We loved the hotel, our room with balcony and the place. Thank you so much for your suggestion and recommendation
Fantastic service and support throughout adding a sense of security to the trip. I received friendly advice and back up from Jay some years back and also from Jessica
Thanks to Marie Mckeown for putting together a stress free and memorable holiday to Iceland
Noah was very helpful and knowledgeable
Very personal service from all the team
I had issues when checking in online to allow our group of four to sit together.
You are all brilliant! I already knew this, but I can confirm it again. Nicole's support as always continues to be fantastic!
Thanks Billy, we had a wonderful time. Hotel was wonderful, great staff, comfortable rooms and great food at their restaurants.
A great holiday if a little tiring
When we did find problems checking in these were quickly renedied by Manny.
Everything went to plan
All went very well: excellent apartment in a lovely city. A great antidote to the English winter…
Amazing experience from start to finish. Ivor and his colleagues are simply exceptional. Keep up the good work.
Scandic Hotel recommended and was great. Flight connection on return was a rush but made it.
We had a BA City break ruined by a bomb - and needed to find a break for the same price within 20 hours. Ian as always came up trumps.
From first phone call to every arrangement requested. Everything happened perfectly with Sean and Oliver guiding the process. Thank you for making it happen and giving me assurance when concerned, you are brilliant!
Have already recommended
Unfortunately our flight was delayed 8 hours at Heathrow termimal 5 because of fog - all very frustrating but no one's fault. It's a risk one takes when flying
Big thanks once again to Jack and his team. Five star service - wouldn't book anywhere else.
Always a great service from Samuel
Always very helpful and fast to respond - Colin Barlow very helpful in particular.
Everything went smoothly and as expected.
As always brilliant!
Howard suggested a wonderful holiday within our means. The accommodation was good with loads of activities and places to go.
Thank you Troy. Would highly recommend
It was a shame that our flight was cancelled by British Airways coming home. But Des sorted it out. We had a lovely time in Copenhagen and we are all looking forward to booking our next trip
All went very well. Jonathan always looks after us
Appreciate the help and confidence you gave me booking this holiday….have used many times in the past
Up to the usual high standard.
Italy makes me greedy. Florence is awash with deliriously good art, Milan is Italy's fashion and design hub, and both of them have outstanding food scenes.
However, it turns out that you don't have to make a choice when it comes to a long weekend break. These two cities are only a 90-minute train journey apart, so it's possible to explore both in one trip.
By happy coincidence, both cities have airports nearby. It is a just a 20-minute journey from Peretola airport in Florence to our hotel, the Helvetia & Bristol, in the heart of the city.
Opened in 1848, this former palazzo is the oldest hotel in Florence and is still a charmer, with deep colours, marble bathrooms and ingrained atmosphere. We sip aperitivos beside a log fire while elegant Florentines mill around us.
However, with just 67 rooms, the Helvetia & Bristol hasn't got attitude. Rather, it's as friendly as Tom Hanks (the Hollywood star stayed here while filming 2016's Inferno) and it's also handily central - the Uffizi gallery and the Duomo are just minutes away.
The view from my window is pure E.M. Forster, although there are signs that Florence is becoming hipper.
In Piazza della Signoria is the Gucci Garden. The Italian fashion house has taken one of Florence's palazzos and turned into an arty showcase, with slogans on the wall and where a box of pencils, made in China, costs an astonishing 90 euro.
Offering more of a bargain is Desinare, just off Via dei Serragli. It's a reclamation yard, restaurant and cookery school, where Maria has us making fresh tagliatelle with a saffron sauce, bruschetta with kale pesto, and a delicious flourless chocolate cake.
For a more rural experience, but just 15 minutes outside Florence and still with amazing views of the city, is Il Salviatino hotel. This is a beautifully restored 15th century villa in the rolling Tuscan hills. It has original frescoes, lush organic gardens - and offers the opportunity to go truffle hunting in the hotel grounds, as well as winery tours and family-style Tuscan dinners. This is an authentic, magical, Italian escape combined with sheer luxury, perfect service and a setting of pure grandeur - and Florence in easy reach.
Also in the stunning countryside near Florence is the Belmond Villa San Michele, a 14th century former monastery that's now recognised as one of the country's finest small boutique hotels. It's surrounded by lush woods and terraced gardens of lemon trees and fragrant roses, with stunning views.
The hotel is steeped in history - and seeing medieval architecture perfectly blended with modern luxury is fascinating. First, savour superb Tuscan cuisine on the alfresco loggia...then take lessons in Tuscan fusion cuisine at the hotel's famed cookery school.
A day or two later we clamber aboard the train and head north, and glimpses of glorious Tuscan hills give way to tunnels and finally to Milan.
Our hotel, the Rosa Grand, also has a prized location. From here you can see every knobble of the city's spiny Duomo.
If Florence is joyously tied to the past, Milan is a city that works. It feels sure of itself. There are crowds and paparazzi as we start to explore - it turns out that one of Italy's top chefs is getting married.
Staying so centrally brings all sorts of pleasures, mostly of the lazy sort.
I get to wander into the Reale Palace to catch an exhibition of Caravaggio and costumes from opera house La Scala, peruse mind-bogglingly expensive vegetables in Peck (a grocery story that displays its wares like art) and then slip into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the imposing glass and steel shopping arcade built in 1877.
In the middle is Marchesi. Milan's most famous pasticceria recently opened a branch here. Now owned by Prada, it's part cafe, part art installation. And wholly delicious - as are both of these cities.
First published in the Mail on Sunday - August 2019
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