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The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Florence

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One tends to appreciate that the Four Seasons name will be synonymous with elegance, taste and quality, but that said, the levels of detail, artistry and divine inspiration produced by this luxury company in these idyllic Florentine surroundings have succeeded in crating an aura of pure enchantment.

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The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is a sophisticated take on a centuries-old Tuscan Palazzo which manages to be simultaneously a luxury hotel with signature service, a living museum with original Renaissance frescoes and sculptures, a breathtaking 11-acre private garden bordered by a sixteenth-century convent, an opulent dining experience, a peerless spa facility and a spectacular venue for meetings and weddings. Whether you're seeking a small city break sanctuary or a more immersive luxury experience, this venue will provide an idyllic respite.

The location
Flanked on all sides with fascinating historical buildings and sculptures as well as natural revelations, the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze places you within walking distance of some of the loveliest and most affecting sights in Florence, whilst also offering you countless ways to while your time away in blissful contemplation. This five-star hotel, based in the fifteenth-century Palazzo della Gherardesca, is situated in the grounds of Giardino della Gherardesca, one the oldest and largest Florentine gardens in the city and an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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As the Four Seasons is based in Borgo Pinti, it is only a 15-minute, sun-soaked stroll to such myriad cultural delights as the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery Museum, and well within reach of pretty Piazza Massimo D'Azeglio, the artistic quarter of Piazza Donatello, the striking Basilica of Santa Croce, all manner of fascinating local attractions, streets and shopping districts and, of course, the Tuscan countryside. You're also only a 20-minute drive from Peretola (formerly Amerigo Vespucci) Airport and a 10-minute walk from Santa Maria Novella train station.

The highlight
It's impossible to pick just one thing that sets the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze apart, but if one had to choose, it would probably be the awe-inspiring Giardino della Gherardesca, which is open exclusively to guests of the hotel. Sheltered within walls that kept it hidden for centuries, this timeless sanctuary of gorgeous flowers, impeccably maintained lawns and enormous ancient trees is one secret park that deserves to be shared.

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Nestled in its 4.5 hectares of verdant seclusion are winding walkways, fountains and original sculptures, an Ionic temple and an assortment of undisturbed spots in which to sit, including one tree-covered hill that affords a captivating glimpse of the Duomo. As you traverse these green environs, you'll witness many rare botanical marvels such as the Thuja Tree, a conifer with homeopathic qualities, and the Taxus Baccata, which is considered the longest-living plant in Europe. From the tiniest of wildflowers to the most imposing evergreens, this garden is perfect for lounging, reading or eating al fresco and offers a picturesque interlude away from the teeming city streets.

The style
Only in picture books would you imagine that rooms could look like paintings, yet the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze manages to conjure up visual poetry with its extraordinary blend of spacious modernity and Renaissance grandiosity, uniting the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the former 16th-century convent, Il Conventino, with effortless artistry and conceptual flair. On entering the lobby, with its original bas-reliefs and stuccoes, you can sense the weight of historic magnitude that binds these walls together, yet plentiful floral displays, high ceilings, natural light and garden views all help to soften the effect into something truly magical.

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The 116 spacious guest rooms and suites in the Palazzo and Il Conventino, awash with the softest hues of coffee, cream and mint, have all been given individual designs, and many are replete with antiques, marble statues, chandeliers, original paintings and deep green velvets in keeping with the colours of the parklands beyond. Many suites have original frescoes, unique botanical friezes and hand-painted relief work, while the majority of the guest rooms feature the design skills of Pierre-Yves Rochon and feel distinctively Italian, but also comfortably modern.

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Rooms do vary to some degree, of course, depending on your requirements, so the Four Seasons Rooms offer appealing views of the private park, the Four Seasons Executive Suites come with a separate living room, the Noble Suite has a frescoed bedroom ceiling, and the Duomo Duplex Suite has an astounding view of the famed Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. All rooms provide DVD players, iPod docking stations, twice-daily maid service and WiFi.

The service
If one thing's for sure, it's that the staff at a Four Seasons hotel will make every effort to guarantee that your stay is an agreeable one, and in this regard the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is beyond reproach. The warmth of the general manager, concierge, doorkeeper, pool staff and waiters is truly affecting, and they are as hospitable, polite and helpful as you could possibly wish for; indeed, they seem to know what you want before you even ask.

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The concierge will happily provide local recommendations and arrange extra activities should you so desire, and you will also find the doormen's local knowledge comes in very handy. By the end of your first day, you will probably be remembered by name and there's a strong chance your favourite drink will also have been memorised. There's also a butler service for the rooms and suites in the Conventino building, where highly trained staff will act as your personal assistants, anticipating your preferences and routines as a matter of course. This is personalised service of an impeccable standard, whether you're visiting the city as a solo traveller, a couple or a family.

TOP 7 REASONS TO STAY AT THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL FIRENZE

Living museum of art history
Under the combined auspices of the 16th-century former convent and the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca, whose previous residents include five centuries of Florentine nobility, the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze treats its guests to a magnificent array of original frescoes, bas-reliefs, stuccoes and wallpapers.

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In the Della Gherardesca Ballroom and Gallery, you'll see paintings by Vincenzo Meucci and Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, while in the courtyard and former Palazzo chapel there are frescos by Giovanni Stradano and elsewhere, in The Della Gherardesca Suite, there are pieces by Baldassare Franceschini.

Exquisite dining and relaxed drinking
Whether you're just peckish or in need of something really special, the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze provides compelling dining opportunities of the highest order. In the Michelin-starred Il Palagio, on the ground floor of the Palazzo della Gherardesca, executive chef Vito Mollica oversees a miscellany of regional dishes infused with contemporary flavours.

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Beneath a skylight in the Palazzo, the glass-roofed Atrium bar is ideal for an aperitivo. Alternatively, in the Conventino, you can enjoy an intimate breakfast at La Magnolia. Or you can try open-air restaurant Al Fresco in the Giardino della Gherardesca, which serves sublime modern interpretations of traditional cuisine and ice cream under the shade of a tree.

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Luxurious spa treatments

For pure indulgence, the onsite spa offers transformative healing and rejuvenation with a range of nourishing body treatments, massages and facials using products from Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, one of the world's oldest pharmacies. Deep within the hotel's botanical gardens, the spa's 10 treatment rooms, steam room and relaxation lounge promote a profound sense of well-being while you enjoy massages such as the intriguingly fragranced Chianti Relax and signature treatments like the sensual and invigorating La Vie en Rose, the restorative Iris Sensations and the Tuscan Cypress Body Scrub, which eliminates impurities and oxygenates the skin. This is truly the stuff of dreams.

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Exclusive fitness, activity and swimming
Set in the middle of the Giardino della Gherardesca, you'll find an open-air swimming pool and whirlpool offering much-needed respite from the frenetic pace of city living. There's also a fitness centre with a range of Technogym equipment for those in need of a rigorous workout, while hotel guests in search of more gentle exercise can partake of personalised workout sessions and yoga classes in the garden. It's also possible to take advantage of nearby golf, tennis and horse-riding facilities.

Florence's leading venue for events
The Four Seasons Hotel Firenze has 660sqm of indoor function space, combining the smooth, quiet grace of an historic setting with considerable modern trappings, which means it can easily cater for all kinds of corporate events, receptions and private parties.

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Given that this hotel also has access to one of the most expansive private parkland spaces in the city, it easily lends itself to large-scale ceremonies and weddings that will be talked about for years to come.

Delightful children-friendly atmosphere
Children of all ages are welcome at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze and every effort is made to keep them entertained. The Giardino della Gherardesca has two different play areas for children young and old, and the little ones get their own special garden tours with the hotel's chief gardener as well as floral design classes in the greenhouse. Other onsite activities include painting classes and cooking classes with Il Palagio's chef. There are children's menus and spa treatments, colouring books, child-sized bathrobes, movies and toys, and also babysitting services so grown-ups can enjoy some alone-time.

The loveliest romantic settings imaginable
Short of supplying soft-tinted focus and a movie reel, this hotel and its exquisite grounds and views will give you and your loved one limitless opportunities for romance, particularly if you crave garden walks and fine dining.

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You can eat dinner under the Giardino della Gherardesca's weeping beech tree, or on the hotel roof where the Altana Terrace affords panoramic views of Florence. Dinner in the Lobby Chapel will suffuse your tryst with a stunning backdrop of 15th-century frescoes, or you can take advantage of an exclusive hotel invitation to watch the Florentine sunset while dining on the famed Ponte Vecchio.

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