After far too long away, it was time for the gal to return to one of the world’s most outstanding and passionate luxury hotels, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze – how clever of Qatar to buy this divine place, with a history going back to 1430, that includes it being given as a wedding present from Lorenzo de Medici to his sister. But it stands out for a myriad of reasons, including its charismatic head of culinary, Vito Mollica, who says he was immediately attracted to the Four Seasons name when he realised his first GM, back in Prague over a decade ago, called even the most junior kitchen helper by name. Style, capital S. There is style everywhere throughout Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, where everyone is in mourning following the tragic passing, after such a long illness, of the much-loved opening GM, Patrizio Cippollini..
The keycard cover comes from a fresco. And look at the room service menu cover, above, taken from another fresco, in room 115, called Il Volterrano, the human mind’s blindness lightened by truth (it was done in the 17th century by Baldassarre Franceschini). Patrizio Cipollini, who put so much devotion into this 116-room hotel when it opened in July 2008, helped ensure that some of the 11.2-acre estate’s buildings would be usefully deployed. One such gracious structure, for instance, is a two-floor Technogym – where, being Four Seasons, the fruit that I would expect is in fact complemented by trail mix and other healthy snacks. Another building nearby is the 13-room spa, next to the outdoor pool, and all around are gorgeous gardens with precious trees (see a video below)
The lawns are tended, by the way, by a squadron of robot mowers like foot-long beetles. At the far end of the garden is a separate 37-room Convent building, frequently taken as a whole, for meeting and family parties. In Summer people dine outside but this was barely Spring. Vito Mollica invited me to dinner, sitting under one of Il Palagio’s six three-tiered chandeliers, with a total of 168 shaded lights between them. We had a tasting of a biodynamic Bressan Schioppettino 2012 – you will sense Earl Grey, said the sommelier, and we certainly did, which, later after the main course and flavoured essences were offered for our drinking water, led me to choose the black pepper. But first, the food. The amuse included one-bite cod bacalao in icecream cones. A slice of strong sourdough bread was followed by my choice from five bread rolls. I started with an artichoke and black garlic, went on to a Valdarnese hen.
We finished with affogati, after-dinner, or postprandial, edible drinks, also known as alcoholic gelati. I gave my full cream and 15-year old Balsamico choice full marks. I do love anything Italian, and of course I love their breakfasts: they know their products are so good they want to put’em all out, want you to try’em all. When a hotel of the calibre of Four Seasons Firenze, which does ‘luxury’ better than almost anyone else in the world, does a buffet it is ridiculous for others to say buffets are low-class. Here I could have had an endless tasting sessions of fruits, and pies and cakes, as well as anything else. I stuck to Alpen bio yoghurt, which looked pretty good set in the middle of a 20cm-diameter chrysanthemum head decorating a cork-backed tablemat, hand-made locally by J.A. Corallin. The superb coffee was presented in an Alessi thermal jug, wrapped in black cord. And the kids’ corner really made me smile. NOW SEE THE HOTEL’S LOBBY AND BAR, AND ROOM 112, AND A BIT OF THE GARDEN