Villa Cora – Florence, Italy
A lavish wedding present from Baron Oppenheim to his bride in the 1860s, this sumptuous villa soon became a magnet for Italian and European aristocracy, then passed into the hands of Napolean III’s widow. Its former splendour has been miraculously preserved, with magnificently opulent and eclectic interiors. Elaborate frescoes, bold tromp l’oeils, gilded mirrors and detailed stucco decorations adorn the rooms and halls, with eclectic Florentine and Moorish influences.
All this is set in beautifully landscaped gardens, full of fragrant roses, topiary hedges and ancient oaks, with that inimitable view over the city of Florence. Naturally, the service is slick and attentive – nothing is too much trouble. You could definitely become used to villa living.
At A Glance
Why We Love It:It offers a luxurious retreat for a city break in Florence.
Style:Eclectic Florentine opulence.
Location:In the foothills of Florence, overlooking the Boboli Gardens, close to the Porta Romana.
Rooms:44 boudoir-style rooms & suites.
Swimming:Heated pool in the rose garden.
Children:Families are given a warm Italian welcome, with a variety of changing activities available for children.
Accessibility:The entire hotel is fully accessible.
Open From:All Year Round.
Price:From €489 per room, per night.
Each floor has an entirely different style and theme – the first is the Noble Floor (piano nobile), the second is the Rose Floor, and the third is Moorish. But in every room, it’s the attention to detail and aesthetics that you notice. Whether they are in the main villa, or the stable block and buildings in the grounds, they are all luxuriously and elegantly decorated and individually styled, with Carrara marble bathrooms and plush fabrics.
The cuisine at Villa Cora is classic Tuscan and Italian, with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, resulting in dishes bursting with flavour. During the summer, Le Bistrot Restaurant is by the pool, and in winter, it moves to the evocatively decorated Moorish Room, serving casual lunches and extravagant dinners. Breakfasts are worth getting out of bed for – with a huge array of fresh fruit, meats and cheeses, cakes, pastries and homemade bread.
In the warm summer months, there’s no better place to sip a glass of champagne at the end of the day, then on the roof terrace bar, with its views over Florence. And in the winter, what was once Baron Oppenheim’s dining room is now home to the truly rococo and atmospheric Long Bar.
Whether you’re here for just an indulgent few days or longer, the wonders of Florence and the surrounding Tuscany can’t fail to keep you busy. In the centre of Renaissance Italy, the city is bulging with art sculpture, ornate churches, buildings and piazze, everywhere you look. It is enough just to wander and discover, but no visit should be without seeing the main museums – La Galleria dell’Accademia, with its famous Michelangelo masterpiece David and the Uffizi, home to some of the most important works in Italian art.
Further afield, a day trip to the equally beguiling Siena or the smaller hilltop towns of San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. Or maybe do a wine tour – there is no shortage of vineyards full of wine too good to export. Shopping will probably keep you busy for a while – the region is renowned for its paper and leather products, and the city is full of delightful boutiques. A fun way of getting about is on a Vespa or a Tuk Tuk tour, both of which can be arranged by the concierge. If you’re just after a bit of relaxation, then the heated pool is an enticing place to sit around for a few hours, and the Spa, with its hammam, sauna and tepidarium, offers a wonderful range of treatments and therapies. Maybe a foot massage after a day exploring the sites of the city!
One of the executive chef’s favourite pastimes is teaching the children who come to stay here, how to cook the perfect pizza, (as well as a few other gourmet dishes for adults) from the dough to the toppings. This is just one of the activities for children which are constantly changing throughout the year at Villa Cora. There are menus for the villa’s younger guests and the family rooms are supremely comfortable.
In the foothills of Florence, overlooking the Boboli Gardens, close to the Porta Romana – just 20 minutes walk from the Ponte Vecchio.