Luxury Hotel Review: Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni, Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Once the home of papal treasurer and sonnet composer, Marquis Giovanni Maria Baldinucci, Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni Hotels & Resorts in Florence is an intimate palace of a nobleman. Also known by its historic name, the Jacometti-Ciofi Palace, it was built in the 1700s and has been beautifully restored with original frescoes and marble throughout.
Its 24 luxurious rooms and suites are spacious and well thought out, with the sumptuous signature suites – Da Verrazzano and De Pepi – each adorned with magnificent fully frescoed ceilings. Located on Via Ghibellina, the hotel is in the heart of the ancient district of Santa Croce, at the eastern end of the historic center of Florence. This one runs along the city’s charming Arno River, with picturesque bridges and bustling markets.
Why stay here?
If you are an opera fan, this hotel is a must. Passion for music is central to the design of the property, the crown jewel of which is the music room. This concert hall, featuring a high domed ceiling, soprano chambers and frescoed walls, is specially designed to provide the best acoustics for listening to musicians and singers.
True to its origins, this is an unpretentious hotel. As it was designed for Florentine nobles, it offers guests a peaceful and luxurious home to relax in, making it the perfect respite after a day of sightseeing. The bustling town of Santa Croce is known as the haunt of artists and art lovers, but it’s just outside the most touristic area of town. That means it’s far from the routine, but a ten-minute walk from the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and other main attractions.
Eat and drink
Guelfi & Ghibellini, the hotel’s elegant restaurant run by chef Niccolo De Riu, serves a multitude of delicious dishes. Inspired by Tuscan cuisine, the menu incorporates both traditional seafood from the region’s coast and typical meat from the hinterland. Try the felicetti fusilli pasta with “dolceforte” duck stew – said to be Catherine de’ Medici’s creation – for a deeply flavorful dish, with a hint of sweetness from the melted dark chocolate in the sauce.
For a night of extravagance, below the hotel on the ground floor is the three-star Michelin restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri. It shares a special partnership with the hotel, so ask the concierge about exclusive guest experiences — these range from wine tastings in the exceptional cellar to in-suite dining.
For a nearby trattoria, try Il Francescano. Ask the hotel to reserve a seat outside in advance, so you can sit in the open air and bask in the orange evening light. There is a huge range of delicious seafood pastas to order. For carnivores looking for a gourmet evening (you are on vacation after all), steeped in the traditions of the city, opt for the famous bistecca alla Fiorentina, the Florentine steak. With its origins in Florence’s most prosperous era, it’s a huge sirloin steak (Porterhouse cut between sirloin and tenderloin, well-marbled) that arrives with divine melt-in-your-mouth potatoes. I would recommend splitting this between at least two people and note that it always comes more on the rare side, so let them know if you are particular about how it is cooked.
What to do
In Florence you must of course visit the Duomo – one of the most impressive architectural pieces in the world – and Michelangelo’s statue of David at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. But, just behind the hotel, a few minutes on foot, you should also visit Piazza Santa Croce, where the impressive Basilica of Santa Croce is located. With a striking facade of colorful marble and an interior overflowing with religious artistic masterpieces, it is known to house the tombs of some of the most famous Italians – the true titans of history. Enter its cool interior to escape the midday sun and visit the tombs of Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Macchiavelli and Dante, to name a few. Make sure you have a sash or jacket to cover your shoulders – this is a requirement for most churches in Florence.
For day trips, the hotel organizes private experiences, including hot air balloon rides over the rolling hills of Tuscany and cooking classes. For an evening near you, book a private concert in the Music Room. Although such an intimate performance may seem daunting at first, you will soon be fully immersed in the performance and the powerful emotions it will evoke are unparalleled.
Rates at Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni Hotels & Resorts start from £396 per night; baglionihotels.com