“To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of colour that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature,” author Mark Twain once said.
Indeed, Florence is a destination that has intrigued many for centuries, especially since it was the birthplace of the Renaissance. Also known as the city of the lily, it has attracted travellers who come from all over the world hoping to immerse themselves in its culture, awe-inspiring architecture and phenomenal art.
That was exactly what we were looking for on our last visit to the dazzling city — and we were whisked into a bygone era with our stay at Bernini Palace Hotel, a prestigious establishment housed in a 15th-century palace right in the heart of Florence. Emblematic of Florence’s decadent past, the hotel became our gateway to exploring Italy’s capital of art and culture.
Located right in the heart of Florence, Bernini Palace Hotel boasts a convenience that is hard to beat. The hotel is within walking distance to cultural attractions like Piazza della Signoria and Galleria dell Uffizi, with the latter boasting the world’s finest collection of Italian Renaissance art — making the perfect home-away-from-home.
Additionally, the hotel is also within proximity to world-class shopping streets like Via Tornabuoni, which have offerings ranging from internationally-renowned brands to smaller Italian brands.
While location is key, what makes the grande dame stand out is its historical significance. The 15th-century facade is located just outside the walls of the first circle of the Roman city — while the storied hallways of this age-old building has seen a series of events that transformed Florence into the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
In fact, the building was the centre of national political intrigue from 1865 to 1870. This particular era is evident from the round frescoes adorning the Hall of Breakfast on the first floor of the hotel, which features portraits of the protagonists of Italian Unification, including Garibaldi, Nero Corsini, Cosimo Ridolfi, Giuseppe Montanelli, Vincenzo Salvagnoli, and Manfredo Fanti. Stepping into the room, one can only imagine how it used to be when the hall was the gathering place for illustrious Parliament members.
The fresco also pays tribute to famous people from Piedmont, Cavour, Brofferio, Balbo, and Gioberti, Lamarmora, and Valerio, Giuseppe Farina, and the hero of the of the Republic of San Marco, Daniele Manin.
Up until today, hidden secrets are still being uncovered. During the 1980s restoration, for instance, a sixteenth-century gallery (which had almost been completely hidden from view previously) was discovered on the ground floor of the hotel. Another discovery was a series of niches decorated with female heads coiffed with curious hats, in memory of a former exhibition in the lobby of the hotel in the early 1900s.
Like the rest of the hotel, the rooms are tastefully-furnished, and takes us back to the grandeur of the 15th century. We stayed in the superior room, which overlooks the newly-revamped Piazza san Firenze — while other rooms overlook the inner courtyards or narrow streets of Medieval Florence through their beautiful guilded windows.
Exuding old world splendour, our room was bedecked in elegant tapestries, sumptuous beddings, a four-poster bed, vaulted ceilings and beautiful chandeliers — each reflecting a unique atmosphere and special attention to detail.
If you’re looking to splurge and stay like a king, the hotel offers other opulent rooms enveloped in Italian culture. Each accommodation, from the classic rooms to plush suites, is entwined in elegance and steeped in Florence’s exquisite history.
Bernini Palace Hotel has a range of cuisine options available at its in-house restaurants, such as Sala della Colazioni, which offers a sumptuous buffet breakfast every morning. Restaurant La Chiostrina, on the other hand, was formerly the palace’s courtyard and now serves up traditional and innovative cuisine with an emphasis on gourmet Florentine dishes complemented by fine wines.
The Lounge Bar offers eclectic cocktails complemented by a grand and lively atmosphere. While its drinks menu boasts an extensive list of regional wines, the highlight of the bar is the Negroni, which was crafted in Florence back in 1919.
At Bernini Palace Hotel, peaceful evenings are spent sitting in the flowy gazebo atop the hotel’s beautiful rooftop garden terrace overlooking Palazzo Vecchio, reminding us that it is indeed the littlest things that matter.
If you’re planning to keep fit while travelling, though, take note that the hotel doesn’t have an in-house gym — so you may have to find a standalone one.
However, what the hotel lacks in state-of-the-art amenities, it makes up with its incredible hospitality. If you ever need recommendations, the dedicated concierge staff are always available to help arrange unique ways to see the city — and their recommendations are truly spot-on. The concierge team introduced us to a private wine tour at a small Tuscan vineyard called Casa Emma, which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. It was something we would have never found for ourselves or in any guide books.