Rome and Florence by Sacha Hale

On the 12th December I decided to stay at the Sofitel Hotel at Gatwick Airport, prior to boarding my flight to Rome early on Tuesday morning. I am so pleased that I did, as it helped to make my journey a more relaxed experience, rather than risking any traffic hold ups on the way down.  I would definitely do this again, as the hotel was very comfortable.

Getting into the airport in the morning was easy, as the Sofitel is joined to the terminal itself. I didn’t even have to go outside!

My trip was very kindly hosted by Classic Collection holidays, who I have also travelled with on my own family holidays. We then made the short flight of two and a half hours to Rome, with Easy jet.

On landing, our first stop was to have lunch in the Michelin Starred restaurant of the Hotel Palazzo Manfredi. Straight away we were wowed, as the hotel’s roof top restaurant gives an amazing view of the Colosseum, only meters away from our table. We were told that the restaurant was a very popular location for proposals, and that the staff will help to create a romantic setting for each couple. The rooms at the Palazzo Manfredi have been decorated in a modern yet classical style, and to a high standard.

From here we checked into the Hotel Bernini Bristol where we were staying for two nights. The hotel was built in the late 1800’s and has beautifully grand proportions. There is a choice of either Classically styled or modern styled rooms, and the hotel also boasts a rooftop Michelin starred restaurant, with views over the Piazza Barberini.

Whilst staying in Rome we were taken on a walking tour of the city, taking in the sights of The Spanish Steps, Piazzo Navona, The Pantheon, and The Vatican to name but a few. The  Classic Collection Holidays featured hotels, are all very well situated within the heart of the city, and with all of Rome’s places of interest being relatively close to each other, it is easy to explore.

During our stay in Rome we visited the Hotel Gran Melia Rome Villa Agrippina, The Inn & View at the Spanish Steps, The Hotel D’Inghilterra, the Hotel Dei Mellini and the River Palace Hotel. Each has its own style and charm, and offers both Classical or modern rooms.

On Thursday we took the high speed train to Florence, in business class, through the Latium and Tuscany regions of Italy. The railway terminal in Rome was very easy to navigate, and the trains were modern, clean and very efficient.

Florence is a beautiful city which is surrounded on three side by mountains and on the forth by the River Arno. It is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, and is home to many highly revered pieces of renaissance Art and architecture. This city is also completely accessible on foot, as all of its spectacular masterpieces are within easy walking distance of each other.

We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Brunelleschi, which is a stones throw away from the famous Duomo and Clock Tower, with its iconic dome. This Hotel also recently featured in the Tom Hanks film ‘Inferno’ from the Da Vinci Code series.

All of the hotels we visited in Florence had stunning architecture and the Hotel Villa Cora, the Grand Hotel Minerva, and the Sina Villa Medici all offer amazing views of the city and night skyline.

During the day on Friday we had a guided walking tour of some of Florence’s sights. The Duomo and Bell Tower, and the Ponte Vecchio were my personal favourites. We also had time to visit a Christmas market and a leather workshop, where we watched the artisans making handbags and embossing 18 carat gold lettering on to the leather.  On one evening we had dinner in a typical Tuscan Restaurant, and sampled some of the local dishes.

To round off our trip we took a slight detour on the way to Pisa airport, to look at The Leaning Tower of Pisa, which surpassed my expectations and was leaning far more than I imagined!