One of several visual images of Four Seasons Firenze that come immediately to mind, the day after leaving, is a dawn tour of its amazing 4.5-hectare grounds, currently dotted with truly memorable sculptures. I particularly loved artist Antonio Nocera’s stylised heads, almost Klein-blue in colour, and the nearby (and also lifesize) white marble sculptures, almost floating as if dancing Isadora Duncan-style.
This is a true resort in the city, by the way – stay here and you could be in a distant parkland rather than under a 15-minute walk from the Duomo. And yet, once within the periphery of an estate supposedly designed in 1430 by Lorenzo de Medici as a wedding present for his sister, you feel as if you are cocooned from the outside world. It would be easy to spend many hours out here, admiring well-labelled trees that include a Cedrus Libani, Cedar of Lebanon (as big as a two-storey house with at least five bedrooms), and a Celtis Australis, which for some reason translates to a European Nettle Tree.
Summer-long some stay put, hour on hour around the outdoor pool. A few metres away is the spa and a two-floor Technogym centre. I discovered another small pavilion that is the Kaffeehaus. Somewhere out here, too, is the private villa, with its own pool, but the word ‘private’ is so apt it remains hidden from inquisitive guests. I did come across the semi-private kids’ club, and a surprise indeed, a mini-mountain with 51 cobble-tread steps that rise to the Bellosguardo Terrace, topped by a grotto ideal for betrothals.
This magical hotel’s DNA seems to evolve seamlessly. When it opened in 2008 it commanded awe and respect. Today, add more fun and youthful lifestyle. Culinary genius Vito Mollica, here from the start, notes a growing clientele of 20-ish food lovers who want simplicity and the best products, and explanations of provenance. Without being fanatics, they eat well as part of their lifelong wellness. He loves sharing secrets of his renowned Bistecca alla Fiorentina, using a Chianina steak that weighs at least 1.2 kilograms – anything less than that is considered by locals as “merely carpaccio”, he says. He flavours with both fine and coarse salts, and drizzles with Puglia olive oil before serving with grilled vegetables rather than standard cannellini beans.
I always admire how designer Pierre-Yves Rochon transformed these ancient buildings into a 116-key hotel. My favourite room is #112, up three internal steps into a space that looks down through open-ready windows into the central, glass-roofed lobby courtyard and also, on the other side, out into the treetops. I have a dozen USB ports: my one incoming message, on a silver salver, is in an envelope showing a full-colour cherub from the ceiling of the hotel’s Della Gherardesca Royal Suite.
At breakfast with GM Max Musto, we sit under four, three-tier Murano chandeliers. There are Tuscan and American breakfast ‘sets’ but I can still get a superb plain yoghurt followed by an omelette, and order ‘avocado croutons’, namely at least half of this avocado addict’s daily fix. As I get into the hotel’s Mercedes to leave, I realise nothing really changes at this Florentine retreat for all seasons: it is just that memories always seem to make it even better.