Saturday, January 29, 2011

Locanda dell'Amorosa, a Medieval Tuscan Charm

 Since my last few posts have been focused in Florence, I am having a very difficult time making myself move on.  For that reason, I have chosen to take you a short distance south of Florence and introduce you to a very special place that I have previously booked for a family of five - Locanda dell'Amorosa. 

The Approach to Locanda dell'Amorosa

Should you not want to spend all of your time in a city during your time in Italy, this would be the perfect place to settle for a few days and use as a base to explore the REAL countryside of Tuscany.  Locanda dell'Amorosa is located a few miles south of Sinalunga between Florence and Rome and is easily accessible from the expressway.  If you are driving there, it is approximately an hour and fifteen minutes from Florence and approximately two hours and fifteen minutes from Rome.  Staying here would enable you to explore many of the surrounding towns like Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, Cortona and Siena.  These are only a few.  Other towns in that area include Orvieto, Todi, Assisi and Perugia.

Aerial View of Locanda dell'Amorosa

This particular property is quite unique for many reasons.  The history of it alone dates back to 1363.  It has weathered the ancient Etruscans, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  It has undergone battles, the loss of its fortification and various changes in ownership.  The property is comprised of several structures including stables which have been converted into a charming restaurant called "Le Coccole dell'Amorosa".  There is a small chapel on the property that is privately owned as well.  Locanda dell'Amorosa also enjoys a lovely outdoor swimming pool which is open from April to October.  As you can see from the aerial photograph, this lovely property has a central internal courtyard whose arched windows are many months of the year overflowing with fresh flowers.  The hotel is surrounded by their very own vineyards, olive groves and acres of fields and woods.

Lush Beautiful Flower Gardens Adorn the Grounds
Terraced Steps at Locanda dell'Amorosa
Arched Windows Overflowing with Flowers

Upon arrival, you will not have a problem relaxing in this "home away from home" inn.  Throughout the property, you will sense a true "country" feel with various antiques and period paintings decorating the rooms and walls.  Locanda dell'Amorosa offers four Standard Rooms, six Superior Rooms, seven Deluxe Rooms, two Special Deluxe Rooms, six Suites, one Special Suite and a Luxury Apartment.  If you visit their very well-designed website, you will be able to obtain a specific description of each room along with measurements and a description of the view.

Standard Room
Superior Room
Deluxe Room
Special Deluxe Room
Special Suite Balcony
Luxury Apartment

As previously mentioned, Le Coccole dell'Amorosa is the restaurant which was converted from the original stables on the property.  It is open every day for lunch and dinner and it is here that you can enjoy a combination of Mediterranean and Tuscan dishes enhanced by their very own fresh herbs grown in their garden.  You will be treated with extra virgin olive oils, truffles and saffron from the area.  Along with indescribably delicious meals, you will be able to choose from some of the best wines in the world.  It would be well worth selecting Amorosa's own wine called "Borgo Amorosa".  Since 2001, the Amorosa Farm has run an organic operation.  As they will tell you, the old vineyards that were planted in 1969 and 1970 have been uprooted and substituted with over 5300 plants per hectare.  They now grow Sangiovese grapes which make up 80% of the vineyard.

Le Coccole dell'Amorosa
Outdoor Dining at Le Coccole dell'Amorosa

Once you have experienced only the best wines, cheeses, salami and olive oils, you will fortunately be able to purchase them at Locanda dell'Amorosa's "Osteria".  Osteria is their very own wine bar which offers many locally made products for you to enjoy and you also have the opportunity to purchase them as gifts.

Osteria Wine Bar

During the summer months, you can truly enjoy basking under the Tuscan sun at the pool which is open every day until sunset.

What a Way to Spend a Day
Sunset Over the Pool at Locanda dell'Amorosa

For those of you whom are interested in sipping only the best wines from Tuscany, enjoying the most delicious meals and relaxing in the country, this is the place for you!!!!

All Photos are Courtesy of Locanda dell'Amorosa

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Four Seasons Graces Florence

The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze

It would be unfair to discuss any of the top hotels in Florence without bringing to your attention one of the city's most current and significant additions - the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.  I vividly remember the "buzz" at the time and the intense anticipation of clients for this long-awaited luxury hotel to open in Florence.

Renaissance Artwork at the Four Seasons

The Hotel opened in June of 2008 with 116 guest rooms which includes 44 suites.  As Four Seasons did with their Milan hotel, (See previous post on 16 December, 2010) this property was converted from a Renaissance palace residence spanning five centures, the Palazzo della Gherardesca, into one of the most sought-after hotels in Florence.  This magnificent property is adorned with many of the original architectural details and frescoes that have been painstakingly restored.  To be clear, the entire property and grounds include two main buildings which offer guest rooms, the Palazzo della Gherardesca and Il Conventino.  Also of note is their 11-acre garden, Giardino della Gherardesca, which is Florence's largest private garden. 

Giardino della Gherardesca

This Four Seasons enjoys a central location which is only a ten to fifteen minute walk to the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo's "David" stands.  Another plus is that it is situated in an area designated as a limited traffic zone or zona a traffico limitato (ZTL).  If you are driving to this hotel, it is suggested that you contact the Concierge or Guest Services to obtain permission to enter the limited traffic zone.  If you are arriving by air in Florence, it is only about a twenty minute drive from the airport.

Skyline of Florence

Room types at this Four Seasons include Superior, Deluxe, Premier and Four Seasons Rooms ranging in size from approximately 420 sq. ft. to 548 sq. ft.  Superior Rooms offer a king bed, whereas, the other room types offer either a king or two twin beds.

Premier Room

Should you require more space than the standard room types offered, then there are several suite types to choose from.  They offer Jr. Suites (592 sq. ft.) with a king bed or two twin beds, Executive Suites, Parlour Suites, Gallery Suites and Renaissance Suites, respectively increasing in size.

Executive Suite

The most luxurious and obviously the most spacious suites are the Noble Suite (969 sq. ft.), La Villa Garden Suite (893 sq. ft.), plus two Presidential Suites and the Royal Suite ranging from 1300 to 2500 sq. ft.  The Noble Suite is located on the first floor of the Palazzo.  The Villa Garden Suite is located in a stand-alone building near the Conventino.  One of the Presidential Suites is on the third floor of the Palazzo and the other is on the first floor of the Conventino.

Presidential Suite at Il Conventino
Royal Suite at Palazzo della Gherardesca

Each guest room at this Hotel is equipped with a flat-screen satellite television, CD and DVD player, clock radio with iPod docking station, two multi-line telephones, a fully stocked private bar and a built-in safe large enough to contain a laptop.  High speed wireless or wired internet access is also available.  Of particular note to me due to my undying passion for bathing, are the marble bathrooms with contain European soaking tubs with a separate glass-enclosed shower!!!!  I now find myself, being the bathing snob that I clearly have become, rating hotels according to their bathrooms, specifically to their bath tubs.

Pure Luxury!!!

An option is always to take advantage of the Hotel's 24-hour in-room dining, but should you want to venture out, they offer several dining options.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at Il Palagio on the ground floor of the Palazzo della Gherardesca which offers very elegant surroundings with views of the inner gardens.  Il Palagio is home to the Winery which is located in the center of the restaurant and proudly showcases almost 400 bottles of wine.  The Winery offers a menu which features small portions complimented by various wines by the glass.  Dinner is served at the Winery every day from 7pm until 11pm.

Il Palagio
The Winery

For those guests staying in the Conventino section of the property, breakfast is served at La Magnolia on the ground floor.

La Magnolia at Il Conventino

As a guest, from June to September, you may enjoy dining by the pool in the Giardino della Gherardesca at Al Fresco.  Lighter dishes and salads and sandwiches are served here from noon until 6:30pm.

Dining by the Pool at Al Fresco

If you have spent your time eating your way through Florence like I did, you will be happy to know that the Four Seasons in Florence is also home to state-of-the-art fitness facilities.  A number of ways to help you wind down, tone up or simply to relax are offered here.  Various private sessions of yoga, meditation or aerobics can be arranged in the private garden.  They offer individual, couples or private group sessions as well.  Reservations are absolutely required for all sessions and can be arranged by contacting the Fitness Centre.  The hours of operation are from 7am to 10pm daily.

Last, but definitely not least, is the Spa which differentiates itself from any other in a few very special ways.  First of all, it is located in the private gardens and is approximately 8500 sq. ft. containing ten treatment rooms.  One double treatment room is offered as well as one double VIP Suite in what is called the Grand Spa/Couples Suite which is in its own separate garden building.  Here you can enjoy lounging by the fireplace or the freestanding bath with views into a private garden.  The most special aspect of this Spa is the products that are used from Officina Profumo - Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.  This is one of the world's oldest pharmacies and uses only natural ingredients which still are combined using the recipes of monks from the 13th century.  I can speak personally of one of their products since a client whom returned from a shoot in Florence sent me some bath oil from the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.  EXCEPTIONAL!!!!  It was so heavenly that I purchased more when I returned to Florence.

Spa Entrance
Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella Spa Products

Once again, the Four Seasons has reached boundaries beyond imagination in offering its guests only the highest level of service combined with surroundings of historic note and significance as well as the most comfort and luxury anyone could ask for.

All Photos are Courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze