Beautiful marble statues take centre stage in the impressive, book-lined lounge in Florence’s Palazzo Tornabuoni Private Residence Club, where I sat down with Club Attaché Gabrielle Maria Taylor to find more about her life and work in Florence.
With a degree in art history and Italian from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, her love of Italian language and culture and desire to return to Italy deepened with an Erasmus year spent in Verona, Taylor feels at home working at the Palazzo Tornabuoni, in what she describes as a ‘very warm, genuine Club environment with spectacular members.’
After university, Taylor did a stint in London, working in public relations and events, which she thought would be ‘extremely glamorous, fun and well paid.’ ‘Unfortunately,’ she recalls, ‘it turned out to be none of the above.’
Or, perhaps, fortunately. This prompted her decision to move abroad. In five years, she held various internships with UNICEF and the British Institute and several titles in the Private Residence Club. Now, as Club Attaché, Taylor is a full member of the management team and an integral part of the spirit of the Club.
Her experience in various positions at Palazzo Tornabuoni has given her great perspective and understanding of the Club and its members. ‘People buy into this level of real estate,’ she explains, ‘yes, because of the rich history and beauty behind Palazzo Tornabuoni, but also because of the spirit, culture and environment that exists here. You are buying into a lifestyle in a remarkable place that hasn’t lost its magic after all these years.’
Managed by Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, it is one of the few private residence clubs in the world that offers immersion in high culture and history, where members can enjoy private concerts and recitals in their very own Sala delle Muse, where the world’s first opera, Dafne, was performed and commissioned by Italian singer and composer, Jacopo Peri, in 1594 (see article at theflr.net/k0mnz8); ‘We offer members and owners a pied a terre in the centre of town’ commented Taylor, ‘Reviving its sixteenth-century role as a civic fulcrum, Palazzo Tornabuoni is once again an integral part of the city’s vibrant cultural life, and a dynamic forum for intellectual, social and business encounters.’ Along with the 38 exceptional residences and 24-hour security, members can enjoy access to the pool, spa and gym at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel.
During the week commencing June 16, 2014, the Club will be celebrating its five-year anniversary. For the occasion, Taylor is creating a unique programme of activities for members to enjoy. Undoubtedly, it will include many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to discover the most beautiful corners of Florence.
In a nutshell, Taylor explains, she helps members plan their days, weeks and months in Florence. If members request specific activities, she endeavours to make their wishes come true. But her larger task is to develop yearly cultural activities, ensuring a full, varied and constantly changing programme of events. This includes activities for all ages; gatherings with a whole host of prolific artists, authors and experts on various topics, such as discussions with Fondazione Strozzi Director James Bradburne and Supreme Court judge, Justice Anthony Kennedy, charity galas, magnificent recitals with world renowned musicians, mouth-watering cooking classes, and private breakfast meetings at the Palazzo with none other than special guests such as Alan Rickman, Tony Bennett, Jeremy Irons and Isabella Rossellini, to name but a few. Come the spring and summer months, the Palazzo becomes a vibrant international hub, filled with many members coming from 25 different nationalities. A rich programme of evening events, as well as assorted activities during the day is also in full swing.
While helping the Palazzo Tornabuoni Club members feel ‘at home’ in the city, Taylor also introduces the city to the members. This mutual cultural exchange not only allows the members to enjoy exclusive events in Florence, like dinner in the presence of David, which took place in collaboration with the Friends of the Uffizi, but connects many members to particular interests and causes. Taylor commented that she is pleased to be working with their new President, Riccardo Maccolini, who began the role in early September. ‘He has a fresh take on the Palazzo and is striving to continue the success of the Club by introducing innovative ideas and focusing on giving back to the city.’
What does it take to do Taylor’s job? Having a genuine interest in people is of paramount importance, Taylor says. She spends time getting to know the members individually, which not only helps her in developing the programme but helps build a strong sense of community. Taylor observes, ‘Being organised and creative are essential, but more importantly, if I weren’t the person who loves communicating, networking and making introductions, I don’t think it would work as well. You’ve got to be out and about and make people feel special, show them that you genuinely care.’ What makes her wonderful job considerably easier, says Taylor, is the passion and deep affection of both staff and members at the Palazzo and their shared knowledge of and for Florence.
To find out more about Palazzo Tornabuoni, see www.palazzotornabuoni.com.