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Photo: Dimora Palanca
In Florence, you can’t escape history and art. The Dimora Palanca hotel is no exception. Located in Florence’s core, this sophisticated and fashionable five-star institution is both a part of Florence’s history and a hub for its art. Designed for the noble Palanca family between 1865 and 1871, originally sketched out by architect Giuseppe Poggi, the Dimora is now seen by many as a sort of private gallery, displaying pieces from the Palanca family’s collection as well as contemporary art by Paolo Dovichi procured over recent years.
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If Florence is the place to visit this summer, the Dimora is the place to stay. The ancient city has been the holiday destination of choice for such Hollywood stars as Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Richard Gere, and Kate Hudson, while a plethora of films has been set and filmed there. The most famous of all Florence-based Hollywood films must be Ridley Scott’s ‘Hannibal’ (2001), which incorporated such icons as the Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral, and the Palazzo Caponni. James Ivory’s ‘A Room with a View’ (1985), the legendary ‘La Vita È Bella’ (1997), and Fellini’s ‘I Vitteloni’ (1953) were all filmed in and around the city too.
The Dimora is the perfect place to sample all Florence has to offer, and not merely due to its location. As this article will show, its location and embodiment of Florentine culture and sophistication make it an ideal place to stay in the city.
Florence, according to most, is the cradle of the Renaissance. The city thus boasts so many beautiful and historic buildings that it is hard to know where to start. Fortunately, the Dimora is located in the midst of all the best of it, so you don’t even need to think about what to do; it’s all at your doorstep. Owing to its situation in one of the most esteemed neighborhoods of Florence, the hotel is the shortest of walks from not just the Basilica Santa Maria Novella but also the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Galleria dell ‘Accademia. The Cathedral is perhaps the most famous of Florence’s wonders, peeping out over the rest of the city with its uniquely bold red-brick duomo, which is still the world’s largest brick and mortar structure of its kind. The Galleria dell’Accademia, meanwhile, contains what is arguably the best sculpture collection in the world. After all, any gallery containing Michelangelo’s David would be a contender for such a title. Moreover, just a five-minute walk from Santa Maria Novella, the central train station, and right by the main tram line which links the city, even the slightly more distant attractions are at your fingertips. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge, the Palazzo Pitti gallery, and the Piazzale di Michelangelo are thus all easily accessible.
Dimora Palanca – The Design
Any time a villa, palace, or other historic building is converted into a hotel, a tension arises. While it is vital to maintain the old charm of the original structure, it is equally important to incorporate the stylishness and comfort of modern design. Stefano Viviani and Paolo Dovichi, who transformed the Dimora Palanca into what it is today, undertook to strike this balance and succeeded with aplomb. Eminently elegant and refined, and yet unmistakably luxurious and chic. Naturally, the fundamental architectural elements were restored, as were the ornately fashioned frescoes and stuccoes of the interior. Yet, somewhat marvelously, these features were harmonized seamlessly with trendy furniture and modern art.
The hotel offers several tiers of accommodation, the most exquisite of all being the Master Suite, which features a king-size bed and a living room. From the room’s terrace, the Palazzo Vecchio and the famous duomo designed by Brunelleschi can be seen towering over the garden. This is not even to mention the in-room mini-spa, which includes not only a jacuzzi and sensory shower but also a Turkish bath. Nevertheless, the lower-level Suites are undeniably indulgent in their own right, featuring queen beds, spacious living rooms, and jacuzzi tubs positioned for emphatic views of either the city or the walled garden. For a similar experience, though lacking a jacuzzi bath, the Junior Suites also have a queen bed, and some include either a terrace overlooking the red-tiled rooves of Florence or a stylishly decorated living room. On the other hand, Deluxe rooms mix antique Florentine architecture with modern design, incorporating luxury in the form of a large bathroom with a shower and a jacuzzi bathtub. Inevitably, however, any room you stay in will be regal and refined. At the Dimora Palanca, every bathroom offers organic skincare products sourced from an artisan Florentine perfumery, and every bed is provided with a Simmons mattress dressed with natural lines. Expansive windows, French doors, and private terraces welcome healthy doses of the rich Italian sun into every space.
Importantly, accessible suites are also available, which face directly onto the property’s walled garden and terrace. There, guests eat, drink, or quietly settle into a book while savouring the beauty of the garden’s seasonal flowers and climbing jasmine, both of which perfume the air, providing a tranquil leafy enclave away from the busy streets of the city.
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In a select few of the hotels of Florence, the honor is given to guests of living amidst history; just a moment’s stroll away from some of the most stunning historical structures ever constructed. In the Dimora Palanca, though history waits right outside your door, you’ll find it inside, too. Dark, woody parquet floors, bathrooms built with Italian marble, and rooms where frescoes meet stuccoes, both of the kind you’d only find in Florence. It is touches like these that make this hotel genuinely special.
If you need somewhere to unwind, the Dimora can offer that too, and in a typically lavish fashion. The drawing room and library, both of which are open to all guests, exhibit stunning frescoed ceilings painted with a heavenly melange of greens, reds, and gold. Also available to guests are the bar, morning room, and game room, meaning you’ll never be short of things to do.
Perhaps the hotel’s greatest treasure, however, is ‘Mimesi’, its renowned subterranean restaurant, located in the original 18th-century kitchen of the structure. Serving up traditional Mediterranean flavoUrs with a modern, gastronomic flare, Chef Giovanni Cerroni’s unique take on local cuisine is impressive enough on its own, but the substantial wine cellar which stocks the restaurant truly elevates the experience to a new level. Of course, the magnificent 19th-century fireplace which adorns the restaurant wall only adds to the grandeur of it all.
Still, though you could pass weeks in the Dimora Palanca without getting bored, any guest who cares enough about history and art to stay at the hotel will want to get out and see the city. Fortunately, the Dimora is completely in step with guests when it comes to this desire. A variety of experiences and activities throughout the city are organised on the behalf of guests by the hotel staff. If you’re interested in Florentine history, try the ‘Discover the Medici’ tour, where you’ll be told stories of immense wealth and power, and the conflicts that both made and undid them.
On the other hand, if you’re more interested in the artistic heritage of Florence, guided tours of art galleries and museums are available. The concierge team is always happy to arrange private tours of both the essential museums and the less famous, more exclusive institutions. Even more exclusive than this, however, are the artisan studio visits that guests can sign up for. Myriads of such studios are scattered across the city, hand-crafting everything from jewellery, to sculpture, to shoes, to books, to textiles. Not only can you visit these workshops and see the craftspeople in their element, but the Dimora will also happily organise art classes for guests at these studios.
Foodies won’t find themselves short of options, either. Wine tastings are frequent in the cellar of Mimesi, while vineyard tours can be arranged and tailormade to your needs. Destinations include the notorious and prize-winning cellars of Antinori,
Frescobaldi, Fonterutoli and Monterosola. In addition, Tuscan cooking classes are provided for those who want to have a go making great Florentine food themselves. The options are broad, too, with pasta-making lessons, woodfired pizza classes, and baking groups all among the activities offered. Eating out can be made easier, too, since the hotel will design you a bespoke tour of the street food of Florence, ensuring that you hit all the right spots and have a great night out.
You may also have heard of Florence’s bizarre wine doors, initially constructed during the black plague. These secret portals throughout the city have only recently come into use again, dishing out fantastic Chianti through small slots in the walls of bars. If you’re in need of a trail that passes many of these locations, the Dimora can give you the perfect route. Other helpful services supplied to guests include extraordinary truffle hunting masterclasses and stress-free bike hire.
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Even for the most particular of guests, for whom none of these activities appeal, the Dimora Palanca can still assist you in enjoying Florence. Their tailormade concierge service is always ready to design a unique experience to suit a guest’s specific personal interests, whether it be finding tickets for seasonal events such as concerts or theatre performances, or recommending the restaurant with the best Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
In a Class by Itself
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that if one has the means to go to Florence, one, at some point, really ought to try. Florence is arguably the destination for history and art in Europe; undeniably so for those interested in the Renaissance period. Nevertheless, it is a testament to the matchless charm and class of the Dimora Palanca that in spite of all you will see in Florence, on the flight home I wager the first thing you’ll miss will be your terrace facing out to the duomo, your bathtub with the kind of view only a prince could expect, and the frescoes you went to sleep staring up at. The Dimora Palanca is a one-of-a-kind hotel befitting of the matchless city it serves.
By Samuel Sandor
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Outside of his ongoing MA degree in English and Philosophy at St Andrews, Samuel Sandor spends his spare hours writing – short stories, essays, articles on film, music, or any other subject he finds himself preoccupied by. Through all these strands, he strives to find a unique and unexpected way to look at the subject at hand. Without a concerted effort, it’s easy to form surface-level impressions of both the art and the news that one consumes. Sam’s pieces attempt to answer this interpretative simplicity by inducing curiosity in subjects one might ordinarily devote little thought to. It is this desire to transform viewpoints with novel ideas and to stoke deeper and more extensive conversations which attracted him to The Hollywood Insider.