The Hotel Four Seasons in Florence occupies numerous historic buildings that are located inside the city’s largest private botanic park (4.5 hectares), an entire block between Borgo Pinti east, Via Gino Capponi west, the Via Giusti buildings on the south side and from Viale Matteotti on the northern side. The five-star Four Seasons Hotel Florence as we see it today is the result of a long and meticulous restoration that lasted eight years, which brought to light all the buildings former glory, albeit with different uses and purposes. The moment you cross its threshold, you find yourself inside a Renaissance courtyard where a marble copy of Michelangelo’s Bacchus can be found. It is constantly surrounded by rich and elegant floral arrangements set to the themes and colors of the four seasons of the year.
In medieval times the area was occupied by the Art of Wool gardens and the Innocenti Hospital, and was surrounded by medieval walls.
In the fourteenth century Bartolomeo Scala, scholar and functionary under Lorenzo il Magnifico, bought this land and a house which is then transformed by the architect Giuliano da Sangallo into one of the first examples of “urban villa.” During this time Leon Battista Alberti theorizes the need to move away from the historical center and suggests the ancient suburban Roman villas as a model which were a mixture of comfort and décor based on vast land and thought-out decorations. The work on the Palazzo Della Gherardesca fully meets Alberti’s indications and at the same time satisfies the commission’s cultured and refined request.
The large central courtyard that serves to illuminate the rooms above and is embellished with elegant bas-relief decorations, frescoes and stuccos goes back to the Sangallo epoch. It is a clear example of Renaissance art , where the bas-reliefs are the most important works of art consisting of 12 symmetrical sections depicting allegorical stories having moralistic and philosophical purposes. The courtyard paintings were subsequently commissioned by Alessandro dé Medici to the mannerist painter Agostino Ciampelli.
In 1500 an adjacent building was built by the Del Nero family and three centuries later is transformed into a convent. Currently, the Convent has a suggestive atmosphere and plenty of space for receptions and galas.
In 1585 the building was bought by Alessandro Dei Medici who later became Pope Leone XI. He died only 26 days after becoming Pope and is thus called the “Flash Pope”. After his death, the building became the property of his sister, Constance Dei Medici and wife of Ugo della Gherardesca. The property stayed in the family for three centuries and took on their name to present date. This ancient Longobard family became very powerful in the tenth century and conquered many lands in Tuscany. The famous Count Ugolino della Gherardesca is also mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy – Paradise. During this period, both the building and the garden undergo radical transformations.
Each room on the noble floor is characterized mainly by decorations of the late Baroque, Rococo period with portraits of the Gherardesca family in the Gallery and in the ballroom. In the suite there are some decorations of the painter called “Il Volterrano” (known in Florence for a frescoed chapel of the Santa Croce church). Then there is the “Chinese room”, covered with hand-painted wallpaper depicting flowers and exotic birds in the nineteenth century fashion. During this century, the building became the site for some of the most important state and political affairs until 1883 when the Gheradesca family sold it to the Viceroy of Egypt Isamil Pasha, who sold it soon after because he was denied permission to transfer his harem there.
In 1820 the architect Giuseppe Cacialli was commissioned by the Count of Gherardesca to restore the garden in the romantic style, which was in fashion at the time, by adding some architectural, sculptural and natural decorative elements that characterize an English style park rather than that of an Italian one.
In 1870, the city walls were demolished to create the present avenues. Count Ugolino della Gherardesca commissioned the architect Giuseppe Poggi to design and build the monumental entrance on Piazzale Donatello. The city wall stones were then used to build the mound in the garden.
In 1885 the building was bought by George Stephenson of the Ferrate Meridionali road company, the first railway company in Italy. A portrait of Stephenson is found on the ceiling fresco of the suite that bears his name. In the Forties the property changed Italian owners twice and in 2001 the Canadian company Four Seasons Resorts bought the entire property. In that same year the restoration work began under the supervision of the Superintendence of Fine Arts. The official opening to the public took place in 2008.
Guests staying at the Hotel Four Seasons, do not go willingly away after they’ve become accustomed to all the most desirable and high-level comforts. A stay which makes them feel even better than at home.
For those wishing to visit the Hotel, information can be obtained at the prestigious restaurant Il Palagio which is open to the public. This restaurant has received international recognition and the cuisine quality is one of the best in Florence (Sunday brunch is roughly 70 €, afternoon tea around 20 €, an aperitif on Thursday 25 € per person and the second drink is 15 €. Reservations: 055 2626470) or at the spas in Wellness center.