Florence’s Palazzo della Gherardesca
In Florence, some of the most beautiful gardens and buildings aren’t listed in guidebooks. Consider the gardens, art and architecture of the former Palazzo della Gherardesca, now the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
On the edge of Florence’s historic centre, off Via Borgo Pinti, an unassuming entrance hides one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful Florentine gardens in the city, Giardino della Gherardesca. The 11 acres of lawns are dotted with ancient towering trees and scattered with seating areas, one of which offers a superb view of Brunelleschi’s majestic Duomo, only a 15-minute walk away.
But if the grounds are outstanding, the buildings situated there are more handsome still. After seven years of renovation, the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the Conventino, a 16th-century convent, are now home of the new Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.
The Palazzo della Gherardesca was commissioned in 1473 by Bartolomeo Scala, chancellor to Florence’s legendary Medici family, and was later home to Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici, who became Pope Leo XI.
The unassuming entrance on Florence’s Via Borgo Pinti leads to an arcaded courtyard is decorated with 16th-century frescos by Flemish mannerist Jan van der Straet, also known as Giovanni Stradano.
There are other Stradano frescos in what was once the palazzo chapel and on the staircase that ascends to the grand suites of the piano nobile. The Della Gherardesca Suite features rococo frescos by Baldassare Franceschini, whose work can be found in the church of Santa Croce.
Elsewhere in the Hotel are similarly impressive baroque flourishes, including original Florentine art and craftsmanship found in several of the Hotel’s bedrooms, suites and bathrooms. But most of the 116 guest rooms in the main palazzo and the discrete Conventino owe their design to Pierre-Yves Rochon, whose work also appears at Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris, Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva and Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano, Egypt. His authentically Italian rooms here have a period feel, with comfort and technology that are reassuringly 21st-century.