Lucy Daltroff stays at one of Florence’s most iconic hotels and revels in the contrast to her student days in Florence.
A long weekend of luxury is something we all aspire to some time in our lives and a hotel bedroom with a terrace overlooking the River Arno in the heart of the most fashionable part of central Florence may well be the answer.
Antica Torre certainly deserves its 5-star rating. As its name suggests it is an old 13th-century tower, positioned on one of Florence’s most exclusive streets, and the place simply oozes both character and luxury. It is next to the Santa Trinita bridge and alongside the top Italian shops Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Tiffany, Montblanc, Giorgio Armani and Dior.
Maria Rita Bellini, the hotel’s general manager, explained that former residents of this building, number 1 Via Tornabuoni, have included priors, war commissioners, ambassadors and even several knights before it was inherited by the bankers and traders that make up the noble clan the Gianfigliazzi’s, who owned it until 1761. In the early 20th century, she explained, it became a privileged residence for aristocrats, English writers, and musicians, while today it is held and managed by the Rusconi Clerici family from Milan.
It was my first visit to the city since taking an art course at the British Institute of Florence when a teenager. As I mentioned this to my airport taxi driver, I am not sure whether it was reassurance or pure sarcasm, when looking me up and down he said “Ah but Florence hasn’t changed at all”
That is so true. This medieval city is the birthplace of the Renaissance, home to the Medicis and to so many iconic pieces of art and architecture that names such as Michelangelo, Leonardo and Botticelli seem to be infused into its very structure. I would defy even the most hackneyed of tourists not to be moved by what is on offer.
When I was studying, my student diet consisted mainly of cheap pasta and minestrone soup. What a contrast to my present visit. The food in Antica Torre is first class, served in The Tower restaurant with fresh fish from the Gulf of Follonica and other favourites including grilled octopus, spaghetti alla carbonara and steak tagliata.
On my first evening, I was offered a pre-dinner welcome drink in the upstairs bar and went, without any real expectation of what awaited me – a panoramic treat – stretching out on all 4 sides with the most stupendous views of the city and beyond – right up to the surrounding hills of Fiesole and Settignano. Even the famous Duomo was huge, a local neighbour, less than 5 minutes’ walk away, looming up magnificently on one side of the terrace. And then there was the Arno River glistening beneath us with the Ponte Vecchio the next bridge down, and its fabulous shops along its length. It was good to hear too, that the terrace is for the exclusive use of the hotel’s residents.
I was drinking the hotel’s signature “Sunset Cocktail”, created by an in-house mixologist while watching the real thing appear over the horizon, and believed it to be one of life’s perfect moments.
Throughout my stay, this upstairs haven was my go-to place. I was even eating breakfast there and feasting not only on seasonal specialities from Tuscany such as tomato bruschetta but also English and Mediterranean food, – all in front of a view that must be one of the best in Florence. A great way to start a day!
Interior designer, Angelica Frescobaldi designed the 24 comfortable and elegant bedrooms, with hand-painted walls and bold splashes of colour, beautiful textiles, and fine oriental rugs, all of which sit nicely on blond parquet floors. The effect is a combination of glamour and contemporary chic.
My large 50 sq metre “Panoramic Suite” came with a terrace overlooking the Arno River, a four-poster bed, walls lined with fabrics and a Calacatta Gold marble bathroom with a separate shower and large bathtub. Of course, I could have chosen the Hamman Suite designed with a chromotherapy system, double jacuzzi, and Turkish bath for two or for that matter any of the other 23 other suites or rooms on offer, all with air conditioning free Wi-Fi, minibar, satellite TV DVD player and a film library. Some are interconnecting, suitable for families (children under 12 stay free) and for larger family groups, a self-catering apartment on the third floor of the palazzo sleeps up to seven.
Despite being in the heart of the town, the hotel is quiet, and this combined with the comfortable bedding, ensures an excellent night’s sleep, enabling visitors to feel refreshed and ready for a busy day of exploring the cities’ treasures.
Florence is the setting for E. M Forster’s book “A Room With a View” and I had total empathy with both the title – and the name of the heroine – on that most memorable of weekend breaks.
Tell Me more about the Antica Torre Tornabuoni
Antica Torre Via Tornabuoni 1, 50122 Florence, Tuscany Italy
T: +39 055.2658161/69 F: +39 055.2188410
Rooms from £183.00