The i-escape blog / How to spend a £250 i-escape voucher / Ben Reed

By Ben Reed, Bookings Consultant

Ben, our resident Italy expert, has recently ticked off a trio of the country’s most iconic cities by train, pausing to stay at some lavish hotels along the way. Here’s his scoop on Venice, Florence and Rome – and how to bag free prosecco in all three of them.


Stop 1: Bloom & Settimo Cielo

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Bloom & Settimo Cielo
The White Room at Bloom & Settimo Cielo

We began our journey through the Italian cities in Venice, and at Bloom & Settimo Cielo. A long stone’s throw from St Marks, but far enough to offer some respite, we felt like we’d struck gold with the location. The rooms are a good size – all ensuite with a fridge stocked with prosecco. They are quite intense in that Venetian way – rich colours and velvet overload – which I tend to find overwhelming in the photos but it all felt weirdly fitting when there, each one oozing lavish charm. We had the more understated white room (a popular choice with i-escape guests) with antique furniture and blissful views over the church.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Bloom & Settimo Cielo
Both: views from the roof terrace

Breakfast was a simple, unfussy affair: cold cuts, boiled eggs, cakes and the like – a typical Italian spread to set you up for the day. This little B&B is more of a base to rest your weary bones than a destination in itself, but it excels in that role – you could hear a pin drop at night. The real selling point is the roof terrace (quite rare in Venice) overlooking Campo Santo Stefano and terracotta roofs, where complimentary prosecco is served. When high above the streets, away from the chatter, you realise what a calm city Venice is. We lingered to watch the sunset and saw swifts flitting around the church towers – utterly serene.


After a long weekend exploring the labyrinth of Venice’s canals, we moved on to our second city, Florence. I hate to be typically British and bore on about the weather, but it rained non-stop for 2 days here and almost dampened (excuse the pun) my holiday vibes. Still, the beauty was visible through a sea of umbrellas, and it felt weirdly joyous to be elbowing through millions of tourists, eating gelato and tutting at posers. The Duomo is truly stunning, and the local specialty lampredotto (a tripe roll) was better than it sounds. Plus we had a rather snazzy roof over our heads to keep us dry…


Stop 2: Portrait Firenze

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Portrait Firenze
The sitting area of our River View Room at Portrait Firenze

Hopes were high for the luxurious Portrait Firenze, and it started well with an upgrade to a river view room. Our suite had killer floor-to-ceiling windows with views over the Ponte de Vecchio, with a separate lounge, kitchenette and ensuite. The standard rooms at the back overlook a brick wall and felt a tad basic; you’re much better off booking a river-facing room so you don’t miss the magic – this place is all about the views. The Penthouse Suite was at the other end of the spectrum and quite outrageous, taking over an entire floor with a roof terrace the full length of the hotel. There’s been no expense spared to make it a spectacular space, but even Elton John might find it a bit over the top!

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Portrait Firenze
Left: view of the Ponte de Vecchio from our sitting room; Right: complimentary welcome goodies

The restaurant is softly lit and romantic with a very cosmopolitan menu to please the clientele. The food, a mix of Italian and Asian influences, was very good. In my eyes, very few hotels can compete against the amazing local restaurants which have decades under their belts, bags of character and dedicated local crowds, but the experience here was so special, it had me reconsidering. Breakfast was an excellent spread but not quite the champagne and caviar expected. While the hotel is certainly on the pricier end of the spectrum, the location really can’t be beaten and the staff are wonderful. Lying in bed on my Egyptian cotton sheets after a bottle of (yet more) free prosecco, looking out at the twinkling lights of the bridge, it all felt rather Pretty Woman.

Stop 3: Granduomo

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Granduomo
Our apartment at Granduomo

Our second stop and second jaw-dropping postcode in Florence was Granduomo. Sitting within touching distance of the magnificent Duomo (quite literally next door, it couldn’t be closer), Granduomo is rightly lauded, and I just couldn’t stop looking out of those windows. Location and view: these are the selling points. It almost feels a shame to close the curtains, as the interiors wilt somewhat in comparison to what’s going on outside. But the apartments are perfectly pleasant, and expecting any hotel suite to compete with one of the finest pieces of architecture ever created is perhaps unfair.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Granduomo
Left: balcony looking out at the Duomo; Right: breakfast in the room

There is a classic, sophisticated Italian style throughout, with neutral shades and beautiful pieces of art and antiques – plus the odd bit of 90’s Perspex which creates an odd mish-mash of styles. But all is forgiven when you meet Marinella – her warmth and love for the city is infectious. Similar to our stay in Venice, this place feels more like a base for city exploring, and you couldn’t be better positioned to uncover the best of Florence.


We hopped on the magnificent and super-speedy train to Rome. I cannot praise the Italian high-speed rail network enough: good value, super fast and modern (and yes, you guessed it, a complimentary bottle of prosecco to boot!).


Stop 4: CasaCau

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / CasaCau
Our apartment at CasaCau

We kicked off our time in Rome at the super stylish CasaCau. A beautiful old building houses trendy apartments decked out with retro furniture, pulling at the old-time dolce vita appeal. We stayed in a corner apartment – not cheap and not huge, but a Turkish steam-room-style ensuite, a bed as comfy as it was cool, and fresh breakfast ingredients delivered every morning to be prepared in your (partially stocked) kitchenette make every penny spent worthwhile. It’s perfect for a couple on a weekend city break.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / CasaCau
Left: the bright and airy bedroom; Right: the gorgeous marbled bathroom

The location was both a godsend and a hindrance; you’re slap bang in the centre, steps away from the Trevi Fountain. It’s good to be central, but you can’t have Trevi without the hordes of tourists, and I missed a more local neighbourhood vibe. Luckily you’re only a short stroll from Monti with its old-school trattorias and funky bars – much more my speed. The staff at CasaCau are experts on what’s hot and what’s not in the city, and happily divulge their insights to make sure their guests skip the tourist traps and head straight to the best bits.


Stop 5: Casa Montani

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Casa Montani
The main lobby at Casa Montani

On to our final stay of our trip through the Italian trio, and my second visit to Casa Montani. Once again, the location totally won me over, being just over the road from Piazza del Popolo. A real highlight was also being welcomed by Andrea; he was such a wonderful, enthusiastic beacon of light – full of information and incredibly passionate about Rome. The whole team were fab and fill this place with personality.

the i-escape blog / Just back from Venice, Florence and Rome / Casa Montani
Left: breakfast served in our suite; Right: bed details

Since my last visit they’ve opened an additional floor downstairs. The communal area is attractive and the bedrooms are nice but, in my opinion, lack some of the character of the original rooms. However, they’re fantastic value and you really can’t sniff at that location. Breakfast is served on a trolley in your room (you pick the selection the night before). It’s a pretty good Italian spread (croissants, cold meat/cheese, fruit, yoghurt etc.). I can imagine eating in your room is not everyone’s cup of tea, and without a table, it’s a bit of a balancing act. But I’m quite happy eating breakfast in bed, it feels suitably indulgent – and if you can’t do it in Rome, when can you?

Inspired by Ben’s latest getaway? Click below to find more boutique stays in Italy