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On the Tracks of Hare and Ruskin 24/07/2011

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c. 1900

Having passed through the gate and satisfied the courteous octroi (dazio consumo) officials that you have nothing to declare, you will, if you take Mr. Hare’s advice, drive straight to the Albergo dell’ Universo, and take your ease in that inn. It is good, sound, and serviceable advice. The hotel occupies the first floor of the old Palazzo Arnolfini (sixteenth century) and fronts the Teatro del Giglio, where in September there is excellent opera. Mr. Hare, who is usually reticent in such matters, launches into quite unwonted praise of the old inn. ‘It is’, he says, ‘most excellent and reasonable. It has a small garden, and its large lofty rooms are cool and airy in summer. This inn deserves special notice, because, without losing its character as an Italian albergo, it has all the comfort and cleanliness which English travellers require.’ I In turning over the leaves of the visitors’ book at the inn, I discovered unexpected and exalted testimony to its worth. Here is what I found: ‘Mr. Ruskin and Mr. Collingwood stayed here three weeks in the October of 1882; and have been entirely comfortable in the care of M. Nieri and his servants.’ The Lucchesi remember Mr. Ruskin’s several visits very well, and with much pride and pleasure. They tell many an anecdote about the ‘gran scrittore inglese’, who used to go about with a man bearing a ladder, and scale the facades and interiors of their churches, peering into all manner of nooks and crannies with strange persistency and devotion. And the landlady of the Universo will tell you, not without a touch of compassion in her voice, how the ‘povero Signor Collingwood’ was made to lie on his back, and copy the design on the ceiling of the master’s bedroom. Small wonder when one has seen the design, which is delicate and extremely beautiful.


The Best Hotels according to Hare 09/12/2010

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Augustus Hare (‘the thinking man’s Baedeker’) in the sixth edition of his guide to Florence (1904) included the following list of best hotels in Florence.

Hotel Paoli, at the end of the Lung’ Arno della Zecca, near S. Croce, quiet and suited for winter quarters.

Hotel Bristol, comfortable, more central.

Hotel Anglo-American, Via Garibaldi, reasonable. Hotel de la Ville, large, central (Piazza Manin).

Hotel New York (once Palazzo Ricasoli), newly done up (Piazza del Ponte alla Carraia).

Hotel Savoy, in the centre (on the site of the Mercato Vecchio), comfortable, large, expensive.

Hotel Minerva, near Santa Maria Novella, quiet, clean, and old-fashioned, no view.

Hotel Grande-Bretagne and Royal adjoining, frequently under new management.

Hotel Albion, small, facing the Arno.

Hotel Berchielli, small. Lung’ Arno Acciaiuoli.

Hotel Europa, 3 Via Tornabuoni.

Hotel Washington, near Piazza S. Trinita, and facing the river (Lung’ Arno, Amerigo Vespucci).