Firenze or Florence as it’s known in English, is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany, a destination I have wanted to visit for many a year. The city can be said to be the birth place for one of the most important eras in history, the Renaissance.
I along with my Partner, explored this stunningly beautiful and historic area of Italy, cementing our love for the country and came across some spectacular interiors along the way.
Our adventure began in Florence, a city that has been a pinnacle in design since the 1400’s, we visited the most iconic building in the region, The Duomo or Italian Cathedral as it translates. This gigantic church forms the centre of Florence and helped define the start of the Renaissance period. Filippo Brunelleschi created the iconic dome back in 1418 and is seen as the beginning of a movement from Medieval design to the Early Modern age.
Here in Florence, artists, architects and scholars gave importance to the individual, imagination and creativity moving away from their Medieval predecessors. Many of the world’s most famous artists have roots here from Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo.
Michelangelo produced one of his most famous pieces in Florence, the statue of David in 1504. It was originally placed after consultation with Botticelli and Da Vinci, in front of Palazzo Vecchio (the Town Hall of Florence) in Piazza della Signoria. Today a replica stands within the square, but the original can be viewed at the Accademia Gallery.
The Renaissance period saw a huge shift in design both externally and internally with design aspects that are still commonly used today. To get a true sense of the Florentine and Renaissance style, there was only one option when it came to five-star luxury, The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
The Four Seasons Firenze is not just a hotel but a spectacular piece of art. Spread over two buildings (the main Palazzo dating back to 1473 and the second a converted 16th century convent) they are connected by an 11 acre private garden. Taking seven years to fully restore the former Palazzo della Gherardesca to the splendour that it is today, under the supervision of the 'Florentine Soprintendenza of the Monuments and Fine Arts Service' (sounds very official)
Originally the Palazzo was built for Bartolomeo Scala, chancellor to Florence’s legendary Medici family, who once governed Florence.
Approaching the very unassuming entrance (you’d be forgiven for walking straight past it) typical of the Renaissance era, the only giveaway was the very smartly dressed doorman, complete with top hat. As a former Palazzo (palatial town house), The Four Seasons Hotel blends perfectly with it’s Florentine surroundings.
Once inside, it is anything but unassuming. Immediately immersing you in the Renaissance era with a central courtyard, a typical design feature in homes of the time. Originally open-air, the Four Seasons has covered the courtyard in a huge glass ceiling that floods the room with light.
Decorated with 16th century frescos (a process of mural painting on freshly laid or wet plaster) original stuccoes (a fine plaster that was moulded into architectural details when wet) and original bas reliefs (a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material) the room feels grand and opulent.
The courtyard, which was seen as the ‘heart’ of the home, is perfectly symmetrical, a trait of the era and features Corinthian style columns with semi-circular arches. The walls are of a neutral shade but are decorated with Japanese wallpapers, silk tapestries and original paintings.
In the centre of the room is a marble replica of Michelangelo’s Bacchus and is surrounded by a huge purple floral display, that not only look beautiful, but smelt incredible too. The furnishings are classically styled using velvet upholstery and complemented by glass tables and cabinets.
The ceiling around the courtyard is coffered using shades of blue and gold and the flooring is typical of the early Renaissance, styled in a geometric tiled pattern.
A grand staircase leads to the private first floor, which originally would have been an open loggia (an architectural feature; which is a covered exterior gallery or corridor usually on an upper level) complete with ornately decorated ceilings with huge crystal chandeliers and traditional Renaissance furniture.
Back on the ground floor, leading off from the courtyard is the reception area, complete with a bold black and white tiled checkerboard floor. Continuing through the lobby you find yourself in the Atrium Bar; a sophisticated lounge situated under a huge glass skylight. The Atrium Bar serves specialty coffees, afternoon tea and cocktails alongside a live pianist in the evenings.
From here we wandered through to the Michelin star Il Palagio restaurant, featuring vaulted ceilings and elegant traditional style décor. Once again, the room displayed the signature Renaissance checkerboard flooring. Unbelievably, this room was the stable block to the Palazzo and the ornate ceilings are original to the building. Executive Chef Vito Mollica creates an Italian inspired menu and has even created multi-course tasting menus paired with a selection of the hotel’s 400 wine labels.
The Four Seasons Firenze also offers two more dining options with La Magnolia; an intimate venue serving breakfast and Al Fresco; an outdoor restaurant next to the Spa and swimming pool, serving classic Italian trattoria lunch time food (pizza to you and me)
However, if it’s the true Florentine Renaissance style you want to immerse yourself in, you’re going to want to stay in one of the Four Seasons’ forty-two suites. All uniquely styled with original features and artwork, they command rates of over £11,800 a night.
There are several suite types ranging from Junior Suites, Gallery Suites, Frescoed Executive Suites and Renaissance Suites. These suits feature frescos and panelled ceilings, have views over the hotel’s garden and come complete with all modern luxuries. Not to mention a Butler service and a multilingual Concierge service.
If that’s not quite fancy enough for you, then how about the Presidential Suite, located on the third floor of the main Palazzo building. It is 205 sq m and opulently furnished with large French doors opening onto a private balcony. The suite also features its own living area and a dining room that seats eight.
So, the Presidential Suite not exclusive enough for you? Well fear not, the Four Seasons Firenze offer their Royal Suite (della Gherardesca) an enormous 234 sq m suite located within the main Palazzo. Every room boasts hand-painted art on the vaulted ceilings, beautiful frescoes and stuccos. The Presidential Suite also benefits from an original 'Capodimonte Maioliche' style ceramic floor by Ignazio Chiaiese, along with it’s very own gallery. The suite also has a formal living room, a separate dining room serving eight, a library and a full marble bathroom plus a guest powder room (because one always needs a guest powder room whilst on holiday).
Between the main Palazzo building and La Villa (the former convent) is an exquisite garden, the Giardino della Gherardesca. Set over 11 acres this private walled garden was unseen for hundreds of years and is one of largest gardens in Florence. Originally planed as a Renaissance garden in the 15th century, it now houses lush lawns, vibrant flowers, statues and modern art pieces.
Strolling round this beautiful garden we couldn’t help but be utterly impressed, this is no ordinary hotel. From the lawns you can see the Duomo, a reminder of the peace and tranquility the Four Seasons offers compared with the hustle and bustle of the city in the distance.
As a lover of modern art, I loved walking round enjoying the sculptures such as the school of fish and over sized face masks covered with tiny plastic toys.
Within the gardens you’ll also find the Four Seasons’ 28m outdoor swimming pool. Surrounded by luxurious chaise lounge sun beds and a whirlpool, the swimming pool blends into the garden’s Renaissance style with the water coloured in natural shades of green…reminiscent of an artist’s palette.
Next to the swimming pool you’ll find the Four Seasons’ Spa and Fitness Centre, here guests can find 10 luxurious treatment rooms, including 2 private suites where you can indulge in unique treatments such as their Chianti Wine Massage (wonder if you can drink it too?).
If that’s not enough for you, then the Four Seasons Firenze can arrange anything to make your stay that extra bit special. How about renting a Ferrari or a classic Mercedes-Benz to rally around Firenze in? If you want to treat that special someone in your life, they have a private fourth floor terrace on the famous Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s signature arch bridge. Here you can enjoy a four-course meal by Michelin starred chef Vito Mollica, whilst watching the beautiful Tuscan sunset...the services they can offer are endless.
As I walked the narrow streets from the Four Seasons Firenze back towards to hustle of Florence, I couldn’t help but think what an impressive hotel it was. It is a true piece of Italian Renaissance history and has been beautifully and tastefully restored to a standard that is anything but ordinary.
The warm Tuscan evening sun shone down as we walked towards the many piazza’s that form the city and we stumbled across the modern-day artists of Florence, recreating the Mona Lisa with chalk paint. Art is everywhere in Florence, whether modern or Renaissance.
If you want to immerse yourself in ultimate luxury with a real Florentine history then The Four Seasons Fireze has to be your number one choice.