With its beautiful Renaissance architecture and a private park that’s one of the largest in the city, a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Florence is a highlight of the Porsche Travel Experience Tuscany. It’s an enchanting place to relax in between driving stages
An enchanting oasis in the heart of the city
You start to sense the tranquillity and grandeur of the place as soon as you enter the Giardino della Gherardesca at the Four Seasons Hotel Florence. Outside its walls is one of the liveliest and most beautiful cities in Italy. But here, after a day’s driving on the Porsche Travel Experience Tuscany, you soak up the colours and smells of this wonderful oasis. Its rolling lawns are dotted with wild flowers and its collection of trees and bushes include sequoias, maples and azaleas. Despite being, at 4.5 hectares, one of the largest gardens in Florence, it has been virtually hidden from public view for hundreds of years. It makes it the perfect retreat to end an eventful day spent behind the wheel of a 911 on a drive through the famous Chianti wine-growing region.
As we walk through the gardens, we encounter winding paths, imposing statues, fountains and ponds and even a small Ionian summer house that the locals call the ‘coffee house’. It is easy to imagine the former owner, Count Guido della Gherardesca, taking his coffee there in 1820, looking over his garden, and deciding to redesign it in the popular Romantic style of the time. Two hundred years after, on sunny days the hotel organises hot air balloon rides from here in the park – giving you unforgettable views across this historic city – followed by a picnic. As we are visiting here earlier in the year, we decide to come back when the Faggio Pendulo – the weeping beech tree – is in full leaf, and guests can eat a romantic dinner in the shade of it, as if under a huge green cloud.
Porsche Travel Experience Tuscany: touring a living museum
From here our gaze wanders to the Palazzo della Gherardesca – which is now the main building at the Four Seasons Hotel Florence. It was the private residence of members of the Florentine nobility for five centuries until it was converted into a hotel in 2008. But such is its authentic detail, it seems as if nothing has changed since then. For participants on the Porsche Travel Experience Tuscany, you sense an intoxicating exuberance as soon as you enter the lobby. The central space is occupied by a reproduction of Michelangelo’s Bacchus, framed by a carefully restored bas relief frieze and stucco work. You feel like you have stepped back half a millennium – to a time when figures like Niccolò Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo dominated this city, which was the capital of the Renaissance world.
We are told that things get more impressive the higher you climb in this hotel. And this bears out as when we scale the stairs to reach the ‘piano nobile’ – the noble, or principle, floor – even the splendour of the lobby is surpassed. That’s because, as was customary in the Renaissance period, the first floor is the most beautifully and lavishly decorated. It was like a calling card for the house, guiding guests on their way to the rooms occupied by the nobles. The Della Gherardesca family had this noble floor painted with frescoes everywhere, so that the splendour we encounter in the corridors is surpassed in its historic apartments. Elaborately decorated stucco ceilings and wall paintings, ancient fireplaces and Chinese silk wallpapers bring the building’s lively past to life once again. Each of the hotel’s 116 opulent rooms and suites is quite different from the next. If you are lucky, you may get one with a view of the Duomo (the cathedral).
When we reach the roof terrace of the palazzo, we are rewarded with a spectacular view over the rooftops of Florence. The Duomo seems so close you can almost touch it. But we can’t dwell for long as it’s time for dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Palagio, with its historic vaulted ceilings. Combining architectural beauty, charming gardens and extraordinary cuisine, the Four Seasons Hotel Florence is a real highlight of our trip on the Porsche Travel Experience Tuscany.
After a wonderful night spent under the ornate ceiling frescoes of our hotel room, we feel like Count Della Gherardesca himself when we sit down for breakfast the next morning. Ahead of us today is a drive that will retrace original sections of the legendary Mille Miglia. In this part of the world, it seems, you can’t help being surrounded by history.
This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.