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Lucire: Volante
italy



Above The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze’s dining room meets the high standards one would expect from the brand.

Skirting the upper atmosphere in Firenze

In the first part of our travel special, Stanley Moss discusses how there is luxury and there is luxury. Three top-end properties in Firenze show how different the experience can be. Each has its own attractiveness, its own unique rewards, proving that it ultimately comes down to your own personal need, taste and style
photographed by the author

 



Top Relais Santa Croce’s 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 chain’s 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 beyond opulent.

Tremonte has created an astounding dinner menu in the Mediterranean–Asian 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 that’s the limit. It’s 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, don’t be confused by the Grand Hotel Baglioni, as it is not part of the Baglioni Hotels Collection recommended.)

Relais Santa Croce
Via Ghibellina, 87
50122 Firenze
Italy
Telephone 39 055 234-22-30

 



Above The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze’s salon.

 

THE FOUR 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. It’s 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 Firenze’s 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 restaurant’s 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
50121 Firenze
Italy
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 Petersburg’s Hermitage or the palace at Versailles, a heritage building maintained in its original style, intimate, real, always surprising. It’s close to everything: you simply stroll across a nearby bridge and you’re 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-grandfather’s 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 palazzo’s 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; you’ll find 24-hour reception and concierge service; there’s 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 century.

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
50124 Firenze
Italy
Telephone 39 055 23-99-544
www.florencepalace.com


Part Two: Rajasthan

 

Lucires luxury travel special

 

 




Top View of Brunelleschi’s dome from the balcony of a Relais Santa Croce suite. Centre Relais Santa Croce’s 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.

Related articles
Lucire 2010 | The Global Fashion Magazine The Florentine insider
Firenze has many secrets—and great buys and places to eat, if you know where to look by Stanley Moss
some photographs by the author
Lucire 2010 | The Global Fashion Magazine Studying the classics in Italy
Stanley Moss checks out three of the Baglioni Group’s luxury properties in Italy, discovering the best places to stay in Milano, Venezia and Firenze
photographed by the author
Expanded from issue 22 of Lucire

 

 

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