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The Four Seasons Hotel Florence
Borgo Pinti 99, Florence, Italy

Renaissance splendor and modern comfort in the Palazzo della Gherardesca

By Simone Zarmati Diament

The Palazzo was first built in 1473, by Bartolomeo Scala, Chancellor of the Florentine Republic under Lorenzo Medici “Il Magnifico.”
Over five centuries it belonged successively to noblemen, princes and even Popes – albeit the short-lived Leo XI in 1607 – before being purchased in 1859 by Count Ugolino della Gherardesca.
It was acquired by the Fingen Group in 2000, and was restored to Renaissance splendor as the Four Seasons Hotel in 2008.
What better way to visit Florence, Italy, the cradle of Italian Renaissance, than to actually bask in the luxury of a Renaissance palace?

While artists like Michelangelo “Il Divino” Buonarrotti, Leonardo Da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli who were commissioned by the Medici, Florentine noblemen and prelates of the 15th and 16th centuries to create masterpieces that the world flocks to admire today in their palaces – now museums, they never lived in them other than as hired hands.

Now, 21st century travellers can not only visit the sumptuous city of Florence and its treasures but they can also live like princes at the Renaissance Palazzo della Gherardesca, which has recently opened as the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence.

Walking minutes from Florence’s awesome museums and churches and busy historical center, at the end of the narrow cobbled street, it is impossible to imagine the magnificence behind the tall walls of the Palazzo Scala Della Gherardesca and the adjoining 16th century Palazzo/Conventino with their 11 acres of botanical gardens, one of the largest and most beautiful green space on the right bank of the river Arno.

A liveried doorman, speaking perfect English, welcomes you and takes charge of your bags.

Inside, a larger than life-size statue, muscles rippling across its torso and back, stands on a plinth in the middle of the 15th century courtyard/lobby, so you can view the artist's creation lit from every angle. The lobby is surrounded by 15th century bas-reliefs depicting mythological scenes and flanked by porticoes, barrel vaults and open corridors leading to the concierge and registration desks, the library, dining room, etc…

Beauty is everywhere; on the frescoes friezes and hand painted ceilings with allegorical scenes from the life of the della Gherardesca family, in the intimate Capella, the business room (where a computer, fax and printer stand on an antique desk, surrounded by painted walls) and adjoining rooms.

No two of the 116 rooms are alike. Full of restored antiques and paintings, they are all designed in two color schemes - yellow and green - and offer all the modern amenities, including a plush king size bed and lavish marble bathrooms. They all face either the tree canopies of the street or the private walled park with winding paths leading to the state-of-the-art Spa - the only one in the world to use products by the all natural local apothecary Profumo-Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella, the Pool, the Fitness Center and the romantic 18th century Conventino.

Suites, like the della Gherardesca Royal Suite located on the second, or noble floor of the Palazzo overlooking the courtyward, are wildly opulent with original 18th century Capodimonte ceramic floors, a long gallery with detailed frescoed ceilings, original paintings and sculptures, an amazingly rich bedroom, a 10-seats dining room and a bathing lounge with a central marble bathtub.

La Villa, ideal for honeymooners because of its secluded location in the middle of the park, has been conveted into a sophisticated and modern haven; and the Noble, Gallery and Renaissance Suites on the second floor of the Palazzo, each offer different decors fit for Renaissance noblemen and princes.

The della Gherardesca family was the owner of half of Italy, including Sardiniaa and Corsica and entertained lavishly in the second floor Ballroom - with an original 19th century chandelier and a huge fresco – which is rented today for private parties and weddings.

Executive Chef Vito Mollica, an advocate of the Slow Food movement who also happens to have opened the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, extends the princely experience to Il Palagio, the Hotel’s main restaurant and breakfast room where he serves succulent Italian fare with ingredients he sources daily from regional and artisan producers who share his passion for quality.

For additional information: www.fourseasons.com/florence

Four Seasons Hotel Firenze,
Borgo Pinti 99, 50121, Florence, Italy
+39 055 2626 1

Gnudi (pronounced ni-u-di), akin to large ricotta gnocchi, are essentially the filling of ricotta ravioli without the pasta. This is why they are humorously called nudi meaning naked – or gnudi in Tuscan dialect. Those ricotta-based balls are delicious in saffron-cream sauce or served with a good tomato sauce.

Ricotta gnudi with herbs and San Giminiano saffron cream
adapted from Executive Chef Vito Mollina,
Four Seasons Hotel Florence, Italy

5-6 servings

Ingredients:
1 lb sheep ricotta (you can use cow’s milk ricotta) 
4 oz. flour
2 oz. grated parmigiano cheese
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt and pepper to taste
half a handful of finely chopped herbs: chives, arugula and parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the saffron cream
1 pint heavy cream
½ oz San Giminiano Saffron (you can use another type of saffron if needed)
2 oz. grated parmigiano cheese

  Preparation:
For the gnudi: In a bowl, mix the ricotta, flour, grated parmigiano cheese, egg yolk and the fresh herbs. Keep in the fridge for 2 hours to rest. Shape, with wet hands, balls of 1 oz or 1.5 inches each and drop them in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, put them on the plate and dress them with saffron sauce.  You can also use tomato sauce.
For the saffron sauce: In a saucepan bring the cream and saffron to a soft boil for 2 to 3 minute, add the parmigiano and strain with a fine sieve. Bring back to boil and it is ready to dress the Gnudi.
 

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