The Hotel Dali, located a few minutes’ walk from the Duomo in central Florence, has been a EuroCheapo favorite for more than 10 years. When we first visited the Dali, Marco and Samanta, the hotel’s husband and wife proprietors, were just putting finishing touches on their pension.
These days, the rates are still among the most affordable in Florence, while they’ve introduced some amenities not even contemplated back in 2002 (Wi-Fi anyone?). But what’s changed since they opened, and what advice do they have for Florence-bound tourists?
We sent correspondent Taylor Zerbey to speak with Samanta and Marco recently. Here’s what she learned.
1. First off, why did you name your hotel the “Hotel Dali” ?
Samanta: Before, the hotel had been named “Pensione Orologio,” and it’s located on via dell’Oriuolo, so we thought that it would have been impossible to spell it over the telephone to our guests, so we looked for another name.
We both love art, we have many friends that paint, do photography etc, so we really wanted to give a personal touch to this small place by showing off their works… we thought that Dalì (from Salvador Dalì) was the perfect name: international, short, easy to spell, and a crazy man like us (as we were starting this business with no experience and a lot of debts).
And last but not least, when you pronounce “DALi” you end up with a smile on your face… so we thought it was a good sign!
2. What advice do you have for travelers visiting Florence for the first time?
Take your time, don’t rush—remember “Dolce Vita.” If possible spend more than one night. I know that you may have only a short time to see Italy, but Florence, as every other city in Italy, deserves time, calm, to feel the city, the people, the food. Otherwise when you get back home you won’t remember the differences between Florence, Rome, Pisa or Naples and differences are what make Italy such a beautiful country.
3. The best cheap meal in Florence?
We like to suggest Zio Gigi (Via Folco Portinari, 7-r) and Masticabrodo (Borgo Allegri, 53), two small trattorias close to the hotel where you can have a full meal for €20. Otherwise, head to any “pizzicheria” and “gastronomia” to grab a panino with anything you want inside for fast food Italian-style.
4. Don’t leave Florence without… ?
• Climbing the stairs to Piazzale Michelangelo, the most beautiful view of the city free of charge!
• Talking about food: Try ribollita in the wintertime and panzanella in summer time, for those that like strong flavored “lampredotto” panino.
• Getting lost, wandering through the small street of Oltrarno will make you feel like you are living in another century.
5. In which ways do you see Florence changing?
Many of the old shops have been obliged to close and give up their space to big companies selling fast food or junk or low quality coffee, places that are the same all over the world and serve the same things everywhere. As I said, differences are the most precious things we have, and I feel scared when I see that the city is starting to look similar to a mall.
6. What do you find travelers struggling with the most when they first come to Florence? Do you find they arrive with any misconceptions?
They certainly “struggle” with traffic and the complicated one-way system in this town, but even if Florence is not a good place travel by car, most people still use a car.
The misconception may be that they don’t feel safe and they need to be reassured by us that nothing will happen to them.
7. Are there any special offers going on that Cheapos should know about?
During springtime there is a “week of culture” when all the state museums are free. And from mid-November to mid-March it’s low season, so prices everywhere are much cheaper.
Thanks so much for your time, Samanta and Marco! We wish you continued success with the Hotel Dali!
You can read our review of the Dali here.