‘Follow the dogs! Without the dogs there are no truffles!’’ Luca Campinotto said as we romped through the woods, trailing his canine trackers. We were on a truffle hunt with Savini Tartufi, world renowned truffle hunters and suppliers. The excursion was arranged by the staff at the recently renovated Hotel Lungarno in Florence, Italy. After the hunt, we enjoyed a multi-course lunch, showcasing the highly sought-after white truffle.
Another day, the hotel concierge arranged a champagne tasting and private viewing at Fratelli Piccini, famous Florentine jewelers, dating back to the 16th century. A dinner on the jewelers’ deck overlooking the Arno River could also be arranged, we were told. Private fashion house showings, behind-the-scene museum tours, tickets to top events, after-hour entrances — you name it, and these folks can likely make it happen. When your hotel is owned by the very well-connected Salvatore Ferragamo family of Florence, arrangements for bespoke guest experiences can be made.
“Nothing is a strange request,’’ the woman at the front desk told us. “We do it with pleasure.’’
Over-the-top service has always been a priority at this five-star hotel, located on the Arno River, steps from the Ponte Vecchio. But now, after a six-month, multi-million-dollar refurbish, Hotel Lungarno, the first fashion hotel to open in the ’90s, shines anew. Loyal guests were skeptical when the property announced its renovation project, worried that the re-do would go too far, robbing the classical property of its traditional character. When the doors re-opened, worries vanished. Like a woman who’s had a little work done, this Grande Dame shows off a fresh face, atop good bones. Internationally renowned interior designer Michele Bonan kept the décor classic — nearly retro. Creamy, neutral palettes in the renewed lobby-lounge, overlooking the Arno, are punctuated with nautical blues (we love the blue and white leather chairs), giving a nod to the hotel’s prime location on the river, and evoking a luxury, yacht-like atmosphere.
All of the 65 guest rooms and suites, with private marble baths, have been updated, and though they vary in size and shape, they’re also classically designed with nautical colors and accents, including blue striped carpeting and blue-and-white checked side chairs. Modern updates include mini iPads, espresso machines, and Bose sound links in all the rooms. Many rooms boast river or city views, some with private decks. Ten rooms have been designed for families, accommodating up to four guests, and two floors of the hotel can be set aside for VIP guests, groups, and multi-generational travelers.
With the renovation came a renewed emphasis on the hotel’s restaurants. The re-designed Picteau Lounge Bar is open and airy, with comfy chairs and views of the Arno River. It’s fine for a quick bite to eat, featuring an all-day menu of salads, sandwiches, and soups. Save at least one evening for dining at the hotel’s signature restaurant, the Michelin-starred Borgo San Jacopo, overseen by Executive Chef Peter Brunel. It’s one of the top dining spots in the city, featuring Brunel’s updated regional Italian, technically-precise and beautifully-presented cuisine. His all-potato prix fixe menu remains the talk of the town, which includes spaghetti carbonara (potato noodles), fingerling potatoes in clay with lovage and beetroot mayonnaise, potato cream with piglet, langoustines and shitake mushrooms, and potato pralines with spicy chocolate.
What we found most intriguing about the re-design of Hotel Lungarno is its expanded art collection, one of the largest collections of privately-owned 20th Century art in the world. Some 450 original pieces of art were added to the hotel’s common areas and guestrooms, including works by Picasso, Cocteau, Bueno, and Italian artists Cassinari, Guidi, Morlotti, Rosai, Sironi, and Tosi. The art is grouped along specific story lines, and offers a peek into the 20th Century art world. Ask the hotel for a guided tour of the art collection. They will be happy to arrange it! Hotel Lungarno, Borgo S. Jacopo, 14, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy +39 055 27261; www.lungarnocollection.com/hotel-lungarno. Room rates start at 320 euros.