Tucked amid Tuscany’s rolling green hills, Florence reigns as Italy’s cultural capital. From Michelangelo’s David to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the city is a shrine to the Renaissance, brimming with over a million works of historical paintings, sculptures, and frescoes.
Now visitors to this historical city have the chance to own a piece of Renaissance history. The Palazzo Tornabuoni opened last year following a pain-staking five-year renovation that transformed a former Medici palace into a strikingly modern private residence club. Not only did this 15th-century palace host the world’s first opera performance, Dafne, but it also houses a centuries-old statue of Diana at the foot of its stairs. Throughout the Palazzo’s interiors are traces of museum-quality history that cling to nearly every corner. Styled by international Florentine interior designer Michele Bönan, the interiors are the perfect blend of contemporary design mixed with classic elegance. Originally built in 1450 as a private residence for the Tornabuoni family, the palazzo has had several illustrious owners over the centuries.
The five year renovation was an arduous process and involved keeping the integrity of the structure while updating precious artwork, including priceless 16th century frescoes and sculptures. The result is a dazzling display of history within each of the contemporary residences. Palazzo Tornabuoni features 38 flawlessly designed private residences as well as a concierge and reception area, an expansive library, and outdoor terrace. In each of these spaces, Bonan has created an ambiance that balances contemporary flair with classic designs. The residences vary in size from studios of about 900 square feet to three-bedroom apartments, with soaring 30-foot ceilings. Some residences are embellished by priceless 16th-century frescoes, while others have terraces with breathtaking views over Brunelleschi’s cathedral dome. No two of the spacious residences are alike, and each offers 21-century comfort with hi-tech Boffi kitchens, Bang & Olufsen entertainment systems, and complete Wi-Fi coverage.
It took 14 artisans over three years to complete the restoration of the palazzo’s artworks under the supervision of the Department of Fine Arts in Florence. Becoming a member here offers the rare chance to live among the architecture and history of Renaissance Florence. Alessandro de’ Medici’s apartment, frescoed by Agostino Ciampelli in 1590, is now the living room for one of the residences. The Pope Leo XI residence features an expansive balcony overlooking Via Tornabuoni, the most fashionable street in Florence. Inside, the luxurious modern furniture is masterfully blended with antiques for a polished look that never feels out of place. In the Brunelleschi suite located on the third floor, the view from the kitchen window overlooks the famous Brunelleschi’s Duomo.
Members also have access to an on-site spa, club room with an extensive wine list, and library. The property is managed by the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, whose attentive staff ensures prompt room service. Owners also have access to the nearby Four Seasons pool and spa. The Palace’s resident Attachés Program allows club members to enjoy insider privileges to the ultimate contemporary Florentine lifestyle. Whether it is exclusive entree to private art collections, or the opportunity to go backstage during an opera performance at the city’s Maggio Musicale festival, this is one case where membership certainly has its privileges.
By limiting memberships in the 38-apartment private residence club to eight per unit, members can stay in their Florence apartment, or another one in the palazzo in the same category, for six or more weeks a year. By becoming a member at the palazzo, you can essentially buy 10 vacation homes for the price of one. A one-eighth share starts at around $300,000. There are 18 units available for whole ownership, with prices ranging from $2.5 million to $6.8 million.
If membership at Palazzo Tornabuoni seems out of reach, check into Florence’s latest luxury hotel, the Four Seasons Firenze. This sprawling resort situated just minutes from the center of the city is the converted 15th century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the ‘Conventino” that have been restored to their Renaissance glory. It took a staggering seven years at a reported cost of $100 million to renovate the two Renaissance buildings. The hotel is filled with original artworks, which have been carefully restored and reflect over five centuries of history. The result feels like staying within a museum with all the modern comforts of a five-star hotel. Guests have a choice of accommodation in two Renaissance buildings overlooking a s historic garden. The wow factor hits upon entering through the glass covered courtyard which is surrounded by 12 bas-reliefs commissioned by Alessandro de Medici in 1555.
Although some Four Seasons can feel a bit monochromatic, each of the 116 guest rooms and suites features different classic interiors and artwork. The largest and most opulent is the Royal Suite, whose long gallery contains detailed frescoed ceilings and 18th century Capodimonte ceramic floors with tall arched windows overlooking the Fountain Terrace and gardens.
The gorgeous gardens outside are equally as alluring. Sip a morning cappuccino along with a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Il Palagio. Afterward take a stroll through the 11 acre Giardino della Gheradesca─the largest private garden in Florence. Or relax poolside before enjoying an invigorating spa treatment using products from the world’s oldest pharmacy, Florence’s Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
Whether you can afford the benefits of a private membership to the Palazzo Tornabuoni, or are fortunate enough to check into the Four Seasons Firenze, you won’t even have to leave your room to enjoy part of Florence’s Renaissance history.
For additional information on a private membership at Palazzo Tornabuioni, visit here.
Rates for the Four Seasons Florence start at US$820 for a Superior Room. To book a reservation visit here.
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