My first trip to Italy was to get a glimpse of two beautiful regions: Tuscany & Venetia. I remember then, the romantic in me simply allowed Venice to steal my heart. This time though I decided to stay longer in Florence & explore Tuscany much more. Give me stories from 300 or 3000 or even 3 million years ago & I love it. It’s like the premise of the movie, ‘Midnight in Paris’ in which the past is always remembered with nostalgia & believed to be more beautiful. Where every warrior, every artist, every philosopher perhaps brought his expression to life with much more passion & perfection. And of course tons of imagination. So this time, the Duomo & Renaissance was on my mind. As was the excitement to see the works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael & the master architect Brunelleschi.
I decided to immerse a little deeper and it all started with where I wanted to stay. This trip was also a birthday gift for my Mom. So I decided to make it lavish & loosened up the purse strings. Given her love for all things historical, I wanted her to be real close to the Cattedrale di Sante Maria del Fiore (the Duomo). One of the reasons I picked Hotel Brunelleschi.
I can tell you right away that it was a terrific 5 days, but first let me tell you why I really chose this stay. Well I first read about it in Dan Brown’s Inferno. Am sure you’ve read that one. But I was actually floored by the story of its origins. It’s a 6th century historical building restructured around a Byzantine tower (Torre della Pagliazza) and a Medieval church (Church of San Michele). And how would you feel if I told you that the tower was for a while a woman’s prison!! Called Pagliazza from ‘paglia’, the Italian word for straw (which was the bedding for the inmates)!
From the outside one part does look like a tall intimidating tower. But it’s a dream once you go in and up the floors. A blend of classic Florentine architecture with contemporary luxury makes Hotel Brunelleschi an immersive experience from the moment the purple & gold hits you. You feel it in its opulently done up corridors or when you settle into the large rooms with stylishly done up aesthetics. Not to mention the hospitality of the staff.
(Aaha! you must be wondering what makes this a luxury hotel? If you can blend medieval with modern in your head you will find an answer to that as soon as you step in)
(I remember reading in a eloquent description of this stay, that it’s pretty much classic architecture meets Italian bling. Do you feel that too?)
The hotel, named after Filippo Brunelleschi the architect of the exquisitely created Duomo can be reached by walking 50m from the Cathedral. A taxi at the train station will get you to Piazza Sant’Elisabetta in 15 mins. Turn left from the hotel and you reach the Duomo. Turn right and you are within walking distance of the Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria & Ponte Vecchio. Truth be told, you can cover most of the historical area by just walking or hiring a cycle, so staying close enough means terribly late nights without a care in the world. Even more so for solo female travelers.
THE SUITE UPGRADE
I had initially booked a premium room with a side view of the Duomo. It was beautiful but we wished we could see much more. That’s when the manager stepped in to offer their Pool suite for our final night there, with just 100 Euros more in tariff. Now here’s the starry eyed me talking. It was really the suite experience that made me go all WOW! Just one night but I wish there were many. Of course there is also the Duomo Suite & Tower Suite both of which offer great views too.
(I have to admit the Premium Room was tastefully done up. And thankfully spacious. Having come to Florence after more than a week in London where the stay was in classy but compact rooms, this meant I could roll, stretch, dance…whatever)
The Pool Suite ~ So this is what it will feel like. Imagine a two level stylishly done up apartment in Florence boasting about getting you all enraptured when you reach the bedroom. Just because the view is pretty. The balcony with a sit out gives you a stunning view of the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower) & the rest of the city. Houses with red tiled roof tops add even more color to the blue sky especially during sunset. It doesn’t matter if you have partied hard that evening and reach home real late. The lit up view of the Duomo will just sober you up. It’s stunning by day as it is by night, but I am slightly biased on the night view. Then of course is the Florence skyline that you can enjoy seeing even if you decide to slip into a Jacuzzi, in the privacy of the very same balcony. It’s intimate and quite romantic. Totally wasted on me this time though.
(I don’t know what I liked more. The hotel, its story, the rooms, the hospitality or the good morning view)
Life gives you choices in abundance, as did the menu for breakfast. And it’s only fair I say that given I am vegetarian. So there is an appetizing table laid out on the 1st floor or then if you are a resident of the suite you can go to the restaurant in the reconstructed tower. That has spectacular views and is a must for one breakfast at least. Its gourmet restaurant ‘Santa Elisabetta’ with the much awarded chef Giuseppe Bonadonna at the helm, is also quite welcoming of vegetarians & vegans for lunch/dinner. Besides this the hotel has a stylish restaurant on the ground floor too, but when in Florence I’d say just go whet your appetite anywhere really. The food is always delicious.
And before I forget, the hotel has in its basement a private museum with excavated Roman artifacts found during the restoration work of the tower. I missed the opportunity, but it’s open to all guests of the hotel.
Everything about Florence says, ‘be aesthetic’. I was mighty brainwashed on that after my first trip itself. So I totally suggest you pick your view before you even decide on what all you want see there. All of the city is a feast for the eyes. The view of sunset from the Ponte Vecchio is teasing with flashes of golden red and is like an amorous love song. Especially for photographers. Gosh even shop windows are stylish and how. The least one can do as a traveler, is to try and live with one’s visual senses completely alive. I am learning fast.
If you’ve been to Florence, I would love to hear about your stay & experience. What’s your unforgettable tale?