Top Relais Santa Croces view
(photograph courtesy the Baglioni Group). Above The Dei Pepi
suite (photograph courtesy the Baglioni Group).
IF YOU ARE IN SEARCH of the luxury
boutique hotel experience, with all the amenities and service, but
at a truly navigable scale, you can do no better than Relais Santa
Croce, which sits in the Via Ghibellina, 50 m from Santa Croce Basilica.
You will discover this exceptional property in the middle of the
action, and a stay there delivers a veritable living history of
Firenze and its treasures.
Set in a sixteenth-century aristocratic palazzo
built in the Renaissance classical style, you get the feeling of
life in an ultra-beautiful private residence. Unlike splashy hotels,
the discreet entrance is flat, not so visible, even though to enter
you must skip past Enoteca Pinchiorri, a three-Michelin star establishment
with a stratospheric wine list, arguably the best (and most expensive)
restaurant in the city if not all of Italy, located on the ground
floor of the palazzo.
Upstairs, and inside the hotel of only 24 rooms
you get a blend of antiques and contemporary design. This is a heritage
property, so all room plans are delightfully different.
The Relais has everything the luxury leisure
traveller could ask for: view, dining, décor, service. In
typical Baglioni Group fashion, meticulous attention has been paid
to materials and furnishings, reflecting the chains high standards
for the quintessential Italian style of life in its
newest acquisition. Think blond woods, spacious baths with all the
Farmacia Santa Maria Novella amenities, extreme comfort. Few brands
deliver such a consistently sensual experience.
On the gustatory front, the Relais Guelfi
& Ghibellini restaurant competes with the august downstairs
competitor in its own elegant understated dining offering, under
the stewardship of the young chef Marco Tremonte, who takes pride
in preparing everything in-house. This list includes bread, pasta,
and the whole confectionery production. The breakfast buffet is
Tremonte has created an astounding dinner menu
in the MediterraneanAsian fusion style, centring his creations
around typical Tuscan products all sourced locally. Pray that the
lightly breaded king prawn, garlanded with crema di Gorgonzola is
still on the menu, a presentation that puts one into a near-narcotic
dream state. Try and get a peek at his tiny kitchen, the only one
in Florence with a frescoed ceiling.
Dining rooms aside, Relais Santa Croce is free
of vast function rooms, so you will never see a wedding or an intrusive
big event. One room can accommodate up to 33 people, but thats
the limit. Its always quiet, with staff trained to offer attentive
and familiar service so that each guest has a personalized experience.
Your correspondent had the chance to see the
presidential suites, and found them to be fit for a reigning monarch
at the very least. Light, airy, furnished beautifully, this over-the-top
apartment is the ideal place to lodge your visiting dignitary.
The Relais also creates customized tours to attractions
like the Ferragamo Museum, or an exclusive jewellery workshop set
in a mediæval tower next to Ponte Vecchio, or superior wineries
nestled in the surrounding hills. An extraordinary small hotel epitomizing
everything immediate and wonderful about the authentic Florentine
experience. (N.B.: when booking in Firenze, dont be confused
by the Grand Hotel Baglioni, as it is not part of the Baglioni Hotels
Relais Santa Croce
Via Ghibellina, 87
Telephone 39 055 234-22-30
Above The Four Seasons Hotel Firenzes
SEASONS CONTINUES to showcase its
global standard of hospitality and service in the recently opened
Hotel Firenze Palazzo della Gherardesca, yet another proof of why
the brand inspires such international loyalty, especially for business
travellers. Its a vast property, 116 rooms spread over two
heritage Renaissance structures, set within the walled tranquility
of its own compound on 4·5 ha of parkland.
Here in Firenzes largest private garden,
you stroll the immaculate grounds, your only companions the stubby,
discreet, humming robotic mowers tracing their geometric lines across
verdant lawns. It took Four Seasons several years to restore this
amazing place, and today you will find a complete city resort there,
paired with a living museum of art history, and a destination in
its own right. All rooms and public spaces abide by Four Seasons
excruciating standards for facilities.
Would that there were not so many distractions
in the city of Firenze, you could easily remain in the resort all
the time, luxuriating poolside at the spa (formerly the stables),
or satisfying your love of wine in the heroic cellar and tasting
space, or challenging the restaurants chef to live up to his
reputation as a gift of nature. You might make a twilight
climb up a hillock in the garden, which rises to a mature wood,
for some al fresco private dining on a hidden patio with romantic
views across to the Duomo.
This is a property perfect for large meetings
and events. The Conventino, a freestanding structure with 37 rooms,
has its own entrance, and sits directly across the park and adjacent
to the meeting hall, an ornately-painted former church which can
accommodate up to 120 guests. No wonder the Four Seasons Firenze
is already sought-after for weddings and banquets.
The two-to-one staff-to-guest ratio insures the
extra measure of service which the luxury traveller expects. Another
plus: you are tucked into a quiet neighbourhood, only a short 15-minute
walk from the city centre, meaning you will never get too lost meandering
the twisty mediæval street plan on your daily excursion.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Borgo Pinti, 99
Telephone 39 055 26-26-1
Above The sitting room in the Giuseppe suite at the Palazzo
Magnani Feroni. Below The Firenze skyline across the river,
photographed from the terrace of the Palazzo Magnani Feroni.
AN EXCEPTIONAL AMBIENCE PREVAILS
at Palazzo Magnani Feroni, a palace hotel located on the other side
of the Arno, among the old streets of the university district. The
Palace is small: only 12 suites set on three floors, but what a
place. You could compare it to spending the night in St Petersburgs
Hermitage or the palace at Versailles, a heritage building maintained
in its original style, intimate, real, always surprising. Its
close to everything: you simply stroll across a nearby bridge and
youre in the hub of commerce and art.
This discreet house has belonged to same family
for 250 years, and is filled with antique objects and pictures,
drawn from the great-grandfathers antique gallery. He was
one of the most important dealers in Europe, and you could easily
stumble upon Roman marbles, Renaissance costumes, classical portraiture
or vintage Italian pulp novels from the 1950s, tucked away in the
palazzos venerable corners.
This is one of those one-of-a-kind places, like
no other, and not for everyone. It sits at the high end of the luxury
spectrum, with a healthy price, excellent security, discriminating
clientèle and an exclusive presentation. The service compact
is high, with devoted staff, operating more like a household than
a commodified hotel.
Every detail is out of the ordinary: the hotel
has its own private garage, a real rarity in the battlefield of
Florentine parking; youll find 24-hour reception and concierge
service; theres round-the-clock room service, and late-arriving
guests can savour a complimentary en suite light dinner. One of
the first rituals after settling into your room involves choosing
your own hand-made soap fragrance from a burled wood box of samples,
this in addition to Bulgari amenities; and the hotel provides an
elegant turn-down service more from the Medici era than the Sheraton
A 130 m² roof-terrace is open all day, featuring
a truly accommodating barman and set on a background of the most
seductive panorama of red rooftops and surrounding hillsides. If
you do not mind the occasional uneven floor tile, or a slow-moving
vintage cage elevator, or a climb up a vaulted staircase to the
roof, then this could be your kind of property. Private gym, family-friendly,
wifi and complimentary lobby bar every afternoon. Well worth a visit.
Palazzo Magnani Feroni
Borgo San Frediano, 5
Telephone 39 055 23-99-544
Part Two: Rajasthan
|Lucire’s luxury travel special
Top View of Brunelleschis dome
from the balcony of a Relais Santa Croce suite. Centre
Relais Santa Croces chef Tremonte in kitchen with frescoed
ceiling. Above The Relais sommelier.
Above A typical bedroom at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
Below You can choose your soap fragrance
from a burled wood box of samples at the Palazzo Magnani Feroni.
Bottom The bed turn-down service at the Palazzo.
Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.