Travelgirl recommends: Fabulous Florence, times two.
The J and J Hotel
Located in a quiet neighborhood a few blocks from Sante Croce in the historic district of Florence, Italy, Hotel J and J is a boutique hotel that offers a unique historic experience. The building is an old monastery, and each of the 21 rooms is entirely different. The smallest room was formerly the accommodations for visiting priests - still large by most European standards. The largest room? It's a top-floor meeting room with a huge sitting area and balcony views of the dome of Florence's nearby Great Synagogue. J and J is family owned. "Mamma" Cavagnari keeps a close eye on guests, stopping by to check on you at breakfast or while you're relaxing in the courtyard. Though it has thick walls and feels incredibly historic, the hotel is thoroughly modern and comfortable. It also offers spa services that would tempt a traveler to spend an entire vacation in Firenze.
Details: The J and J Historic Hotel, www.jandjhotel.net.
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La Pentola dell'Oro
Just a few doors down from the J and J is the fabulous neighborhood restaurant of La Pentola dell'Oro. All of the dishes are authentically Tuscan; some are from centuries-old recipes. A blend of fresh local ingredients married with local wines makes each dinner memorable. The roast chicken with porcini mushrooms was amazing, and the pappardelle had a rich, dark sauce with a blend of spices like none I'd ever tasted. Chef Giuseppe Alessi performs his culinary art in a kitchen that's wide-open for guests to view. The smells alone are enough to lure you in off the street. We ate there twice and would have enjoyed a third meal if time had permitted. Upstairs, the atmosphere is more casual and a "country" menu offers pastas, soups and roasts. Downstairs, in what appears to be an old wine cellar, guests tend to linger longer over more complicated offerings.
Details: La Pentola dell'Oro, www.lapentoladelloro.it.