The big trip

Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni review: a palazzo fit for a Florentine noble

Find luxury and sanctuary in Florence’s historic Santa Croce district

Once the home of Papal treasurer and sonnet composer Marquis Giovanni Maria Baldinucci, the Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni Hotels & Resorts in Florence is an intimate nobleman’s palazzo. 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 thoughtful, 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 Santa Croce district at the eastern end of Florence’s historical centre. This runs along the city’s enchanting river Arno, with picturesque bridges and bustling markets.

Da Verrazzano suite at Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni Hotels & Resorts in Florence

Da Verrazzano suite at Relais Santa Croce

Baglioni Hotels & Resorts

Why stay here?

If you are a fan of opera, this hotel is a must-stay. A passion for music is central to the property’s design, with its crowning jewel being the Music Room. This concert hall, complete with a high, domed ceiling, soprano chambers and frescoed walls, is designed specifically to provide the best acoustics for listening to musicians and singers.

True to its origins, this is a hotel with no pretence. As it was designed for the Florentine nobles, it offers guests a peaceful and luxurious home to relax in – making it the perfect respite after a day of sightseeing. Lively Santa Croce is known as the haunt of artists and art lovers, but it’s just outside of the most touristy area of the city. This means it’s away from the humdrum, but a quick ten-minute stroll from the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and other main attractions. 

The Music Room at Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni Hotels & Resorts

The Music Room at Relais Santa Croce

Baglioni Hotels & Resorts

Eating and drinking

Guelfi & Ghibellini, the hotel’s elegant restaurant run by chef Niccolo De Riu, serves a host of delicious dishes. Inspired by Tuscan cuisine, the menu incorporates both the seafood traditional to the region’s coast and the meat typical of the inland areas. Try the felicetti fusilli pasta with “dolceforte” duck ragout – rumoured to have been the creation of Catherine de’ Medici – for a deeply savoury dish, with a hint of sweetness from dark chocolate melted into the sauce.

For a night of extravagance, below the hotel on the ground floor is three-Michelin starred restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri. It shares a special partnership with the hotel so ask the concierge about experiences exclusive to guests – these range from wine tastings in the exceptional cellar to in-suite dining.

Guelfi & Ghibellini restaurant at Relais Santa Croce by Baglioni Hotels & Resorts in Florence

Guelfi & Ghibellini restaurant

Baglioni Hotels & Resorts

For a close-by trattoria, try Il Francescano. Ask the hotel to book a seat outside in advance, so that you can sit alfresco and bask in the orange evening light. There is a vast array of delightful seafood pastas to order. For meat-eaters seeking a treat-yourself night of indulgence (you are on holiday after all), bathed in the traditions of the city, opt for the renowned bistecca alla Fiorentina – the Florentine steak. With its origins in Firenze’s most prosperous era, it’s a huge T-bone steak (Porterhouse cut between sirloin and tenderloin, well marbled) that arrives with divine melt-in-your-mouth potatoes. I’d recommend sharing this between at least two people and note it always comes more on the rare side, so let them know if you’re particular about how it’s cooked.

The Italian city of Florence at night

The Italian city of Florence at night

Baglioni Hotels & Resorts

What to do

When in Florence, of course you must visit the Duomo – one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the world – and Michelangelo’s statue of David in the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. But, just behind the hotel a couple of minutes by foot, you should also visit the Piazza Santa Croce, where the impressive Basilica of Santa Croce resides. With a striking facade of coloured marble and an interior brimming with religious artistic masterpieces, it’s known for housing the tombs of some of the most famous Italians – the real titans of history. Step inside its cool interior to escape the midday sun and visit the graves of Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Macchiavelli and Dante, just to name a few. Do make sure you have a scarf or jacket to cover your shoulders though – this is a requirement for most churches in Florence.

For day trips, the hotel organises private experiences including hot air balloon rides over Tuscany’s rolling hills and cookery classes. For an evening close-to-home, book a private concert in the Music Room. Although such an intimate performance might seem daunting at first, you’ll soon be totally 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 

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