Hotel review for Hilton Garden Inn Florence, Italy

Hotel review for Hilton Garden Inn Florence, Italy

Check out my reviews of the Hilton Garden Inn Florence.  During my Italy vacation, I stayed at American hotels because I wanted to use points for award reservations and for more modern conveniences.  These hotels are not found in the city center (as most American International brands are not usually in the center of town) but they were all easily accessible, modern, clean and luxurious.  I booked award reservations 4-6 months out from my arrival and found availability.

Featured photo by Jason Briscoe.


Hilton Garden Inn Florence Novoli (previously Hilton Novoli)

Via Sandro Pertini, 2/9, FLORENCE, 50127

Hotel Review:

The Hilton Garden Inn Florence Novoli is a very modern, updated, clean hotel.  This is a really, really nice hotel.  I am surprised to see Hilton change it to a Garden Inn which is a lower tiered category of hotel.  Maybe the level of Garden Inns is going up and I need to adjust my expectations.  Check out their site pics for yourself.

As I mentioned, this is a very modern hotel.  There is onsite gym, restaurant, wi-fi, etc.  I didn’t use these but I am sure they would be up to par.

One thing that wasn’t up to par – and I read on customer forums before I went there – was that the a/c wasn’t working.  I told the front desk but for the 2 nights I stayed, there was no a/c.  The hotel staff provided fans but that only circulated the hot air.  The windows wouldn’t open more than 3 inches.   It’s as if the hotel put an ultra-modern window in there (maybe for winter) but didn’t think about summer.  I was there in May and it was cool and lovely outside.  That is exactly the type of air temperature I would have loved if the window would open fully.

Everything else I loved about this hotel.  Did I mention super-clean and modern?

When I was at this hotel, the roses were in full bloom.  There is a trellis in the back courtyard with climbing roses and they were in full blossom.  Beautiful.  I saw roses in bloom all over Italy – maybe that’s a thing (which I really love).  I regret not asking where to get seeds for those roses.


Another wonderful thing about this hotel – even though the location is not in walking distance of the city center – is that it is near a retail shopping strip center sort of thing.  There are cafes, dining, shopping, etc in walking distance which is really nice.

Be sure to check out The Coop (or Cooperative).  This wonderful supermarket is more like a Whole Foods or boutique grocery but without the expensive price tag.  It’s filled with Italian artisinal brands and also has pizza, pasta, cheeses, breads, etc that you can take-away on the go.  The supermarket section has many locally made products that are certified as authentic Italian.  The prices are very reasonable and these items make for great souvenirs.  I got my breakfast items from The Coop every night.  You could easily get a pizza or sandwich to go for the day and pick it up in the morning.  Check it out at

Getting to/from:

To get to the Hilton Garden Inn Florence from the SMN train station, take the local bus 22 going towards Novoli (stop: Ragghianti).  You can also access the city by the local bus ($1-2 euros one way).  To get the bus, exit the hotel entrance and walk 5 minutes on Via Sandro Pertini to the main road, Via di Novoli.  Cross the street to take the local bus 22 heading towards city center (Novoli stop: Stradella).  If arriving at the hotel, exit the bus and you’ll be on the right/closer side to walk down Via Sandro Pertini towards the hotel.


Hilton’s loyalty program, Hilton Honors, will be changing in late February to include new perks.  One of them is variable pricing on award reservations as well as the option to pay with points and money.  That is great news for this hotel because you may be able to reserve this hotel for as low as 16,000 points (with $0 cash).  When I stayed the points needed were closer to 30,000 (which is now the high range).  Not sure if May is considered a peak for this hotel but if you book in advance or in a non-peak time, you may be able to get a better deal.  This hotel is a steal at 16K points.  Check out how many points are needed here.

City tax of $4.5 euros per person per night applies to all non-residents of Florence.  If you are a resident of Florence, what are the odds of you staying at this hotel in your own city, hmmm?

Recommend (Y/N): Yes

Not only would I recommend this hotel (even with the a/c issue) but I would also stay here if I am in Florence again.


Hilton Garden Inn - Novoli

The Coop - Supermarket

Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Rome, Italy

Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Rome, Italy

Below is my hotel review for the Crowne Plaza Rome (IHG brand of hotels).  I stayed at American hotels because I wanted to use points for award reservations and for more modern conveniences.  These hotels are not found in the city center (as most American International brands are not usually in the center of town) but they were all easily accessible, modern, clean and luxurious.  I booked award reservations 4-6 months out from my arrival and found availability.  The toughest was Rome which makes sense given that it’s a large and visited city.

Featured photo by Jason Briscoe.


Crowne Plaza Rome / St Peter’s

Via Aurelia Antica 415 P.O.Box 9076, Rome – 00165, Italy;   Email:

Hotel Review:

My stay was in early May.  This hotel was very clean, modern and everything you would expect from a Crowne Plaza.  It’s not in the heart of Rome but the city is very easily accessible. 

I stayed here using points and was upgraded at check-in to a suite.  This meant an additional, attached room.  My room was a double queen bed layout and the additional room had a couch, extremely huge wooden table (maybe for breakfast or meals), a tv, a walk-out balcony and an extra bathroom (very helpful).

There was always complimentary coffee and tea.  The coffee was Nescafe and I have no idea if it was a distinct roast for Italy but it may be the best instant coffee I’ve ever had.  I had this same one serving package at several other Italian hotels and same deal – really tasty coffee.

This hotel doesn’t have an executive lounge which is a bummer since most Crowne Plazas’ do have them (or is that only in the US?).  In lieu of that, the hotel gave me more points and the suite.

From my rooms’ balcony, I could see a very large Olympic size swimming pool.  Unfortunately, I never made it down to the pool but it was in use by many kids, parents and adults.  I also didn’t get a chance to try out the hotel restaurant.  There is also complimentary wi-fi.

One night we got pizza in the neighborhood near the hotel.  It was an interesting process – the pizza is baked in a giant rectangle which is cut into squares.  There are many options (ie. Different squares with different toppings like potato or mushroom or mozzarella & balsamic, etc).  Then they weigh it and charge by the weight.  The experience was as fun as the pizza was delicious.

Getting to/from:

From FCO airport to the Crowne Plaza Rome was $40 euros for 4 people with 4 carry on bags.  Not sure if that is the going rate or if it’s a seasonal rate but that’s what we paid.  It was a 20-25 minute ride.  Another option is to take a train or bus from FCO to the center of Rome and then take the metro&bus back to this hotel.  I recommend the taxi but if you have the time and want to save the $$, then the bus/train/metro is an option.

If you buy a bus ticket from the front desk (1-2euros), then wait in front of the hotel on Via Aurelia Antica (street).  Take the local city bus (98, 98F, 889 – double check your route) and get off at the metro (stop: Cornelia).  From there, you may access any part of Rome that you want.  If you’re on the bus, you can also see the neighborhood near the hotel which has many shops and food options.  There are supermarkets, pizza places, etc.  In other words, the hotel isn’t isolated as some other American hotels can be in Europe. 

Prior to arriving, I emailed the hotel to ask about transportation.  They shared the following document: Crowne Plaza Rome/St. Peter’s Shuttle


One thing I do want to mention that pertains to all the hotels I stayed at in Italy – hotels charge you a city tax per person for staying there.  This is similar to the resort tax that many hotels charge in Hawaii or other islands.  This appeared to be a tax on anyone who can afford to stay at an American hotel.  Does anyone have a different take on this?  For my 3 night stay, I paid $80 euros which I thought was much considering I got no extra value for that charge.  City tax is $6 euros per person per night.

Recommend (Y/N): Yes

I would recommend this hotel to anyone wanting to stay in/near Rome, use points for a free hotel night, looking for a more modern hotel or just wondering what this particular hotel is like.  It was so nice that I kind of feel guilty that I didn’t spend more time there – I was out early and back late exploring Rome (which is how I spent most of my trip to Italy).


Crowne Plaza St. Peter's Rome

Metro Station - Cornelia

Orlando, Florida – Hotel Review

Orlando, Florida – Hotel Review

Heading to the theme parks and need a place to stay?  Check out my Orlando Hotel Review (2) – one near Universal and one near Disney.

Crowne Plaza Orlando – Universal

7800 Universal Boulevard, Orlando Florida, 32819, United States

Orlando Hotel Review:

This hotel is located 10 minutes away from Universal Orlando theme parks.  It’s easy to find and is very modern, clean and beautiful.

Using a complimentary Chase Anniversary night at this hotel, I found availability 1 week out for a Saturday night.  Keep in mind, this was in Feb when it’s not a peak time.

There is a heated pool, jaccuzzi, on-site gym and restaurant.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try them out.

The only con from my stay was the $14 nightly parking charge.  This is more a result of IHG changing what their Platinum elites get as part of the program.  In the past, Plats got free parking and lounge access (regardless of upgrade).  Now, with their new changes, only Spire Elite (highest loyalty tier) gets comped parking and lounge access.

In the executive lounge, there is typical Crowne Plaza layout with a modern, clean and beautiful view.  Breakfast is mostly continental fare.  It would have been nice to have some hot items like scrambled eggs or waffles.  For evening, they had hot items like jalepeno poppers and mini cheese quesedillas.


Overall, I would stay at this hotel again as the rooms are very comfortable and the hotel is very clean.  The staff was also very welcoming and gracious.  Also, the hotel is very, very close to the Universal theme parks.


Crowne Plaza - Orlando Universal

Universal Orlando


Holiday Inn – Lake Buena Vista South (Orlando, FL area)

3484 Polynesian Isle Boulevard, Kissimmee, Florida 34746 United States

Orlando Hotel Review:

I have stayed at this hotel several different times, using award points, while visiting Walt Disney World.  Although only 2.5miles away from Disney, I always got lost.  For whatever reason, I always found it difficult to find.  I was also driving around after midnight (when the park closed) so maybe that’s part of it.  Make sure you have GPS.

I found the rooms to be standard for Holiday Inn.  I don’t have any complaints as my room was clean, etc.  It is what you would expect HI to be.

However, where this hotel shines is the breakfast spread.  It’s better than some Crowne Plaza hotels that I’ve stayed at (Universal above).  Good/large selection (eggs, pancakes, pastries, coffee) that is often replenished.

Parking is free.  The website says there is a heated pool and on-site gym.  However, I didn’t try these out myself.


I would stay here again if going to Disney parks.  If going to a different area of Orlando or Universal, I would chose a different hotel as this one would be considered out of the way.


Holiday Inn - Lake Buena Vista South

Walt Disney World Resort