Sightsee where you sleep: Seven unusual hotels to visit in Italy

Lina Branter | 17/06/2019
Hotel Brunelleschi room overlooking Duomo di Firenze.
Picturesque hotel room overlooking Florence's iconic cathedral.

You don’t have to be an intrepid adventurer to find some pretty unusual places to sleep during your visit to Italy. Whether you’re an urban explorer, or more into countryside adventures, we’ve uncovered some unique hotels in Italy — from caves to princess towers...

Rock out Roman style

Hotel Franklin Feel the Sound


Conveniently located near the Vatican, the Hotel Franklin Feel the Sound is one of the more unique places to stay in Rome. This three-star hotel offers 22 soundproofed rooms equipped with state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen sound systems. You choose your room around your musical tastes; the rooms are decorated, and will only play that one type of music. Choose between the pop room for the solo traveler, or the rock, blues or jazz rooms that vary in size and elegance for the intrepid couple, or even the soul junior suite that comes with a private garden.

Take a digital detox

Eremito Hotelito Del Alma

Parrano, Umbria

Located in the heart of Umbria, between Florence and Rome, the Eremito Hotelito de l’Alma is where you want to go for some true solo rest and relaxation. Located in a stone house near a large nature preserve, all the rooms are singles. The rooms, or the “celluzes”, are spare like you would find in a monastery — no TVs , phones or WiFi. What you will get is simple elegance: a room hewn out of stone with a single bed and a stone desk that looks out at the majestic Umbrian Valley. All meals are served communally at a specified time, just like in a hermitage. You’ll enjoy delicious and simple vegetarian fare served in an open room dominated by a large stone fireplace.  Even electricity is shut off at night in favour of candles. 

What you may lack in amenities you will gain in peace. Go for a walk in the beautiful Umbrian countryside, enjoy some home-cooked food, and savour the silence at possibly one of the best places to visit in Italy.

Channel your inner noble

Aman Hotel


Located in one of the extravagant palazzos along the Grand Canal, the Aman hotel in Venice, Italy is one of the best places to stay in Venice; it will make you feel like you just walked onto the set of a Merchant Ivory film. Twenty-four of its rooms feature frescoes from the 18th century painter Tiepolo and/or the 16th century architect Sansovino. Lift up your feet and enjoy a view of the canal, or lie down on your bed and feel like you’re in a horizontal art gallery. Incidentally, the Aman is also apparently George Clooney’s favourite hotel in Venice.

Become a Cave Dweller

Sextantio Le Grotta della Civita

Matera, Basilicata

If you’re looking for unique and unusual experiences in Italy, it’s worth going south to the town of Matera in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Not only has this town been named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, and one of the best places to visit in Italy, its city center consists of ancient cave dwellings thought to be one of the earliest known prehistoric troglodyte settlements in the area. 

The people of the region lived in the caverns until the 1950s, when, in an effort to address the extreme poverty of the district, the government moved people out of the caves and into public housing. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the town began to rebrand itself for tourism. Named a UNESCO heritage site in 1993, not only can you visit the caves, you can also wine, dine and stay in them. 

The Sextantio Le Grotta della Civita, is an albergo diffuso — a hotel that has one check-in, but rooms in different historic locations across the city center. This is not your ancient troglodyte cave; it’s a luxurious hotel experience with beautiful king-sized beds and private bathrooms.

Go medieval in Tuscany

Toscano Resort Castelfalfi

Castelfalfi, Tuscany

The Toscano Resort Castelfalfi, located within easy access of Florence, Pisa and Siena, is built out of a town whose history goes back 2500 years to the Etruscans. It was a bustling medieval town in the 13th century and in the 20th century home to a tobacco factory that has now been converted into a four-star boutique hotel, La Tabaccaia. All 31 rooms boast the wood-beamed ceilings and olive-wood parquets from the original building. Relax in one of their outdoor pools, do a few rounds of golf, go for a walk in the Tuscan countryside or hop on a tour of nearby vineyards.

Tower it over Florence Medici-style

Hotel Brunelleschi


If you’ve ever had fantasies of being a prince(ss) in a tower, the Hotel Brunelleschi has got you covered. Named after its most famous owner, the artist and architect Brunelleschi, whose masterpiece of a dome towers over Florence’s skyline, the hotel is centrally located just a couple of minutes walk from its previous owner’s creation and near the bustling Via dei Calzaiuoli, a popular shopping area with cafes, artisan boutiques and high-end stores. 

Built over ancient Roman baths, the heart of the hotel is the 6th century medieval tower, where some of the higher end suites are located as well as the conference hall and the gourmet restaurant. The hotel’s lobby was the former medieval church of San Michele. The style of the hotel could be classified as modern baroque, with a mix of gilded mirrors, antiques and modern furnishings that live in perfect symbiosis. In keeping with the grand Medici tradition, the hotel also smells divine— it is perfumed with fragrances from Dr. Vranjes, a Florentine parfumier.

Splurge for the Tower suite at the very top of the tower. Not only will you get a spectacular view of Florence, you will feel like Rapunzel. Bask in the circular medieval stone walls (it is a tower after all), ancient oak wood floors, a mix of gilded mirrors, iron chandeliers and modern-day comforts. You’ll be one prince(ss) who will not need rescuing.

Relax at a masseria

A masseria is a vast country estate, usually located in the Italian region of Puglia. Similar to plantations in the US, they are fortified farms where land barons stored their food and possessions during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These large farmhouses were going into ruin when, in the 1990s, a movement began to restore them into bed and breakfasts. There are so many, the coast from Bari to Brindisi is sometimes called the masseria coast. These uniquely Italian accommodations range from simple to luxurious. Many are still working farms where not only do you get unique accommodations, you also get a wicked meal with home grown ingredients. The Posta San Croce, located near Trani and nestled between olive trees, will give you the quintessential masseria experience.