Rooms from 140 euros (about $156); from 250 euros in high season.
Themes weave prominently throughout the aptly named Garibaldi Blu Hotel. Opened in December 2014 in a historic Florentine palazzo, the 21-room boutique hotel takes its name from the property’s history: A plaque outside states that the building was the site of a memorable 1867 address by Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian general and politician who was a major figure in the unification of what was then the Kingdom of Italy. So while many of the palazzo’s original details have been preserved — 19th-century frescoes above the reception desk and in some of the rooms, tall vaulted ceilings in the lounge — the hotel is also liberally decorated with pictures of the bearded patriot’s likeness. As the name suggests, there’s also a conspicuous color theme, evident everywhere from the lobby’s collection of inky-blue vases to the blue-gray walls. Added to the mix is a liberal dash of playfulness in the form of quirky lifelike statues — Batman, a pirate — that are stationed around the hotel.
The hotel is on the recently refurbished Piazza Santa Maria Novella, in the city’s historic center. It is approximately midway between the main train station and the Duomo, each about five minutes away by foot.
After a dour check-in experience with nary a welcome, my husband and I were brusquely shown to our second-floor room at the end of a mazelike hallway, where I was startled to turn a corner and find myself eye-to-eye with a life-size figure of Spock from “Star Trek.” A key card malfunction later, we finally entered the spacious room, which felt even larger thanks to the bedroom’s extremely high ceiling. The walls were painted a calming blue-gray hue, and the floors were teak parquet. Simple furnishings included a walnut desk, a couple of low stools and a firm double bed with a gray headboard and two bedside tables. The best feature, however, was revealed when a heavy floral drape was pulled aside to reveal the window and a lovely view of the entire piazza including the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella’s exquisite inlaid-marble facade.
Small but sufficient for one person at a time, the space had been updated with black-and-white terrazzo flooring, modern fixtures and bright lighting. The shower stall, a cramped box tiled with gray-veined Calacatta marble, had a glass door and rainfall shower head. In addition to bath amenities, there was also a powerful, high-quality blow dryer.
There was a meager minibar with cold drinks in the room, but Wi-Fi was fast and free. The lobby lounge, with palm tree sculptures and artworks beneath vaulted ceilings, had ample seating and an array of international publications.
A daily breakfast buffet, served in a small atrium, is included in the room rate. The spread had both hot and cold dishes, including warm scrambled eggs, loaves of rustic Tuscan bread, Italian cheeses, prosciutto, and fresh fruit juices like green-apple and a citrusy multivitamin blend. Espresso-based drinks are made to order, but filter coffee was also available. For a fee (5 euros per person), breakfast could be delivered to the room.
A mix of intriguing history and quirky design make for an eye-catching hotel, but friendlier service should be added to that equation.