Escape To Florence And Milan By Antonia Peck and Lauren Steventon

Antonia Peck and Lauren Steventon review three top hotels in Florence and Milan….

Villa La Massa

Nestled in the Tuscan hills, twenty miles from the centre of Florence, at the gateway to the Chianti wine region, is the beautiful Villa La Massa. This 16th century villa is the Villa ‘d Este’s sister hotel. They both pride themselves on their welcoming and engaging staff, sumptuous interiors and an ability to cater to the ultra high net worth customer – be it requests for the private villa overlooking the Arno River or for a high profile marriage celebration in the villa’s chapel (David Bowie and Iman were married here). As a result, the hotel is part of the illustrious Leading Hotels of the World. However, as its name suggests, Villa La Massa is in many ways a more accessible hotel than Villa d’ Este.

The hotel is extremely popular with cultural aficionados keen to explore the gems of Florence and couples seeking a romantic mini-break. Who would not be wooed by the peaceful serenity of the river views, the rolling hills and the quick journey into the historic city centre? Yet the hotel caters just as well to business travellers and corporate functions (with internet access, high-tech gym and elegant business centre) as it does for families with young, energetic children. The latter enjoy gardens ripe for exploration, a playground and a pool (which, incidentally, is more suited in size to children than to adults wishing to get their lengths in). Yet despite the variety and idiosyncrasies of the guests, the hotel charms and takes care of all whims and fancies.

The nightly room rate is slightly more conservative than one might expect – but this does not negate from the luxurious interiors (think incredible carrara marble in the bathrooms, and frescos with blue birds and strong Florentine colours on rich woven fabrics). It has a lovely little spa and a well-regarded restaurant – Verrocchio.

Villa La Massa is a dreamy hideaway hotel that will enchant you and inspire many a return visit.

reservations@villalamassa.it

Tel: +39 055.626.11
Fax: +39 055.633.102

Via della Massa 24, Candeli
50012 Firenze – Italy

www.villalamassa.it

Four Seasons Hotel, Firenze

The approach to the hotel on Via Borgo Pinti is unassuming but once inside, it is hard not to wonder at the exceptional beauty and grandiose style of The Four Seasons, Firenze – a magnificent first impression. Fiovanni Strandano’s 16th century frescoes along with a monumental bas-relief displaying a series of mythological events in the classical style decorate the courtyard to great effect. Diamonds in glass cases are displayed nonchalantly and there are two large reception areas with oversized Murano Chandeliers dominating the interior.

In fact, just about every aspect of The Firenze is breath-taking. It has the “wow factor” without sacrificing any of its historic credentials. This is not a matter of style over substance – artisans, historians, architects, florists, jewelers, sculptors, the best in the business – have all left their mark on this beautiful hotel.

There are a variety of room options from Gallery, Renaissance, Noble and Garden suites. Some suites have views of the Duomo and their own exquisite frescoes. One of the most incredible rooms available is the Royal Suite, ‘della Gherardesca,’ which measures in at a modest 2,518 square foot. The room had been the main living quarters of the nobility and with its vaulted ceilings, large windows overlooking the park and a floor designed by Ignazio Chiaiese, it is certainly sought after by the nobility’s modern-day equivalents. Meanwhile, a walk around the 11-acre Giardino della Gherardesca (a garden that dates back to the 15th century) is calming and restorative after the hustle and bustle of Florence’s city centre.

We dined at the hotel’s restaurant Il Palagio, starting with Bellini’s on the terrace and then dinner in the restaurant’s vaulted ceiling room, enjoying views of the parkland. The charm of the waiters and the soft, creamy light reminded us of Mark Birley’s Harry’s Bar, and the food was equally as good. Seasonal and fresh, but rich and indulgent – the chef, Vito Mollica, chooses only the best local Tuscan ingredients and is a great advocate of the Italian Slow Food movement.

Top Tip: Officina Profumo Farmeceutica di Santa Maria Novella Rose Water. It is a must buy and should be stocked up on! It really is the best thing for the skin.

Four Seasons, Firenze
Borgo Pinti, 99, 50121 Firenze, Italy

Tel: +39 055 26261

www.fourseasons.com

The Rosa Grand, Milan

When you have shopped until you are ready to drop, it’s time for an aperitivo. While it’s still light, ascend to the seventh floor of the Rinascente for incredible views over the Duomo and the rest of the city. On Thursdays, the place to be is “at the pink” in Rosa Grand’s large, very cool bar. Like the rest of the hotel, the decor is cool and contemporary with quirky design pieces next to deep, comfy sofas, all ensconced in sultry mood lighting. In Rosa’s Restaurant, various small areas of tables can be open or closed, separated by full-height velvet curtains. This means that a party or small dinner can feel intimate and private while the restaurant remains open for business for both hotel guests and Milanese foodies. The menu is a mix of seasonal, Milanese and healthy, accompanied by an extensive wine list which focuses on Italian varieties.

The bedrooms are contemporary and chic with more than a hint of minimalism. Walk-in wardrobes are de riguer (you are in Milan, after all!), as are marble bathrooms, comfortable beds and big windows. Splashes of bright colour and funky accessories add life to the muted colour scheme and views onto the spires of the Duomo or bustling Piazza Fontana quickly remind you where you are.

The Junior Suites have a bit more room but if you need extra space for all of those purchases, opt for a Corner Suite. These are much bigger, with vast open plan bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting rooms, and a large walk-in closet. Huge full-length windows on two sides flood them with natural light – perfect for viewing that new outfit in all of its glory.

Rosa Grand Hotel
Piazza Fontana 3, Milan, Italy

Tel: +39 02 88311

www.rosagrand.starhotels.com