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Inside La Gemma Hotel, a Must-see for Design Lovers in Florence

For a taste of Old Florentine palazzo living in the heart of Florence’s historic center, look no further than the newly christened La Gemma Hotel. This five-star, family-run boutique property has seamlessly taken over the 19th-century Palazzo Paoletti, replacing what was the stately residence of the Guild of Hoteliers. Today, La Gemma’s five floors contain 39 glamorous rooms and suites, a gourmet restaurant, a cocktail lounge, a subterranean spa, and an outdoor patio. It offers guests a sophisticated yet down-to-earth enclave just steps from the designer storefronts of the famous Via Calimala. 

Opened in April 2023, La Gemma Hotel is the Cecchi family’s first foray into hospitality. This dynamic and multi-talented family of seven combined their interests in fashion, design, architecture, and real estate to create what they hoped would bring a new hospitality experience to Florence. The goal? A stay that feels more like being hosted in a luxury home by a charismatic Italian family than being just another well-cared-for guest at a five-star hotel. The name “La Gemma” actually comes from the first letter of each of their names: Luca and Alessandra (the parents) and their children Ginevra, Edoardo, Massimiliano, Maria Sole, and Andrea.

The stately masonry exterior of La Gemma Hotel still looks as it did when architect Tito Bellini constructed it in 1895. But inside, the lush Art Deco interiors tell an updated story that effortlessly weaves in the personality and preferences of the creative Cecchi family. The Cecchis entrusted the Milan-based design team at DesignByGemini to bring the essence of Florence’s unique elegance and timeless sophistication to their first hometown hotel venture. The design leads ran with the concept by pairing the distinct green, pink, and ivory palette of the city’s iconic Duomo with bold geometric patterns, opulent marble, gilded finishes, and mirror detailing. Luxurious textiles, tropical greenery, and black-and-white photography featuring Art Deco scenes from Rio de Janeiro complete the more-is-more aesthetic. 

At La Gemma Hotel, days begin with a complimentary breakfast at the first-floor restaurant, LUCA’s by Paulo Airaudo. There, a bottomless menu of French toast, sweet breads, and omelets compete for your attention as your eyes are drawn to the immaculate restaurant design. Gentle archways divide the room and create what feels like private dining experiences at each tufted green velvet banquette. The open wine cellar and handcrafted bookcases add warmth, character, and charm to the space. 

Around the corner from the dining room and following the same dreamy Art Deco theme is the cocktail bar and outdoor lounge. Complete with a mirrored ceiling and s-shaped booth seating, the bar gives off a moody, old-school 1920s feel. The cocktails on offer are the creation of several members of the Cecchi family, including Massimiliano’s deep and earthy Negroni and Maria Sole’s refreshing Sgroppino. The low lighting and flawless design create an intimate and inviting atmosphere—one that makes it all too easy to order another round for the sheer pleasure of staying a while longer. 

Each of La Gemma’s 26 rooms and 16 suites exude five-star luxury and hospitality, but feel as warm and inviting as your own private Florence apartment. Rivolta Carmignani bathrobes hang in the marble bathrooms, slippers await by the bedside, and a mouth-watering artisan truffle from local Florentine patisserie Leonardo rests on the pillow. The air is lightly perfumed and lighting is soft. The now familiar Duomo-inspired color palette is carried through to the pastel pink and rich green velvet accents on the fine linen bedding, curtains, and handcrafted furniture. The whole scene is anchored by the tropical silk feature wall, cozy backlit shelves, tall ceilings, and ornate circular end tables.  

As a guest, you’ll have access to La Gemma’s 24-hour Golden Key concierge, who can connect you with and arrange for a variety of exclusive experiences in Florence and greater Tuscany. Your options range from VIP wine tasting in a private cellar to helicopter rides over the city, gourmet truffle hunting, and behind-the-scenes experiences in local artisan studios and workshops. They’ll also call you a cab and secure your reservation at some of the best restaurants in Florence during your stay. 

The hotel’s pièce de résistance is the restaurant—LUCA’s by Paulo Airaudo, named after Luca Cecchi himself. By morning, it’s the breakfast nook, but by lunch and dinner, it transforms into a high-end dining experience. The Italian-Argentinian head chef behind it all, Paulo Airaudo, has worked in prestigious restaurants from Geneva to Hong Kong and has two Michelin stars to his name. With classic Florentine cuisine as the basis for the menu, Chef Airaudo modernizes it in true artistic fashion using only locally sourced Tuscan ingredients. 

If the restaurant is the star of the show, the subterranean spa might just be the hotel’s best-kept secret. Tucked away on a sub-floor below the check-in level, the ALLURE spa is a tranquil space designed to restore mind, body, and soul. There’s even a strict no-phone and no-camera policy that applies as soon as the elevators open and you’re dropped into the muted tones, soft music, and natural elements of the spa’s design. The space instantly inspires a sense of exclusivity and calm. Therapists trained in Biologique Recherche treatments have designed a personalized experience for guests, while the wellness area offers Turkish baths, hydro-massage baths, and ice showers. 

For visitors to La Gemma Hotel who become converts, good news: The Cecchi family has plans to expand their hospitality mark in Italy in the years to come, with their next boutique hotel opening expected in Milan later this year. 

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