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volante: italy

Studying the classics in ItalyStudying the classics in Italy



IT TAKES VERY LITTLE TIME in Firenze to understand that the real city lives in the streets. Within the teeming centre, navigable by foot, you find exceptional art—known and undiscovered—of the Renaissance. Alternately, you can shop to exhaustion, seek out leatherwork or artisan ceramics from Deruta, peruse the couture stores, or browse the boutique windows for silver and gold jewellery, punctuating it all with unforgettable meals at legendary trattorias. Or simply find an outdoor table and bear witness to the pulsing energy of the city that spills out onto the sidewalks. Hotel Bernini Palace, a supremely comfortable luxury property sits at the epicentre, Piazza della Signoria, housed in a 15th century building lovingly restored to modern grandeur. It’s an amazing neighbourhood, a stone’s throw from everything. The property provides an elegant bedroom for the discriminating traveller, in a structure which was once (1865–70) the parliamentary seat of the kingdom. Today, Bernini’s typical Tuscan floors of terracotta tile, its coffered ceilings, rich fabrics and four-poster beds evoke memories of elegant days past. Ceramic heads from the Teatro Verdi have been added to the lobby décor, an interesting and unusual detail at the ceiling line above the reception desk. You quickly realize that the hotel is a welcoming and comfortable refuge after the day’s activities on the cobblestone streets, which can be strenuous.

The Bernini lobby is home to the Brunello lounge bar, a cosmopolitan meeting point, which suits a number of needs: quick snack, aperitif, chill out zone or dining solution. Tucked in among the gold-leafed urns, you’ll find it easy to relax in the graceful ambience where traditional Tuscan furniture blends in with contemporary design. There’s endless people-watching available through the windows. Granted, there are many fine restaurants in Florence, but Chef Walter Ferrario has created an international menu, which changes on a monthly basis, bringing together both national and international cuisine concepts. You might sample anything from tapas to local appetizers. Another plus is afternoon tea accompanied by home-baked cakes.

The Bernini’s bedrooms are up to the usual Baglioni standards, with elegant appointments, wi-fi, spacious marble baths, superior amenities. In the area of the hotel where I stayed a light-filled lounge has been created, with comfortable seating, drinks and snacks set out on an ornate tabletop, another oasis from the demanding life outside.

Breakfast in the Sala Parlamento proves to be a unique experience as well. Between 1865 and 1870, the Bernini in fact served as the seat of the parliament of the young kingdom of Italy, when Firenze was the capital. Today the elegant chamber’s parquet floors, 30 ft ceilings with fresco portraits, wicker furniture rendered in yellow, cream and gold reveals the original style of this room. Your breakfast is arrayed on linen and white china, offset with classic silver, and the white rose centrepiece. It’s a breakfast experience unlike any other, and sets the tone for your day’s activity.

The Corsini room is available for functions of up to 35 seats. There’s also an exclusive private parking garage, which is a real plus for those touring Toscana by car.

Firenze is mostly about art and shopping, two arduous interests requiring stamina and a calming place to rest. The Bernini is the perfect lodging solution, with its central location, comfort and discretion, operated under the highest standards of service. It’s a superior place for either business or leisure travelers to call home while sampling the delights of this exhausting world capital of Renaissance art.


WHATS IN THE FUTURE for Baglioni? I recently had the opportunity to query Luca Magni, the group’s senior VP, during a long conversation over a typically extended lunch in Milano. I wondered how the chain had achieved such a high standard, with such a broad reach. After all, these are smaller properties in highly competitive markets. To achieve success incredible sensitivities must be in place company-wide. Magni replied that the group works hard on cross-border understanding, one of the critical keys. To the rest of the world, Italy represents beauty, the joy of life, and the mindset ‘not to be too worried.’ This is not to say every experience needs to be light-hearted, but Baglioni’s corporate culture recognizes that life is there to be savoured, and Italians have refined every aspect of living. Baglioni epitomizes this imprint. In order to be sure its "cross-culture" programme worked, management studied major behaviour of each target demographic who come to the properties. Staff were trained to recognize the particular needs of many groups, and how to respond appropriately, an enormously successful outreach that has contributed to the increase in repeat traffic. It was not only a recognition of nationalities which created the unique ambience. Baglioni also instituted a Women Traveller Alone programme, tailored to the unique needs of this growing demographic. Special attention is paid to amenities, in-room check in, affordable room service, best seating for those dining alone, preferential room placement near elevators and the all-important staff sensitivity training. To aid the process, Baglioni has two psychologists in the human resources’ area, dedicated to monitoring high level hiring to locate the best-suited people.

I asked Mr Magni where Baglioni wanted to go with new locations and he revealed that two properties already in the pipeline are Budapest, opening in 2007, a 62-room property with two restaurants, plus a renovated Ottoman-era spa with hammam; and a new construction of only 100 rooms in Dubai’s financial district, slated to open in 2008. The company is now actively looking for New York and Paris locations. It’s a courageous plan, jumping into markets with so many able players already established. But Baglioni brings a singular Italian stile di vita to everything it does, and that should put the fear into any of their worthy competitors. •


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Baglioni’s corporate culture recognizes that life is there to be savoured, and Italians have refined every aspect of living. Baglioni epitomizes this imprint



Carlton Hotel Baglioni
Via Senato, 5
20121 Milano
T 39 02 77-077


Luna Hotel Baglioni
San Marco, 1243
30124 Venezia
T 39 041 52-89-840


Hotel Bernini Palace
Piazza San Firenze, 9
50122 Firenze
T 39 055 28-86-21

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