The hotel is situated in the north east of the city (beyond Santa Croce) with quiet residential streets on three sides and the busy ring road on the fourth which, I must say, made no negative impact when I stayed there. Some might feel that 10-15 minute walk required to reach the city’s main sights is a negative, but I personally find that the setting and superb facilities well compensate for this.
There are 116 rooms in all. Guests who prefer to be in the thick of things should go for one of the 79 bedrooms in the main palazzo; if you want a little more privacy, choose a room in the conventino. For a taste of opulent Renaissance living, splash out of one of the 11 speciality suites on the first floor of the palazzo with their floor-to-ceiling frescoes, gigantic chandeliers, silk wall coverings and period furniture. The other bedrooms and suites (which vary considerably in size) are done out in fairly restrained Empire style but are nonetheless still decidedly luxurious. Carrara marble bathrooms are spacious and splendid and generously stocked with goodies by local perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi.
What other hotel in Florence has an entrance which takes you through a porticoed courtyard graced with a 15th century bas relief? None as far as I am aware. A second glassed-in courtyard houses the comfortable bar area well-stocked with squashy sofas while the opulent restaurant occupies the ex-stables of the palazzo. In warm weather, the public spaces spill out into the gorgeous garden.
Eating and drinking
I wouldn’t be surprised if young chef Vito Mollica’s creative, flavoursome and beautifully-presented food were to win him a Michelin-star; his Il Palagio restaurant is one of the top eating places in Florence and, although I find the décor a little overblown, a meal here is a true gourmet experience with service (and prices) to match.
A less formal alternative is the adjacent Winery, where the menu is based on local dishes and the wine list features more than 400 labels. Breakfast (you choose à la carte rather than from a help-yourself buffet) is served in the main restaurant and I found it rather disappointing.
The Atrium bar is a good place for Afternoon Tea and is a popular cocktail venue with the smart Florence set - in the summer months, light lunches and snacks are served under big white umbrellas by the pool.
For an inner-city hotel (indeed, for any hotel), the leisure facilities here are superb. The 790-square metre spa is the only spa in the world to use the Officina di Santa Maria Novella products and offers a whole myriad treatments and massages. There’s a large outdoor pool, a big gym on two levels and, of course, the 11-acre garden for jogging and walking.
As you would expect from the Four Seasons, the service is impeccable. But here, they seem to have just the right balance between formal and friendly, so it comes with a genuine smile.
Who stays there
There’s a true mix of business and leisure clients; well-heeled tourists (including lots of Americans who love the Four Seasons brand); couples visiting Florence for a romantic weekend; and elegantly-suited business travellers with generous expense accounts. The Palagio restaurant has a loyal local following.
It pays to be travelling out of season here: room rates can fall up to 50 per cent in low season. Breakfast may or may not be included - check on booking. If not, it will cost around 30-35 euros per person.
- Business travellers
- Culture vultures
- Special occasions
Pros & Cons
- Exceptional facilities
- Magnificent gardens
- Out-of-the-way location