Claire Wrathall, The Daily Telegraph, April 30, 2014
Mention the name Ferragamo, and shoes will surely come to mind, then perhaps handbags and other leather goods, jewellery, watches, or even scents and soaps. The extended family, whose father, Salvatore, founded the brand in 1927, has several hotels too, mostly in and around Florence. Their latest property, Portrait Firenze, opens on May 1.
Located on the banks of the Arno, close to the Ponte Vecchio, it’s part of a small portfolio of boutique hotels, the Lungarno Collection, established by Leonardo Ferragamo, the youngest of the original founder’s six children.
Perhaps inevitably there is something of a fashion theme. The hotel’s architect, Florence-based Michele Bönan, who has also designed JK Place, the city’s best boutique (at least until now), has “drawn inspiration from the birth of Italian haute couture” in the 1950s for the décor of its 34 suites and studios. Nothing vulgar or overt, mind you: just textiles of the finest quality, immaculately “tailored” upholstery, monochrome photographs of immaculately dressed style icons and an overall sense – the pale dove walls, the reinvented gilt-bamboo chairs and lacquered Chinese screens – of a couturier’s salone in the era of la dolce vita. Certainly its 2,939 sq ft (273sq m) penthouse (which sleeps 10) promises to stand out among the most splendid places to stay in the city. Not that the entry-level (430 sq ft/40 sq m) studios aren’t enchanting too.
There’s a Ferragamo connection at the Hotel Savoy on the Piazza della Repubblica as well, hence the many prints, paintings and murals of footwear that decorate the property. These, however, were chosen by Olga Polizzi, design director of Rocco Forte Hotels, which has operated the hotel since 2000 on behalf of the Ferragamos, who own it.
The Ferragamos also own Il Borro, a 700-acre estate and village in the Valdarno hills, 40 miles southeast of Florence and 12 miles northwest of Arezzo, historically once the property of the Medici and princely Savoia families. Like so many of the loveliest country hotels, it was bought – by Ferruccio Ferragamo, Salvatore Snr’s eldest son – as a private retreat, a place to rewind, ride, hunt and make wine. Since 1995 he and his own son, Salvatore, have returned more than 100 acres to vines, producing five wines, from the rare and revered Super Tuscan Il Borro, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petit verdot, to a crisp refreshingly not over-alcoholised Chardonnay (Lamelle) to a raisiny Vin Santo.
Over time they have also created this 22-suite Relais & Chateaux hotel (rooms from €290/about £240), three restaurants, a spa, three villas and five farmhouses, all available to rent. The largest and most handsome, Villa Il Borro, complete with its own Renaissance garden, has 10 bedrooms; the smallest, Mulino Uno, on the site of a former mill, has two. In contrast to Portrait Firenze, the style is traditional, even a little rustic, with its terracotta floors, beamed ceilings and dark antiques. But then this is where the Fiorentini go for downtime: a place for wing-tips, moccasins and sneakers, not highly polished derbies and classic heeled pumps with signature grosgrain bows.
Studios at Portrait Firenze cost from €480 (about £395) a night