The Grand Hotel Villa Cora was originally known to the Florentines as Villa Oppenheim, an elegant residence built at the end of the 1860s, during the period when Florence was the capital of Italy. The story goes that Baron Gustave Oppenheim built this sumptuous villa in honour of his young bride; over the years he and his consort organised numerous society events here, which were attended by the cream of the Florentine and international aristocracy.
Villa Cora was designed by Pietro Comparini and Giuseppe Poggi, who was the architect commissioned to carry out the redevelopment of Florence at the time when it was capital, including the construction of Piazzale Michelangelo and the Viale dei Colli.
The Oppenheim family was a German dynasty of Jewish origin and had been a leading player in the banking and finance sector on the European markets since at least the 18th century. In partnership with the Banca Fenzi, it funded the project for the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt, which was opened in 1869.
Villa Cora was subsequently purchased by the widow of Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenié, and then in 1894 passed into the hands of Egidio Cora, from whom it took its present name. Egidio’s son, Giuliano Cora, was an ambassador of Florence in the world and became a personal friend of the Emperor of Ethiopia, Hailè Selassie. Guests at the villa in this period included great artists, emperors, princes and pashas, including the Japanese emperor, whom the imperial suite is named after, and Enver Pasha, who stayed in the villa at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The luxurious villa includes the Moorish Salon: with an Arabian-style dome and a chimney of black marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, the White Salon, with a fireplace sculpted in white Carrara marble bearing the coat of arms of Baron Oppenheim; The Ceramics Hall, with ceramics set into the wooden panelling; The Hall of Mirrors: with gilded friezes in Louis Quinze style, for which Gioja drew inspiration from the Royal Apartments in Turin.
The frescoes and decorations in all the rooms were executed by famous artists of the time, including Pietrasanti and Samoggia, the sculptor Barzeghi and the engravers Norini and Barbetti. These artists used the most precious materials available: Carrara marble, the yellow marble of Siena (which is no longer to be found), Murano glass, ebony and silks from the famous factory of the Fréres Braquenie d’Aubusson.
One of the biggest assets of Villa Cora is its unique location in a centuries-old park that overlooks the Boboli Gardens, on the hills just outside the historical center of Florence, approximately 10-15 minutes by car from the city centre. Driving up to Villa Cora makes for a exceptional experience, away from the bustle of the city a most elegant residential area. The views of the city and surroundings are spectacular.
The hotel features 44 rooms and suites, which blend a decadent classical aristocratic style, with sleek contemporary accents. Each accommodation has a unique individual aesthetic identity, while boasting ultimate comfort and an incredible attention to details. The finest materials have been used, with abundant wood works, including parquet but also marble and superb Italian textiles.
All accommodations are generously sized, with large bathrooms, most of them with separate shower and bathtub. Modern day comfort, including the latest technologies have not been overlooked with large smart TVs, fast wi-fi internet and individually controlled AC.
The amenities of a top luxury hotel are all featured at Villa Cora, from a large outdoor pool, two restaurants, a bar as well as a Spa with gym and treatment rooms. A professional team of Concierges provide the most extensive activities in and around Florence, including the whole of Tuscany. Service throughout the entire hotel is of the highest standards, the relatively small inventory allowing for a most personalised and individualised service. Staff are kind and intuitive, with an immense passion to serve.
One of the beautiful surprises is the fact that the hotel, especially its restaurant are frequented by locals alike, which is in many ways a validation of the very high standards of the boutique luxury hotel. And the Italian market as a whole ensures a good part of the guest profile. Make sure you also bring some elegant outfits – some of the local patrons making for a sophisticated attire.
My stay allowed for a unique combination between relaxing at the villa, by the pool or at the Spa and various experiences of Florence, whether a visit to a museum or gallery but also dining or shopping. The hotel also proposes a shuttle service which is available regularly during day-time.
Undoubtedly, Villa Cora is a spectacular wedding venue but also the setting for any special event. At the same time, you may just simply enjoy a most relaxing stay as a regular guest. The restaurant offers a wide range typical Tuscan dishes, from simple to more sophisticated ones. Do not miss the Pizza & Champagne pairing as well as the fantastic cocktails in the evenings, by the pool at the Pool Bar – the lighting of the pool is magical.
Pre or post dinner, you can also enjoy the stunning RoofTop lounge and sky bar, with an all-white furnishing, which proposes a wide range of cocktails and champagnes, along with breathtaking panoramic views of Florence and distance Tuscany. There is also an indoor bar as well as a Cigar. There is also a signature suite created by the Italian luxury menswear house of Stefano Ricci – more masculine and sleek
Oliver Petcu in Florence
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