24-Hour Room Service: Four Seasons, Florence, Italy

Some first-time visitors to Florence have been known to suffer from Stendhal syndrome – often referred to as Florence Syndrome – which is named after the 19th-century French novelist. As a result of prolonged proximity to such "sublime beauty", he was overcome with an extreme case of nerves and palpitations.

You could be forgiven for having your own Stendhal moment at the Four Seasons. In a city where art reigns supreme, your introduction to the jewels of the Renaissance starts immediately in the dazzling glass barrel-vaulted courtyard. Look up and you can see the hotel's most treasured artwork, 12 bas-reliefs commissioned by Alessandro de Medici in 1555 and executed by the celebrated Flemish Mannerist, Jan van der Straet.

Before it acquired the Four Seasons emblem this summer, few visitors to Florence would have been aware of the 15th-century Renaissance Palazzo della Gherardesca. Such is the building's historic legacy, before it and the neighbouring 16th-century "Conventino" could open for business it took seven painstaking years to renovate the two buildings, at a reported cost of $100m (£68m).

The result is unique: half museum, half hotel, with the building's interiors reflecting over five centuries of history. Previous residents have included a Pope, an order of nuns, Italy's first railway company, Florentine nobles and a Viceroy of Egypt (who sold up when his harem was forbidden to move in).

Four Seasons is sometimes accused of sacrificing too much local colour in the name of its unrivalled consistency, but the right chord has been struck here. There is also enough hustle and bustle to counteract any sense of museum-like austerity. You can live like a modern-day Medici by sipping an aperitivo among the verdant tranquillity of the largest private garden in Florence, or loll by the pool listening to the church bells peeling out across the rooftops.

The spa uses products from the world's oldest pharmacy, Florence's Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Someone here also had the good sense to employ Vito Mollica in the kitchen. An ardent supporter of the Slow Food movement, he applies just the right amount of talent to his superior raw materials (so much so that I was almost willing to forgive the cheesy keyboard player who was wheeled out at dinner times).


Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Borgo Pinti 99, Florence, Tuscany, Italy (00 39 055 2626 1; fourseasons.com). This quiet corner of the "centro storico" feels like it still belongs to the Florentines. Close enough to walk to all the major sites in 15 minutes, but far enough away to feel like you are escaping the tourist hordes.

Time from international airport: Florence's Amerigo Vespucci airport is a 20-minute drive away, although Pisa, which is served by more airlines from the UK, is around an hour by train to Santa Maria Novella station.


All of the 116 rooms, dotted between the Palazzo and the Conventino (the rooms of which are due to open in early 2009) are different. The décor was overseen by French architect and designer Pierre-Yves Rochon and an Empire style prevails. If the credit crunch means nothing to you, the real highlights are the 11 speciality suites. One of these, the Della Gherardesca occupies part of the palazzo's first floor, and boasts a frescoed gallery, plus an original 18th-century Capodimonte ceramic floor. Bathrooms are decorated in marble and have separate baths and showers.

Freebies: toiletries have been specially blended by Italian perfumier Lorenzo Villoresi.

Keeping in touch: satellite TV and direct-dial telephones in rooms; fax machines and DVD players on request.


Double rooms start at €327, rising to €13,750 for the Della Gherardesca suite.

I'm not paying that: continue the ecclesiastical theme at the nearby former convent Morandi alla Crocetta (00 39 055 234 4747; hotelmorandi.it), where doubles with breakfast start at €177.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
LifeReddit asked a simple question with infinite answers this week
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice