Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1842: Excellent Europe, Palazzo Antellesi - Mimi Apartment
2bed/2bath apartment on Piazza Santa Croce, Florence
November 2005, 1 week
The Palazzo Antelessi is a historic building in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. The apartment we rented was on the top floor, with a lovely terrace overlooking the Piazza and the Basilica di Santa Croce. The palazzo itself is a historic building, adorned with frescoes, with history dating back to the 17th century; it is described by R.W.B Lewis in The City of Florence as one of the most magnificent edifices in the city.
The Santa Croce neighborhood is simply wonderful, close to the Arno River and the Piazza della Signora is a very quick walk away. Though there are other apartments in the building, it was very peaceful and quiet. I fell in love with "our" corner of Florence and felt very at home there.
There are numerous small shops nearby in all directions to purchase anything and everything you may need. The grocery store is a seven-minute walk away, and the Mercato Sant'Ambrogio is a ten-minute walk. At the wonderful Mercato, you can get produce and fruits, meats, fish, olive oil, cheese, bread; it is obviously the heartbeat of this neighborhood. In exploring the nearby streets, however, you will find wonderful fruit and vegetable stores, salumerie, butcher shops, alimentari, and enotecas.
Restaurants abound; we never walked more than two blocks to find a wonderful meal. At one end of the Piazza is Cafe Mario, where you will get an excellent capuccino and cornetto, served with friendly smiles. There is a newstand right across the Piazza as well.
The building was constructed by the del Barbigia family during the second half of the seventeenth century, most likely incorporating several medieval structures already on the site. Constanza del Barbigia was married to Niccolo dell’Antella, a son of a Florentine family of significant political and cultural position. The palazzo was part of Constanza’s dowry, and Niccolo decided to join it with a neighboring palazzo which, by the stroke of luck, had just become available through the bankruptcy of the prior owners. Niccolo was a man of artistic vision; he served as the Grand Duke’s representative to the Accademia del Disegno, and as such, he could consult with the city’s best architects and painters. He commissioned some thirteen artists to work for nearly a month, uninterrupted, decorating the face of his grand new home. It became a defining work for one of the artists, Giovanni di San Giovanni; apparently after his work on the Palazzo Antella, there was a huge demand for his brush. In fact, the Pitti Palace has an entire sala that bears his name.
The dell’ Antella family died out by the end of the seventeenth century, and the palazzo passed through several other families. In the 1920’s, it came into the possession of the Cinelli family; eventually it was passed on to a Cinelli daughter, Federica. Federica married Sallustio Piccolomini, and thusly, the Piccolomini family became the patrons of the Palazzo, now called the Palazzo Antellesi.
The Mimi apartment is one of the most popular vacation rentals in the building; I was told that people return to it year after year. It is laid out in a straight line; you enter a lovely hall after a few steps there is a master bedroom painted in a warm shade of yellow, with a huge queen bed. The bedroom has a huge, white marble en suite bathroom with a tub and shower. Next comes the dining room, which has doors that open onto the gorgeous, vine-covered terrace. There is a beautiful antique dining table, topped with glass, an antique sideboard, and a writing desk with a chest of drawers. Right off of the dining room is the second, smaller, twin-bedded bedroom, painted pretty green, with a smaller bathroom that has a marble shower.
After the dining room comes the living room, with a small, sleeper sofa, a beautiful fireplace, two comfy chairs, a coffee table and another desk. There is a small, satellite TV, and bookshelves with some very good books to read. The living room also has doors that open onto the terrace. Off of the living room is a wonderful kitchen. The Mimi apartment is tasteful, homey, warm and cozy. The cotto floors were stunning. I still dream about it!
The most breathtaking feature of this apartment is the beautiful private terrace, overlooking the hillsides surrounding Florence, the lively Piazza, and the majestic Basilica. There is a big table with chairs, perfect for a meal al fresco, and a sitting area. If you can tear your gaze away from the Basilica, you look in the opposite direction and there is the great dome of the Duomo and Giotto's belltower.
The apartment was spotless, the furniture comfortable and pristine. The living room would sit 3-4 people comfortably. There are plenty of chairs for the dining table and at the two desks, and the table itself can accomodate 6 adults. The apartment has its own thermostat, and the heat worked very well in the chilly November nights.
The beds were very comfortable, and there were plenty of plus linens and extra, heavy blankets. Both bedrooms have huge built-in closets; you can unpack and stash your luggage completely out of sight. The bathrooms are fine; the master bath was the most luxurious, with a large bathtub. The smaller bathroom is just fine, though the sink is smaller. The shower is much larger than in most Italian bathrooms.
The kitchen had a huge window, overlooking the hills above the Arno. If you look off to the left, you can see the church of San Miniato al Monte! The kitchen was well-equipped, with a dishwasher and washing machine, 4-burner stove and oven, refrigerator and freezer, American coffee machine, and toaster oven. The kitchen has everything you need to cook some great meals, (it does need a good knife, however!) which we did 4 out of 7 nights. There are pots, pans, utensils, and plenty of serving pieces.
Problems or Bonuses
The surprise for us was the apartment itself. I originally booked a one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor, but that particular rental was undergoing plumbing renovations. I was notified a week before my departure that we were being upgraded to the Mimi apartment. It was truly a dream come true.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I booked the apartment with Excellent Europe. The wonderful Pat Byrne helped me choose from among their many Florence apartments, and she was knowledgable, kind and really made me feel secure in my choice. The rental process was a breeze and Pat was incredibly gracious. I will trust her judgement from now on!
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would recommend this rental to my friends and family without the slightest hesitation. The entire experience exceeded my expectations. That apartment is woven into my heart; it will always seem like "home" in Florence.
Things to do in this area
You are in the heart of the Centro Storico of Florence, so all the sights are a few minutes walk away. The Piazza della Signora and the Uffizi are very close, so is the Ponte Vecchio. The Piazza Santa Croce has a taxi stand, so you can hop a cab to any outskirts or the train station quite easily. Vivoli's is about 2 minutes away; the best gelato in Florence! We loved Osteria Da'Benci and Ristorante Leo.
And then there is the Basilica di Santa Croce itself, one of the most beautiful churches in the world. I highly recommend going to Sunday Mass there. Construction on the Basilica was begun in 1294; it contains treasures such as frescoes by Giotto and Gaddi, the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. The fiery monk Savonarola preached in religious fervor to the wayward Florentines in the early 16th century, and Cimabue’s cross still hangs, a masterpiece of pre-Renaissance, Byzantine-influenced art. To be there under any circumstance is wondrous, but to sit on the very old (and hard, I might add) wooden benches, as residents of this neighborhood have for centuries before, and to hear the massive organ ring out as the Franciscan monks softly file past - it is hard to put into words.
Our stay in Florence in the Mimi apartment was truly unforgettable.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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