Love Letter: The St. Regis Florence
by Rima Suqi
Dear St. Regis,
How you play with my heart. I fell in love with you in New York — the King Cole Bar, the Thornwillow press store that looks like a library, the house Champagne copiously poured by naughty waiters at Adour, the marble bathrooms with views that are absolutely perfect, and the logo that could double as my monogram. I fell, and I fell hard.
But something happened in Kauai, like being on an island paradise with a lover I didn't recognize. A gigantic, impersonal lobby, a very odd property layout that meant two elevator rides (and no stair access) to get to my room, weird step-up-to-step-down bathtubs, and a nice spa in a tropical climate — with zero outdoor space. I was confused and felt betrayed. No amount of Jean Georges' delicious tuna tartare could console me. What happened to you?
Perhaps it was the location, overlooking the Arno, in a 15th-century building designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (architect of the duomo Santa Maria del Fiore) that had housed the legendary Grand Hotel. Perhaps it was that you kept just enough antique furniture, art, and fixtures from the prior occupant that your version is as authentically Italian and grand without being stuffy. Perhaps it was that the lobby library featured my latest book so thoughtfully placed at eye-level where nobody could miss it.
Or perhaps it was the room. The bed alone had me at hello, all but demanding that an impressive performance take place underneath its carved wooden canopy with gathered velvet and bullion fringe trim.
While a sign warned against leaving windows open (mosquitoes), I couldn't help myself. It was worth the bites I later endured to feel the cool breezes off the Arno, to hear the church bells peal, and to look out over the clay-tiled roofs of the surrounding Piazza d'Ognisannti.
Speaking of the neighborhood, I loved visiting the Florentine outpost of one of my favorite New York shops, Flair, with its amazing vintage furnishings. It fit right into the surrounding antique and vintage stores. And I scored a coveted reservation for one of two nightly seatings at Trattoria Sostanza (Via della Porcellana, 25r, 50123 Firenze, +39-055-212-691), a teensy restaurant in a former butcher shop two blocks away.
It took a mere two and a half days to repair our fledgling relationship. It's nice to be in love again.