Florence has more than its fair share of palazzi. These once opulent residences of the wealthy and noble have been transformed to accommodate the evolving needs of a crowded destination city and now serve as museums, offices, rental apartments, hotels and retail spaces. Expensive to maintain and renovate many have also been left sadly neglected and closed. Currently on the horizon is an unprecedented palatial project offering something different for the city and its visitorsa five star luxury resort!
The Palazzo Bartolomeo Scala or Palazzo della Gherardesca (it has two names; the first being the original owner and the latter the last family proprietor) is undergoing a massive restoration and refurbishment to become the European ‘jewel’ for the Four Seasons Hotel Chain. A Palace of relative architectural and artistic interest it was designed and built by architect Giuliano da Sangallo in 1490 for the Scala family. Classical in design and reminiscent of Brunelleschi, its long, uncluttered geometrical façade fronts Borgo Pinti and wraps onto Viale Matteotti, technically situating it within the historic center. Its integral Renaissance courtyard and graceful logia is resplendent with mosaic floors, elaborate iron work gates and bas-relief arches. Frescoed walls by artists of varying importance peek out from flanking clusters of ante rooms rendering the approach to the Palace’s inner sanctum remarkable. But its most fantastic and unique feature is the 4.5 hectares of private green space it protectively embraces. Truly a rare commodity in this noisy, sepia colored stone city! This combination of greenery and classical grandeur attracted the attention of Italian developers Fingen SpA, the company involved with McArthur Glen outlet malls in Italy. Fingen approached Four Seasons Hotels as a managing partner to realize the concept of a palatial resort, complete with pools, gardens, health club, tea room, bar, restaurants and convention spaces right in the heart of one of Europe’s most visited cities.