FLORENCE, Italy ( TheStreet) -- Long before such books and movies as Eat Pray Love and Under the Tuscan Sun made these parts of Italy all the vogue, the Medici family was making Florence and other cities fabulous for a certain set of gilded aristocrats. But a history of opulent palazzos, stunning eateries and lavish drinking halls doesn't keep that good life from being hard to find in Florence -- regularly ranking as one of America's favorite foreign cities -- during the summer months from May through August, when tourists outnumber actual residents.As summer cools to an end, though, and the vacation masses retreat, the locals and the air of an illustrious past returns. FLORENCE'S LATEST HOTEL HOT SPOT With its high design and stylish clientele, the J.K. Place has been one of the city's most beloved hotels, an epicenter for fashion editors and Louis Vuitton-toting tourists looking for something cool in a city better known for something old. But that was until June 2008, when the Four Seasons Florence was unveiled. It isn't the Xeroxed new Four Seasons you'd recognize stateside. Instead. it follows a European model of renovating historic landmarks such as Budapest's Gresham Palace into something that is equal parts luxury hotel and art museum. Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is in the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and a neighboring 16th-century convent. Previous residents include Italian noblemen, a Pope and an Egyptian viceroy, who sold the property after his harem was barred from occupying the property. The buildings surround the private Giardino della Gherardesca garden, where tea is sipped with pointed pinkies and more than a few Americans stare in awe at marble sculptured temples and one of the prettiest pools you will ever see. Inside the hotel, a four-story center atrium with frescoes commissioned by Alessandro de Medici makes the 10-minutes walk to the town's official museums seem not so urgent, especially if guests are staying in one of the eight upgraded suites -- including the Noble Suite, with its own gold-emblazoned fresco of a renaissance market scene. If it weren't rented by the night, it would likely require a ticket to see.
|Among eight upgraded suites at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze is the Noble Suite, with its own gold-emblazoned fresco of a renaissance market scene.|