Guidebook: TimeOut Florence - Year 2006
Guest house: Casa Howard Florence
Review: "Where to Stay – Santa Maria Novella - Expensive. Casa Howard. The owner of this stylish pied-à-terre sets out to offer comfortable, upmarket accommodation at reasonable rates in the discrete atmosphere of a handsome mansion. The 12 rooms are classy and vaguely eccentric, decorated with strong colours and a mix of antique and custom-made furniture. Check online to choose the one you like best: the big, dramaticDrawing Room, perhaps, or maybe the Black and White Room, in which a blown-up reproduction of Monet’s Olympia covers one wall. Bathrooms are similarly quirky but well equipped, and come with Santa Maria Novella’s smellies. There’s even a Turkish bath on site, should you have overdone in on the sightseeing. Bookings are made through the original Rome branch. When is a Hotel not a Hotel? You may find yourself confused about the names given to the various categories of accommodation in Florence and Tuscany. Rules about this are established on a regional level, so they vary to some degree throughout Italy. In Florence, to be officially classed as a hotel (and therefore subject to a star classification), you must have seven or more rooms. To qualify as an affittacamere (literally “rooms to rent”), you can have no more than six rooms. Some are basically private houses with a couple of rooms for rent (unlike in the UK, most owners don’t live on site), while others are, to all intents and purposes, small hotels. Some more upmarket affittacamere are now allowed to class themselves as bed and breakfasts.
Residenza d’epoca is the term used for a listed building with no more than 12 rooms, while to call yourself a residence you must have a minimum of self-catering units. To add to the confusion, a number of establishments adopt certain names because they sound nice, but they may officially be classified as something else. There are ‘B&Bs’ in Florence, for example, that don’t actually serve breakfast.
In practice, though, these rules and regulations don’t really affect the average traveller – all you need to know is that you don’t have to stick to regular hotels if you want something with a bit more character."