The history of the St Regis mirrors the history of Florence. It was originally built in 1432 by Filippo Brunelleschi, the same guy who designed the Duomo, to be the home of the Giuntini Family. Vasari loved the house and included it in his writing. In 1866 the palazzo was converted into the Grand Hotel de la Paix, the first luxury hotel in Florence. Queen Victoria came to stay. As did tons of travelers during their Grand Tour. 16 year old Leland Stanford Jr was exploring with his parents when he caught typhoid. They came to Florence to get medical treatment while enjoying the luxury and safety the hotel offered. Sadly he did not survive. They founded Stanford University in his honor. Indian grandee, the Rajaram Chuttaputti di Kolapoor also died at the Grand Hotel while traveling between London and India. The Ponte all’Indiano was named after him. Today’s celebrities have had better luck enjoying the “new” hotel. Madonna and Keith Richards both loved it. It reopened in 2011 after a complete $25 million renovation and now Renaissance blends perfectly with Contemporary… classical setting with an edge. Rooms are unique; named after noted Italian artists, benefactors and nobility. The bathrooms are marble and lush. The décor may be historic, the technology is state of the art. The hotel is loaded with marble hallways, antiques, gilt mirrors and Murano glass chandeliers. The Art Deco Winter Garden restaurant dates from 1922 and is the heart of the hotel. Every evening, in St Regis tradition, there is Champagne sabering under the 19th century glass ceiling. Breakfast is served in the balcony. Michelin one starred chef Valeria Piccini cooks creative locally inspired dishes at the Winter Garden by Caino restaurant for lunch and dinner. This is one hotel where it is worth paying up. First for a river view. The hotel is right on the Arno, listening to it roar is wonderful. Second for Butler service. Our butler worked wonders on John’s tuxedo which had been crammed into his carry-on for two weeks before we handed it over. From wrinkly mess to better than new in less than two hours! That’s service!
Number of Rooms: 99
Sweet Suite: The opulent Presidential suite takes the cake! Not because it offers a dining table for 8, at 200 square meters it is huge or that both Madonna and Keith Richards have both called it home (on separate occasions!) but because it has an amazing balcony overlooking the front of the palazzo and the Arno River. Magic!
Favorite Thing: The Bloody Mary at the tiny terrace restaurant outpost in front of the hotel. So tasty I had to have two while enjoying the fabulous Bella Figura coming in and out of the St. Regis; amazing cars dropping them off and picking them up. Truly La Dolce Vita.
Near By: Right on the banks of the Arno, 10 minute walk to the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Ognissanti, The Duomo, easy walk to high end shopping, restaurants and major sites yet removed from the throngs of tourists that can spoil Florence
Amenities: Michelin starred restaurant, Clef d’or concierge, fitness room, Clarins Spa (where I had a fabulous pedicure), butler service in premium rooms and suites, evening Champagne sabrage, bar, gym, allergy free rooms, pet friendly, ballroom, afternoon tea