ROOM AT THEINN
ROOM AT THE INN
A royal reception in fabulous Florence
AS soon as I walk through the wrought-iron gates emblazoned with the Feroni family’s heraldic symbols — an arm encased in armour holding a sword and a golden lily — and reach the impressive entrance foyer, I feel as if I’ve stepped into a Florentine palace.
Palazzo Magnani Feroni is a hotel, but it was a palace when built in the 1550s; an ancestor of the present owner bought the building in 1735 and it has been in the family since. Although the palace was converted into 12 suites in 2002, it doesn’t feel like a hotel.
The reception area is so unobtrusive I almost miss it and, like their office, receptionists Francesca and Anna Lisa are discreet and understated, and could not be more helpful if I were their personal guest. No request seems to faze them, whether to arrange a visit by a tailor, to organise a babysitter or print out a map of restaurant and museum locations.
The guest suites range from merely luxurious to overthe-top opulent, all decorated with antiques, and huge enough to host a swish party. A quaint wooden lift with a crimson velvet love seat wheezes up to my second-floor suite, the Giulia, at the far end of a high-ceilinged foyer that resembles an art gallery.
All suites are equipped with WiFi, satellite television and CD players. My enormous loungeroom is furnished with brocade-covered couches, armchairs and period lamps. In the romantic high-ceilinged bedroom, woven hangings and gilded mirrors hang above a canopied bed. In case I don’t like the perfume of the custom-made toiletries provided in the marble bathroom, there are six fragrances on offer.
Lingering over an indulgent buffet breakfast (included in the tariff) in the sumptuous dining room, served by white-gloved waiters beneath a magnificent Murano glass chandelier, is one of the highlights of my stay at Palazzo Magnani Feroni.
The hotel is so peaceful it’s hard to believe you’re in the heart of Florence, just five minutes’ walk from the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace. But staying on this ‘‘other’’ Oltrano side of the River Arno also gives me the opportunity to explore the less touristy parts of the city, such as the bustling morning market in the Piazza Santo Spirito, where an ancient church contains rare artistic treasures, including a large crucifix sculpted by Michelangelo when he was 17.
Taking the receptionists’ advice, I dine at the delightful garden restaurant Pandemonio on via Leone and, on via Porcellana, a few blocks away, at 13 Gobbi, a charming trattoria. Late in the afternoon, after exploring the city, I can’t walk past the Carraia gelateria where crowds queue for some of the best gelato in Florence — even though back at the hotel complimentary tea, coffee and cakes are set up for guests in the foyer.
Sunset is the best time to climb up to the huge rooftop terrace for a panoramic view of Florence. From this oasis of calm, above the madding tourist crowds, guests sip Campari and soda and chilled prosecco and gaze at the bridges, domes, towers and distant hills of this magical Italian city.
Palazzo Magnani Feroni is so peaceful it’s hard to believe you’re in the heart of Florence