Residents of Gotham City in need of aid signal Batman. Those staying at the Sedgewick Hotel dial up the Ghostbusters. But who was I going to call on to help me explore Florence?
Sadly Superman was busy, so it was PK (a.k.a. our president, Philippe Kjellgren).
Florence is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, if not the world, and the historical centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is great to explore and appeals to those that love history, architecture, art, cuisine, fashion… and great hotels.
I stayed at the Four Seasons Firenze, which took seven years to restore and opened in 2008. The hotel is just a 15 minute walk from the centre of town and is made up of the 15th century Palazzo della Gherardesca and then across the garden, the “Conventino”, a 16th century Palazzo, which was once a convent.
Ken the doorman—Canadian-born, but a Florence resident for the last 10 years—warmly welcomed me and showed me through to reception. On the way, great frescoes and statues caught my eye (and that was just in the first courtyard).
The rooms, designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, are all beautifully decorated, but it is the suites that I feel really stand out. Some have original frescoes, friezes and silk wallpaper, in addition to the latest high-tech comfort (so no need to worry gadget loving gents!).
I quickly unpacked and took a walk around the 11 acre garden. The largest private garden in Florence, it’s perfect for children with a playground and lots of space for a game of hide and seek. Whilst the garden is nice to explore in any season, it really comes into its own in the hot, humid summer, for at the centre is an outdoor pool great for a quick dip.
Before I went into the city, General Manager Patrizio Cipollini insisted that I explore the 10 treatment room spa, also designed by Pierre Yves Rouchon. With plenty of windows, there’s great natural light. I’m told is the only spa in the world to use products from one of the oldest pharmacies, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
SIPPING AT THE SAVOY
I then went into the city centre to meet Philippe, who was staying at the Hotel Savoy which is right on the Piazza della Repubblica and just a few steps away from the Piazza del Duomo, with the Cathedral and it’s Brunelleschi Cupola. The Savoy is simple and elegant, with subtle Italian touches. As with all other Rocco Forte hotels, it has been styled by Olga Polizzi and she has beautifully combined the historical exterior with a contemporary interior.
After a long day exploring the city and popping into a few of boutiques, we return to the Savoy and enjoy a glass (or two) of great Italian wine in the L’Incontro Bar. With views over the Piazza Repubblica, we watched the world go by.
TIME FOR EATALY
Splash out and book a table for dinner with Annie Feolde and Giorgio Pinchiorri at their restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri. For 35 years it has been regarded as one of the best in town, with three stars and over 200 bottles of wine to choose from. If you like chocolates, save room for the spectacular after dinner treat tray.
Another option for dinner, or lunch, is the simple Trattoria Sostanza on Via del Porcellana, which has been serving great food since 1869. With its scrubbed wooden shared tables, small menu and speedy service, it’s not a refined experience, but the staff are very friendly and the food delicious (the steak is my recommendation).
LOVE FOR LUNGARNO
A short stroll from the restaurant, across the Ponte Vechhio with the shops that have been built along the edge, brings you to one of the Ferragamo families’ properties, the Hotel Lungarno.
The hotel overlooks the River Arno and is light and airy with large windows, beautiful white and dark blue furnishings, all a touch nautical. Once checked in, I suggest you take a seat in Chef Beatrice Segoni’s award-winning Borgo San Jacopo Ristorante for lunch or dinner whilst watching the river and rowers race by.
Florence is regarded as the art capital of Italy. Not only can you see some great pieces in the Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia or Pitti Palace, but on your return to the Hotel Lungarno have a look at the lovely works in the lounge and bar, especially the piece above their fireplace. And if you’re fond of Ferragamo’s fashion and shoes as well as their hotels, then pop into Palazzo Spini Feroni. The13th-century private palace, owned since the 1920s by shoe-designer Salvatore Ferragamo, has the Ferragamo Museum on its second floor.
Our stay in Florence was now “finito”, so after enjoying a pizza at Pizzeria Centopoveri on Via Palazzuolo and a final stroll around the Duomo, we sadly headed to the airport. Good news is the rest of Tuscany is calling, so “I’ll be back.”