Florence: The Renaissance Continues

Our appetite for Florence demanded a springtime trip, just in time to visit a new five-star property, La Gemma, which soft-opened May 8. We also made a long anticipated stop at Il Tornabuoni, which has become a favorite of the fashion industry, as well as of those who like the hotel’s association with Hyatt. The third hotel that we explored was L’Orologio, which is conveniently located in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, and is as welcoming as its namesake in Roma. All in all, Firenze in spring 2023 was as enticing as it surely was in the Renaissance.

We had previewed Il Tornabuoni with a hardhat visit during re-construction of the 13th-century palazzo; we arrived back to find a polished and sophisticated spot. It’s especially evocative on the rooftop and we really like the option to have two king beds in some double rooms and suites. The hotel, now marketed as part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, has 62 rooms, of which eight are signature suites. Pets up to 10kg (22 lbs) are welcome here.

Il Tornabuoni
The Lorenzo Il Magnifico Suite at Il Tornabuoni has frescoed walls and ceilings. (Il Tornabuoni)

Located at Via de’ Tornabuoni 3, the property is smack in the middle of some of the finest shopping on the planet, including a tantalizing “Gucci view” from some rooms. Among other designers nearby are Pucci, Prada, Omega, Ferragamo and so many more. Contact Marianna Toth ([email protected]), senior sales manager.

Note: There is parking nearby, but incoming guests should notify the hotel in advance to provide car info; otherwise, there will be a problem (and eventually an expensive ticket) for entering the ZTL, Zone of Limited Traffic, without permission.

Dining in-house can be convenient for new arrivals or those departing early; guests have several very good choices within the hotel: Il Magnifico Ristorante, Il Magnifico Café, Lucie Gourmet Restaurant, La Cave wine cellar and, our favorite, the Butterfly Terrace on the rooftop. (Butterflies are a symbol of Il Tornabuoni and murals with them pop up all over the hotel). The sunset views on the terrace rival anything in Firenze. La Cave offers wine tastings all year and is open for cocktails in winter, when the Butterfly Terrace is closed.

The rooms and suites offer various choices. The Tornabuoni Suite, No. 502, is the only suite with a private terrace, one large enough to accommodate dinner served outside. Naturally, this being the historic center of Florence, there is a wonderful view. The suite includes a king bedroom, a living room with sofa bed and two full baths.

Il Tornabuoni
At the Butterfly Terrace at Il Tornabuoni, guests can dine while taking in the views of the city and its ancient rooftops. (Il Tornabuoni)

Suite No. 314, the Lucretia Suite, has two king beds, which has not been the norm in Italy and which can be particularly attractive to Americans. For shopping inspiration, the Lucretia overlooks several designer stores on Via de’ Tornabuoni. The Décor Suite, No. 313, has a separate living room with a sleeper sofa for one person. There is a private bedroom with two king beds and there is one full bath.

Families or friends traveling together could find Suite No. 321 meeting their needs, as it sleeps five in two double king bedrooms and a living room with sleeper sofa; plus, it has two full baths. Other suites with two king beds are the quiet Beatrice, No. 214, which is off the street and has an open living space, and the Trinita Suite, No. 209, a corner suite with a fab view from two large windows. It’s also a double king and has a large, light-filled bathroom with bathtub and window.

Suite No. 406 can be combined with No. 405 to create a private two-bedroom, two-bath suite, with a sleeper sofa in the living room. We also saw Suite No. 101, a Junior Suite with two sofas, a bath tub, one king bed and a view of the quaint and quiet side street.

VRetreats, a fast-emerging hotel group focused on charming and historic properties, has purchased the Il Tornabuoni to add to their collection of distinctive hotels in Italy and elsewhere. VRetreats is a part of Alpitour World.

La Gemma
At La Gemma, Suite No. 502 has original centuries-old ceiling and a private atrium. (La Gemma)

The very new La Gemma has opened in the 19th-century Palazzo Paoletti, at Via Calimala 3, a secluded street between the Piazza Della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria. Close to all the best places, it’s hidden from highly trafficked streets; in fact, the discreet entrance is actually on Via dei Cavalieri at the rear of the palazzo. This is the first hotel for the Cecchi family, founders of the Monge Group, but they hit all the marks on their first try.     

The interiors are a cool, lush green, which will be especially welcome during the city’s hot summers. (The discerning owner of several Asian luxury boutique hotels reported that he was very pleased with his recent stay at La Gemma). The property has 38 rooms and suites. Laura Stopani is general manager and can be reached by phone or text at +39-366-587-5516.

To add to the feeling of seclusion, there is a private elevator to two two-bedroom suites on the fifth floor. Both have two baths, along with a separate living room space. In addition, there are four loft suites, which may also be reached by private elevator to the fourth floor. No. 502 has original centuries-old ceiling, a private atrium, one bedroom, a sofa bed and one bathroom. No. 504 is larger and includes a bathtub, while No. 503 also has an atrium. Taking one or more of these suites together could be an idea for friends or family traveling together.

The Allure Spa and Wellness Center, which will open in the fall, will collaborate with Biologique Recherche to plan personalized treatments for guests. For now, there is a pop up spa on the third floor.

Luca’s by Paolo Airaudo ristorante achieves a lush ambiance that reflects the use of tropical greens, pinks and ivories throughout the property. Above the street level, the location feels intimate and the menu is a combination of Tuscan classic and international.

La Gemma
La Gemma has a total of 38 rooms and suites. (La Gemma)

L’Orologio is a four-star property located on the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, just a few minutes’ walk to the main train station, directly across from the cathedral of Santa Maria Novella. Over the years the landscape of the piazza has been dramatically improved and now it boasts several very good hotels.

Owners Sandro and Antonella Fratini’s WTB Group has five properties in Florence, one in Roma and one in Venice, all four-plus stars. (Sandro has a vast collection of luxury watches, hence the name L’Orologio.) Claudio Delli is the Florence-based managing director of the group (+39 338-784-5091).

Premium Suite No. 501 on the fifth floor includes a king-sized bedroom, separate living room and one bathroom. Light streams in from two windows and French doors lead to a terrace, where meals can be brought for private dining. Panoramic views stretch out across the tiled roofs of Florence, including the Brunelleschi dome and tower. This is one of only three rooms on the top floor of the hotel; it’s possible to add the two deluxe view rooms to the suite and have the entire floor for a group traveling together.

Another possible combination is to book Room No. 310, which overlooks the piazza from two large windows, and add Room No. 309 for a private area or family room. Rooms Nos. 406 and 222 overlook Via Bella Donne, where there are some interesting shops and ristoranti. We love the Wongvalle Boutique at number 16A and Mario Luca Giusti at Via della Vigna Nuova 88r.

Guests at Hotel L’Orologio Florence can choose to relax with a book  at the library salone.
Guests at Hotel L’Orologio Florence can choose to relax with a book  at the library salone. (L’Orologio Florence)

L’Orologio has a street level bar, where light snacks and drinks are served. The sister property next door, the Santa Maria Novella, has a full ristorante and acts as room service for both the L’Orologio bar and the hotel. (The bottoni pasta alla Sorrentina in riduzione di fassone e vermouth arrived at the bar steaming and delicious). Around the corner on Via delle Belle Donne 49/R is Trattoria Marione al Trebbio and Trattoria 13 Gobbi at Via del Porcellana 9R, both of which serve traditional Tuscan fare.

The hotel has a small gym with a sauna and exercise equipment; a massage therapist is on call. The ground-floor reception and lobby area is entered by tall glass doors, beyond which the Duomo Santa Maria Novella dramatically overlooks the piazza.

For many lovers of Italy, the city of Florence is the magnetic center of their travels.

While nothing ever changes here, it’s also true that nothing ever stays the same. There are the beloved places to savor and always new ones to explore.

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