell, they let you in. Serve you a drink as you relax in the lobby. And the location is perfect. It’s actually hard to have a bad location in Florence but this area is nice. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to have a meal here.
But I did make it to the Four Seasons Florence where I again had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Anywhere. Traditional Italian. Tuscan wine. The hotel is a former convent [what else is new in Italy?] as well as palace. I know Florence very well having lived there and this hotel will not be for everyone due to the location. It’s not for anybody who wants to walk out the door and have everything right there. So you can’t run out the door, have a cappuccino, and then run back in to take a shower before sightseeing. Or it’s hard to come back to it between museums. But it’s not that badly located – just sort of. The great thing about this hotel (besides my friend Maria G) is that you can relax, take a swim (in summer) or go to the nice gym. It’s really a resort in the City. So great for kids, of course. The decor is a bit over the top 16th century, but I could live with that.
The best located great hotel in town, other than the very small JK Place discussed above, is the Savoy. Besides another friend here (Francesca P) this hotel is the embodiment of modern day Florence. A typical 19th century building, starkly modern inside, and chic as Rocco Forte is known for. Suites are stunning in Florentine simplicity with mosaic bathrooms of varying colors. Love this place, but if you have to have super quiet, the noise from the piazza might bother you, especially on busy summer weekends.
There are several more hotels worth mentioning, and for a review, just call or email me. They are the Florence St. Regis, the Florence Excelsior, Relais Santa Croce, Hotel Gallery Art, Villa San Michele (Orient Express hotel near Fiesole)
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Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys. Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler. His personal relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies often allows for exclusive amenities and VIP status.
If you’d like to learn more about luxury travel and our services, please contact Josh Friedman Luxury Travel in San Francisco’s Financial District via phone at 415.987.0372 or email: josh [at] joshfriedmantravel [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, too.
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