As many others have noted, the check in process is seamless and stress free, and much more akin to arriving at a private residence than a hotel. We were invited to enjoy a glass of prosseco on the terrace whilst our bags were taken to our room. The terrace itself is quite simply stunning, and in keeping with the rest of the hotel, is exquisitely furnished, offering views of the pristine gardens below and of the Duomo and central Florence in the distance.
I will not elaborate too much on the setting, decor and overall ambience of the hotel, as I believe that much of this can be garnered from the photos. Suffice to say that it sits comfortably amongst the very best from across the world in our experience.
We stayed in the Affresco suite, which did not fall short of expectations. The room manages to integrate modern features and styling without compromising the overall grandeur afforded by the 1800s fresco and ancient bath. I can say with little hesitation that this is one of the most elegant hotel rooms we have ever stayed in.
Some detail on the room:
*The lights in the room are remote controlled - you are provided two controllers.
*The bed features a hard mattress, linen blend sheets, and comfortable pillows (- however bedside plugs for charging phones at night are missing - it might just be me, and this will not be the first or last 5-star hotel suite with this issue, but i actually find it quite frustrating)
*The sofa is much bigger than perhaps the photos suggest - more than enough space for two people to lie (rather than sit) on.
*There are complimentary snacks/drinks laid out on a tray with an ice bucket - HOWEVER - NO FRIDGE..... (This was one of my only major gripes - and something that desperately needs to be addressed) - a nespresso machine is also provided.
*The wardrobe is smart and provides ample room for two for a short trip. We stayed for 3 nights/4 days and like many men, suffer my other half's tendency to pack about 3 times what might be considered appropriate/normal. As expected, half of the clothes did not leave the suitcase, however, should you be staying for over a week, you may have an issue with the wardrobe space.
*The (open plan) bathroom is quite frankly excellent. The ancient bath is big enough for two. The shower features both rain and handheld (both can be used simultaneously). There is also a bidet.
*There are mirrors everywhere (with a TV showing international channels and free movies hidden in one of them).
As this was our first visit to Florence, we were keen to try as many restaurants in and around town as possible, and so did not book for either lunch or dinner at the hotel. This may well have been a mistake. Particularly given that breakfast was fantastic, with more or less everything available on request, and all homemade on-site.
We had driven to the hotel from Pisa, so had the option of driving into town. We tried this first and found that once you have deciphered the best route to one of the garages, it is straightforward and actually quite convenient. Parking at the hotel itself is ample and adjacent to the main building.
We also made use of the hotel's shuttle bus on another occasion. This too is fine if you are not too fussed about timings, or planning your day around the shuttle timetable. As this did not work for us, we only used it on one occasion as it was about to leave as we exited the hotel. The drop off point is at the base of the Duomo - thus very convenient.
We used taxis to and from dinner every night. A taxi ride into town takes about 10 minutes and costs anywhere between 15 and 25 euros depending on time, traffic, destination and whether the taxi has been booked or hailed down. We found taxis very easy to come by throughout our trip.
The service at the hotel is faultless. Everyone is smiling and eager to do whatever they can to better your stay. As far as we were concerned, they succeeded in achieving this.
Our return flight on Sunday was at 10.30pm (with checkout on the day at 12pm as in most hotels). The hotel was beyond accommodating with regards to checking out. Whilst they needed the Affresco room from 12pm, they provided another standard room for the rest of the day (i.e from 12pm to 8pm) completely free of charge. We woke up at 9am, packed our bags and left them in the room. The staff took care of the rest. After a full day out in town, we returned to our new room to shower and change before leaving and formally checking out. I cannot stress enough how much this was appreciated, and how different it was to our experiences at other hotels. It essentially turned a 3 day trip into a 4 day trip, and is a perfect example of the high level of service the hotel provides and the lengths to which they are willing to go.
Thanks again to all the staff both in the preparation of our trip, and whilst we were there. We will certainly be returning, if possible with friends and family, and will be recommending to all and sundry in the meantime.