If you have ever wondered whether Italian bureaucracy is actually as monumental as people say, the fact that it took the Four Seasons seven years to open in Florence might give you a clue. Every few months, builders stumbled on yet another fresco or statue and things came to a standstill as the Bella Arte committee tried to ascertain how to proceed with restoration.

Things do seem to take a long time in Italy. In the case of La Bandita, the property my husband opened in Pienza last year, it took two and a half years just to get permits. When you see how great things look here in the end, though, you realize the painstaking process is worth the time.

After hearing a lot of great things about the Four Seasons in Florence, especially its beautiful artwork and top-notch service, I stopped in to see the property for myself. It is made up of two restored palazzos from the 15th and 16th centuries with eight acres of surrounding gardens. A relatively nondescript façade on a quiet side street belies the beautiful arrival–you enter a glass-covered cortile with a copy of Michelangelo’s Bacchus and a bas relief that runs all around the top of the room. Throughout the public areas (and in many of the bedrooms) original frescoes, elaborate Italian chandeliers, flowery moldings, and Italian prints remind you that you are in one of the world’s most famous cities for art and sculpture. But for me, the gardens were the absolute highlight: an oasis of towering old trees, little walkways with secluded places to sit, and a pretty pool (with a Jacuzzi on one end) next to the spa. Green space is what makes the property that much more compelling; it’s a tranquil counterpoint to the more touristy and chaotic atmosphere of central Florence.