Elegance and Semplicity Define the Interior
Restored with passion, conviction and a deep appreciation of what makes a vacation special, the Residenza D'Epoca Toscanelli will open its massive antique doors to a tranquil haven in the city center of Florence. Knowing what I do about navigating bureaucracy - Paola and Andrew (your hosts while at Toscanelli) worked their way through immense Italian red tape to restructure this historic building in record time with exceptional results, not sacrificing quality and integrity.
Drawing on their vast international experience, they were demanding and clear on the characteristics, services and atmosphere that they wanted to offer with the rooms. Both Andrew and Nora, his wife, are consolidated world travellers, one from Zimbabwe with English and Polish parents, the other from Argentina with Italian and Czech parents, these two have travelled the world: UK, Italy, China and NY. Paola, the owner of the building and Andrew's business partner, has spent time abroad: her approach is different yet absolutely complementary to those of her partners.
A Review of Residenza D'Epoca Toscanelli
We loved: the position. It is really in front of Palazzo Pitti...it is literally the first thing you see as you walk out the door
Ideal for: for couples looking to enjoy the city center or explore all of Tuscany from a central base, especially interesting for business travellers
Andrew and Nora transmit an electric energy when talking about their adopted home, whereas Paola glows when she speaks of travelling the Grand Canyon in the same way as she does when she tells of her visit to the Vasari Corridor - especially the secret window with a view into her parish church, San Felicità.
Walk into the Comforts of Home
The underlying theme when guests come to stay with them, a constant theme as we toured the rooms, is that the guests find themselves comfortable and relaxed as if they had truly found a home away from home. Starting with the well-thought-out bathrooms with their large and wide showers, wooden floor mats and super sized shower heads, and including the selection of special teas and coffees and fresh bottled water in every room, they have tried to find ways to ease the tired and weary traveller into the, sometimes frenetic, life of the city center of Florence.
As I entered into the building, I chose to make my way up the stairs...but noted with relief that a tourist has the choice of taking an elevator for themselves and their luggage. Paola was a bit concerned when she saw me making my way up the last flight of stairs…”you could have used the elevator, I know it is a bit slow but it is part of the charm.” She was right, I could have but, then I wouldn’t have had a chance to appreciate the mosaic of different architecture styles in the stairs and floors - a beautiful example of the age and personality of this building.
Atmosphere Inside and Out
The residence has character. It’s not a run of the mill, everything geometrical and precise kind of architecture; the stairs go off in several directions, there are no symmetrically matched doors on either side and the steps are carved from a beautiful grey stone, the very same type of stone that Michelangelo would have practiced on as a child before trying his hand at marble. The intracasies of the interior are typical of the time when it was built probably added onto and modified several time throughout the last 400-500 years. It’s all part of what makes it a residenza d’epoca...a historical residence.
I noticed how they effectively used color (or the lack of it) to emphasize the space, the genuine orange red floors, the rich dark wooden beams and the stone carved fireplace.
Highlights of my Visit:
Highlight: The views from the Santo Spirito Suite...practically 360° over Florence, and the layout of the suite gives you the chance to appreciate it all.
Surprise: The black and white photos from yesteryear that decorate the halls and several bedrooms - but I’ll let Paola tell you the story when you visit
Favorite: The comfortable and accommodating bathrooms, well thought out for a habitual traveller
Residenza D'Epoca Toscanelli in a Glance:
Type: Relais in a Dimora Storica
Location: Florence SMN train station, 1.4 km (15 min walking)
Distance: Greve in Chianti (45 min) & Siena (60 min)
Transport: a car is necessary
Type of board: no meals included
The linens, throw rugs and furnishings are in crisp clean colors - a breath of fresh air. The windows are large and unobstructed - offering views that reminded me of Mary Poppins, floating above the city with the terracotta roof tiles, and glimpses of church towers and even the Duomo.
It is easy to see why they are so excited with the work that they have done: they truly love the beauty and history of the building and Florence. And it shows in the way they have cared for the rooms (I say this as I watched Andrew rearrange the table decorations for a new arrival because he wanted it perfect).
Locals Know Where to Go
There is a dedication which is evident as they show me around, a dedication to ensuring that their guests feel catered to but not overwhelmed. They are eager to share their special secrets about Florence but, not at the expense of alienating their guests. The key is: ask and you shall receive. Want to know a good restaurant? Want to know the best shops for leather, clothes, shoes? Want to know which museum to visit first? or do you want to play an invigorating game of tennis? (Andrew is desperately looking for a sparring partner and welcomes any takers).
Depending on who you talk to, will depend on the type of itinerary they suggest for you. For example, Paola would suggest a whimsical, romantic walk from Porta Romana up to Piazzale Michelangelo, where she confided there is this one special curve which gives you a view of the city (though I must admit the vistas from several of the windows in the palazzo are pretty picture perfect!) She would then proceed to the top of the hill and encourage a visit to San Miniato together with the Piazzale.
Andrew on the other hand, with his barely contained energy, will have you following a gastronomic itinerary where the true flavours of Florence and its surroundings will tantalize your palate...in restaurants where not only the staff are Italian … but also the major part of the dinners are natives. Nora would have you visiting the major museums, especially that of the Accademia where you can admire Davide. She recalls even today quite clearly as a child coming with her father to Italy and being mesmerized by the beauty of the artwork.
A stay at the Residenza d'Epoca Toscanelli will insert you directly into the life of Florence, its energy, its beauty and its surprises.
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