If the Four Seasons Firenze feels like a private home it is because it was formerly the Palazzo della Gherardesca, the private residence of Florentine nobles for five centuries. It was built by Bartolomeo Scala, a millers son who rose to become the Chancellor of the Republic in 1465. Bartolomeo Scala hired Giuliano da Sangallo, the most illustrious architect in Florence at the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The palazzo many famous owners include Alessandro de’ Medici – who became Pope Leo XI for just 21 days, many generations of the Gherardesca family, Isma’il Pasha, the ex-Khedive of Egypt and several other notables.
The hotel consists of two buildings, the palazzo and a former 16th-century convent on the opposite side of the gardens.
1. During the renovations to the 15th-century palazzo and 16th-century convent, the Four Seasons unveiled original frescoes by Agostino Ciampelli. The palazzo also contains murals by Gian Domenico Ferretti and bas reliefs by Bertoldo Giovanni who was a colleague of Donatello and the teacher of Michelangelo. Image copyrighted by photogrpaher Richard Waite and Four Seasons Hotel.
2. Ceiling Detail . Image copyrighted by Four Seasons Hotel.
The Four Season’s interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has worked on some of the world’s most prestigious hotels including The Georges V and Ritz Hotels in Paris, The Savoy in London, The Essex House in New York and dozens of Four Seasons, Ritz-Carltons, Sofitels, Shangri-La and boutique hotels around the world.
“I always respect the building,” Rochon told Sleeper Magazine. “I try to find the first layout that was designed. My first inspiration is (the) location and (the) building…….”
Rochon choice of antique French Aubusson rugs for the important suites and public spaces is a demonstration of his principle of respecting the architecture and the great Frescoes, sculptures and bas reliefs in the palazzo and conventino.
3. The palazzo’s garden extends over 12 acres and is second only to the famous Boboli Gardens in size. Several generations of the Gherardesca family brought in cedars from Lebanon, sequoias from California and rare plants from around the world. Surprisingly the garden was kept private and unseen for hundreds of years until the Four Seasons opened in 2008. Image copyrighted by Four Seasons Hotel.
4. Wall panels of flowering trees, vines and exotic birds link the Gallery suite to the garden outside. A cream and pomegranate red Aubusson rug adds warmth and balances the large amounts of cool greens in the fabrics and wall panels. Image copyrighted by photogrpaher Barbara Kraft and Four Seasons Hotel.
5. In the Presidential suite de’ Medici an elegant cream Aubusson rug with pale purple scrolls pulls together the purple and golds in the French chair and coffee table. The extensive use of purple reminds us to its associations with Royalty. In ancient Byzantium purple dye was derived from a species of sea snails and it was so expensive it’s use was restricted by law to the dyeing of imperial silks. Image copyrighted by Four Seasons Hotel.
6. In the Atrium bar, a large cream Aubusson rug with garlands of pink and pale purple flowers balances the masculine Empire chairs, lamps and army green upholstery. Image copyrighted by Four Seasons Hotel.
7. A greenish gold and cream Aubusson rug with floral scrolls anchors the gold and putty colored bas relief walls, lavender silk and velvet fabrics and gold French Empire head board in the Noble suite. Image copyrighted by Four Seasons Hotel.
8. A silver and greenish-grey Aubusson rug with floral and architectural motifs anchors greyish-green and cream toile fabrics and a silver and green head board in the Villa Garden suite located in the garden. Image copyrighted by Four Seasons Hotel.
9. Magnificent frescoes adorn the vaulted ceiling of the Presidential suite Conventino. An expansive balcony overlooks the garden. A cream, grey and gold Aubusson rug anchors the bas relief columns on the walls. Image copyrighted by photogrpaher Mathias Hamel and Four Seasons Hotel.