The dazzling renovation of Helvetia & Bristol Firenze – Starhotels Collezione means thatFlorentines and foreigners now have the opportunity to bathe in similar, albeit masterfully updated, waters to the Ancient Romans at La SPA Helvetia & Bristol. Who knew that a temple in present-day piazza della Repubblica, a stone’s throw from the five-star luxury hotel, once provided access to Roman baths. And who knew what a sublime development was taking place in the bowels of this cocoon of a five-star luxury hotel in central Florence. (The restyling of the rooms by London-based interior designer, Anouska Hempel, is perfection in itself, all feminine and sumptuous.)
“Discovering that the ancient Capitoline Baths of Roman Florentia once stood right here during the excavation campaign provided even more inspiration to create an unparalleled spa in the city, one that’s not only beautiful and surprising, but also rich in history, just like the hotel,” comments Elisabetta Fabri, president of Starhotels.
The history alone would make La SPA Helvetia & Bristol an exceptional wellness retreat in the historical heart of Florence, but the contemporary touches raise the experience to sublimity. Descending in the sleek lift into the basement of natural travertine and bronze trimmings, one surprise turns into another from the cave-like Calidarium, whose rounded ceiling resembles a firmament of stars, to the Aquamotus, a Vichy shower that’s a rarity in Italy as the spa goer stretches out on a bed while 1,200 jets invigorate the body. The highlight (for me) is the Tepidarium, old and new in the same breath. I settle into a gray bean bag and stare at the vestiges of the medieval foundations covered by a glass floor while burying my feet in the sea salt. The mirrored ceiling tripled the perception of time and space as I lay back and looked up at your reflection. It’s a struggle to walk away, over to the reviving return to reality provided by the Frigidarium, where crushed ice is applied to the body. A few short steps and a door opens into a stupendous space, the Lacus Quietis. The sun is rising on the full-wall screen across the generously sized pool. Designed by Florentine genius Felice Limosani, you are enthralled by the video art and enticed, trance-like, into the waters, skirting the Roman well, as the countercurrent and jets treat all the muscles of your body.
Managed by Snow Group Italia, the massage rooms are equally alluring, featuring signature treatments from India, China, Japan, Indonesia and Morocco, and the use of high-end Cinq Mondes beauty products, perhaps on the side-by-side beds for couples, best friends or even mother and daughter.
Aimed at remaining exclusive while enticing a local clientele, day memberships (including a 50-minute massage) cost 180 euro; weekly, monthly and yearly formulas are also available.