La Gemma Hotel: A Refined Sanctuary in the Heart of Florence
By Mark Sissons
In a city globally renowned for its exquisite sense of fashion and beauty, the challenge of launching a new boutique five-star hotel is substantial. However, La Gemma Hotel, designed by the esteemed Italian architect Tito Bellini and owned by the Cecchi family, a passionate Florentine clan deeply involved in art, architecture, fashion, and design, masterfully captures the timeless allure of Florence with understated yet elegantly refined charm.
Situated just off the renowned Via Calimala, steps from the Piazza della Repubblica, Hotel La Gemma occupies the splendid 19th-century Palazzo Paoletti, once the residence of the city’s Guild of Hoteliers, and is a short stroll from the Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. From the hotel’s terraces, guests can relish breathtaking views of Florence’s famed Duomo, adorned with its green marble and pink-hued stone.
The hotel’s Art Deco decor, featuring subtle artworks, designer furniture and soft lighting, creates an atmosphere of serenity, skillfully melding classic architectural elements like coffered ceilings and ornate molding with clean lines and contemporary furnishings. This ambiance simultaneously embraces Florence’s flamboyant artistic history and modern sensibilities.
La Gemma offers four distinct room categories: Superior, Deluxe, Loft Suite, and Penthouse Suite. The Loft Suites, nestled within the captivating loft of the historic building, and the Penthouse Suites, with private terraces boasting panoramic views, provide guests with luxurious choices. Inspired by the color palette of the nearby Duomo, which includes bold geometric patterns and sumptuous textiles, rooms and suites are spacious and comfortable. They feature handcrafted king-sized beds draped in Italian velvet bed linens and expansive marble bathrooms. Large windows and private outdoor spaces admit ample natural light during the day, offering glimpses of Florence’s tiled rooftops and cobblestone streets.
One of La Gemma’s standout features is its first-floor gourmet restaurant, Luca’s by Paulo Airaudo, named after the late family patriarch, Luca Cecchi, a connoisseur of fine dining. Head chef Paulo Airaudo, an accomplished Italian-Argentine cook and entrepreneur with experience in prestigious global restaurants, was awarded two Michelin stars for his restaurant, Amelia, in San Sebastián, Spain.
In Luca’s dining room, adorned in forest green with gold accents, Airaudo presents casual yet classic Tuscan cuisine with his signature contemporary flair, employing fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients. The signature 10-course tasting menu melds diverse flavors, textures, and Airaudo’s culinary memories. It includes dishes such as smoked eel with apple and horseradish, pigeon with foie gras and black truffle, and chocolate cake paired with olive oil ice cream.
Before or after dining, guests can retire to an intimate lounge and bar with a marble chequerboard floor, offering an impressive selection of wines from the hotel’s extensive cellar and signature cocktails with names like ‘The Fantasist’ and ‘She’s a Riot’ that playfully reference members of Cecchi’s family.
Indulgence also awaits at the sophisticated subterranean spa, ‘Allure,’ nestled in the palace’s historic cellars. The spa offers an array of treatments using premium products from Biologique Recherche, a French brand specializing in personalized skincare. Guests can select from facials, massages, body wraps, and scrubs or unwind in the Turkish bath, hydro-massage bath, ice shower, and sauna.
Guided by an amiable general manager with extensive experience serving demanding celebrities in Los Angeles, La Gemma’s attentive and welcoming staff excel in arranging tailored experiences and activities for guests throughout Tuscany. These bespoke offerings range from private visits to local perfumeries and artisan workshops to cooking classes at a farmhouse, helicopter tours over Florence, and wine tastings in hidden cellars.
For discerning affluent travelers in pursuit of an elegant retreat in the heart of Florence, La Gemma Hotel delivers a fresh experience that marries subtle opulence with understated charm. Amid a city adorned with countless treasures, it emerges as a welcome new gem.
For more, visit La Hotel Gemma.
Mark Sissons has explored seven continents and dozens of countries on assignment as a travel writer and photographer specializing in adventure and family travel. His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including Robb Report, National Geographic Traveler, the Globe and Mail, the San Francisco Chronicle, Men’s Journal, NUVO Magazine and the Dallas Morning News. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.