History, romance, beauty … yes, above all, beauty! In the 13th century, poet and nobleman Guido Cavalcanti, friend of Dante Alighieri, chose the summit of one of Florence’s hills to build the Tower of Bellosguardo, as a refuge and a hunting lodge. Over the centuries, it has had many proprietors, including the Medici Family, who appropriated it for their use as a “country” residence outside the walls of the city. In the late 15th century, it became the property of the Roti Michelozzi and in 1583 the family restored the tower and built the lovely villa that was destined to become this splendid hotel. In 1913, Bellosguardo and the surrounding land became the property of Baroness Marion Hornstein Franchetti, and it is thanks to Giovanni Amerigo Franchetti, her grandson, that Bellosguardo has been fully restored to its original grandeur. Signor Franchetti is also responsible for creating the enchanting gardens that frame the tower and villa.
As a hotel, each of the uniquely decorated rooms is furnished in authentic, priceless antiques, inviting guests to experience not a predictable hotel environment, but rather the romance of a Renaissance villa. At Bellosguardo, modern comforts have been seamlessly added, without altering the evocative atmosphere of the villa’s intriguing past. Guests enter the beautifully frescoed ballroom that serves as the reception, while the ancient limonaia is now a light-filled garden room where guests can simply relax and listen to the silence.
As if these things were not already a banquet for the senses, the gardens lead one into the realm of magic. From almost every angle of this enchanted floral kingdom, there is a panoramic view of the rooftops of Florence, punctuated by Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Belltower and the distinctive turret of Palazzo Vecchio, once the fortified palace of the Medici Family. The garden is just now blossoming with the promise of spring and the air is heady with its perfume. I walk along stone paths that flank a trickling stream where water lilies float. On a stone bench, beneath a shady cupola of scented laurel, I read a contemporary novel, but something does not feel quite right. This is a poet’s garden. I should be reading poetry. Perhaps Calvacanti’s "Donna me prega," one of the most famous of his poems contemplating love. Or Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets to the Portuguese. I wonder if she, too, might have paused beneath a leafy canopy in a similar Florentine garden and been inspired to pen her words of love…
All images and reviews copyright 2015 by Ginda Simpson
Hotel Torre di Bellosguardo ~ Original watercolor painting by Ginda Simpson