Day 2 of our Italian escapade saw us heading to Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region. Home to masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, including the Duomo Cathedral and Michelangelo's "David" sculpture, we couldn't wait to see what the Belmond Group had in store for us.
The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval arch bridge spanning the Arno River in Florence, best known for its 48 designer shops; the highest concentration of designers shops anywhere in Europe. In prime position is Cassetti, an artisan jewellers who has made choosing an engagement ring, wedding ring, jewellery or a watch into a really special sunset experience. Relax with a glass of champagne in a private viewing area overlooking the river and watch the sun setting while you choose from brands including Cartier, Bvlgari and Chopin, or design your own piece which will be ready for collection in a matter of days.
Aqua Flor Firenze
If you have dreamed of creating your very own signature scent for your wedding, his & her fragrances that compliment each other, or just want the perfect perfume, Aqua Flor Firenze in the centre of Florence is the place to visit. The subdued lighting and soft tones allow you to focus entirely on the delicious scents and you will be bowled over by the choice of fragrances that can be blended to reach the perfect combination.
If it's all too much for you, there are plenty of ready-made perfumes, diffusers and soaps to choose from, or a Master Perfumer will create a custom fragrance for you, but we loved the experience of visiting the downstairs lab to blend our own and could easily have immersed ourselves in the experience for an afternoon.
Our visit to Florence culminated with an overnight stay at the Belmond Villa San Michele, perched atop the historic Florence skyline within perfectly manicured Italian gardens. The San Michele was a former monastery, and follows in the Renaissance styling of the city with intricate artwork detailing each room. Wedding ceremonies here can take place beneath the fragrant lemon trees in the terraced gardens suitable for up to 100 people (and a particular favourite of ours), within the 15th century Cenacolo room, which boasts a fresco of the Last Supper, or in a banqueting suite leading on to the gardens with an uninterrupted view of Florence below. In true Belmond style, the hospitality team will do all they can to accommodate your wishes and while we were there the reception furniture was moved from the chapel that usually serves an an entrance hall, transforming it into an atmospheric - and totally unique - banqueting room.
The San Michele is entirely family-friendly, with 45 rooms and suites including a private villa. For larger groups additional guests can be accommodated in the 32 rooms offered at the adjacent Villa Fiesole.
Join us tomorrow for Day 3 of our trip, where we headed to Parma to sample some culinary delights from the region.