Johlea & Johanna Residences

North-centre, Florence, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Gail Simmons
Five restored residenze offering a charming, affordable and welcoming sanctuary within walking distance of Florence's centre
If you’re looking for a welcoming, well-priced haven on the edge of the centre of fabulous Florence, then these guesthouses - situated in three 19th-century palazzi - will be up your street. The Johanna building is the ‘original’, while the Johlea and Antica Firenze are more recent restorations, with a fair degree more comfort. All are situated in a quiet residential area about half a mile north of the duomo – within easy walking distance of the city’s main sites.

Friendly staff provide a warm welcome when you arrive, and are full of excellent advice. Tea, coffee, biscuits and guest computers are available all day; you can help yourself to drinks from the honesty fridge and, in Antica Johlea, relax on the roof terrace as the sun sets over the skyline. The bedrooms are clean and traditional, with polished antiques, artisanal Indian bedlinens and homely touches. It’s like staying in a friend’s elegant yet comfortable home – and at very friendly rates.

Highs

  • Peaceful locations outside the touristy centre but within about 15 mins' walk of the sights, on or near via San Gallo, north of the Orto Botanico
  • We loved the informal, comfortable atmosphere, and we appreciated the unusually friendly and knowledgeable staff
  • In Antica Johlea, you get a lovely roof-top terrace with a view of the Duomo; in the 2 Antica Dimores, there are cosy communal rooms with books and honesty bars
  • The option of breakfast in your own room, or from the breakfast room buffet
  • Owners Giovanna Vitta and Lea Gulmanelli keep a close eye on all buildings, and choose their staff well

Lows

  • Lack of 24-hour service may not suit everyone
  • The cheaper rooms have very compact shower rooms
  • Some noise is inevitable on the street-side rooms (especially Johanna I)
  • Most residences are on the first or second floors - but there is an elevator
  • The decor is cosy and traditional rather than eye-poppingly stylish

Best time to go

Florence is busy at most times of the year, and horrendously so in the period from around Easter to the end of September, though it abates slightly in midsummer. Winter is often the best time for city visits as the galleries and streets are generally emptier and the hotel’s rooms warm and cosy (it can get bitterly cold in Tuscany). The Christmas/New Year period in Florence has a special magic…

Our top tips

  • We loved the roof terrace at Johlea - try and book a room here if you can.
  • Bring comfy shoes for the walk into the city centre
  • We think this is a great option for an older clientele who appreciate personal service and (relatively) quiet surrounds
  • Great for...

    Cheap & Chic
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • 5 Guesthouses
    • 24 rooms in 3 buildings
    • Breakfast only (walk to restaurants)
    • All ages welcome.
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    Room:

    Rooms

    Rooms in the 3 residences vary in comfort and size, but all are colourfully and characterfully furnished, while the superior rooms have two levels and can sleep a couple and 1-2 children. Expect terracotta floors, lofty rafters, Tuscan colours, gleaming antiques (some genuine, some repro), books, magazines and some flouncy touches.

    All are equipped with air conditioning, free WiFi, TVs (basic ones in the cheaper residenza), safe deposit boxes, hairdryers and toiletries. Windows have mesh screens so if you don’t like air conditioning you can let in fresh air in summer without being mauled by mosquitoes. Bathrooms are spotless and, in the pricier residenze, verge on the luxurious, with wetrooms and white waffle towels.

    You can choose your preferred residence when booking. We'd advise spending a bit more and going for the deluxe rooms in Johlea or Firenze: most are lofty, with 4-poster beds and cosy communal spaces. Antica Johlea has a roof terrace, with glorious views to accompany your breakfasts and sundowners. Romantics could ask for a room with a balcony overlooking the inner courtyard.

    The rooms in Johanna I are pleasing but in a darker, old-fashioned sort of way. Some have balconies overlooking the street below (but remember, a “room with a view” in Italy can also mean a room with street noise!).

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Central heating
    • Coffee tea making
    • Fan
    • Hairdryer
    • Phone
    • Safe box
    • Tv
    • WiFi

    Eating

    Italians aren’t big on breakfast, and nor are these guesthouses. A breakfast buffet is spread out in the breakfast room with tea, plentiful coffee, yoghurt, granola and fresh pastries. There's the option of eating in your room, while in Antica Johlea you can take breakfast up to the roof terrace on warm mornings.

    No other meals are served, but biscuits and cakes are supplied in the afternoons. Italians are big on lunch and dinner, and there are some great restaurants within walking distance of each building. We ate at Ristorante Mimmo, a 5-minute walk from the 3 guesthouses in the Via San Gallo - a stylish restaurant located in a small 17th-century theatre and with menus to suit all budgets.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Breakfast
    • Coffee tea making
    • Restaurants nearby
    Eating: JOHANNA I
    Activity: View from Giotto belltower (© Deror Avi)

    Activities

    • Explore the heart of historic Florence on foot: the cathedral, the Uffizi gallery, the Bargello museum, the Arno riverside, the Ponte Vecchio ...
    • Indulge in some retail therapy - outstanding fashion shops and exquisite bars, not to mention ice cream parlours with hundreds of flavours!
    • Get some fresh air in the Boboli gardens or the Fortezzo da Basso (near Johanna II)
    • Sit on the roof terrace (Antica Johlea) sipping a glass of chilled wine, watching the sun set over the Florence roofscape (a typically Italian mix of domes, pantiles and TV aerials)
    • In summer, take a respite from the heat and noise of the city and take a bus up to the little town of Fiesole on a hillside overlooking Florence. This Roman settlement (with well-preserved theatre) is nestled amongst pines and olives, and is only 8km - yet another world - away

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Golf
    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Shopping / markets

    Kids

    Children are welcome; from 0 - 2 free baby cot, extra beds are an additional cost per person regardless of age. The superior rooms have two levels and can sleep a couple and 2 children.

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    9/
    Rooms
    7/
    Food
    8/
    Service
    8/
    Value
    8/
    Overall

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