Better than a Mary Berry Lemon Drizzle
Italy. What a wondrous place. Only last November we were in Venice, breathing in all that incredible city has to offer and then channelling our 5 nights of inner Serenissima into a final performance at St. Mark’s Cathedral. It was an unforgettable experience. With more zest than a Mary Berry Lemon Drizzle, Venice is perhaps one of those magical places that can’t be topped. Or can it?
Just 2 hours south-west, there’s yet another municipal confection that would make Mary weep into her cupcakes. The ultimate historical layer cake – the head honcho of western creativity. According to UNESCO, Italy is home to 60% of the world’s most important works of art. Half of that stuff is in this town. In so many ways, no other place on earth can hold a candle to Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance and an endless source of creative genius : Dante, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Boccacio, Botticelli (all the B’s) – born, studied and worked in Florence. Of course there’s also Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Lippi, Bandinelli, Giotto….it’s like the ultimate who’s who – the most magnificent hand of Top Trumps.
The very best time to visit Florence in our opinion is between November and February. Come at any other time of year, and you’ll be knee-deep in selfie sticks, and the joys of Nikon festooned tourist groups.
In November, the authenticity of the city is restored as the 16 million tourists who visit each year have, for the most part, scuttled off back home. Now is the time to enjoy a glass of wine in a Florentine enoteca and, as you watch the well-dressed locals go about their business, reminisce on a day of avoiding queues, breathing in treasures and singing sublime music.
On this 5 night Luxury Classical Singing Holiday, we’re joined by guest conductor and great friend Robert Dean. With a CV as long as Dante’s Divine Comedy, Robert comes with an eye watering amount of skill and experience. As principal singing teacher at the Guildhall School of Music, Robert has taught, and is teaching, many of today’s opera stars. He’s also an international conductor and as leader of both the London Choral Society and Philharmonia Chorus he has worked under the auspices of Solti, Rattle and Barenboim. He’s a real smarty-pants!
Smarty pants notwithstanding, Robert has a great sense of humour and, just in case you’re panicking, he’s a complete softy. He’s delighted to help anyone and everyone so if you’re still vocally pinned to the shower curtain Florence may well be the perfect time to step into the warm towel of Singing Holidays bliss.
Our days will commence with a 3-hour master class with Robert, where we’ll be learning some appropriate classical repertoire for a performance on the penultimate day. A group lunch will be followed by free time to enjoy the ridiculous number of riches that are right on the doorstep. A further hour rehearsal in the evening before a delicious dinner in a choice Florentine ristorante will complete a typical day.
Firenze Orologio Bar
Firenze Orologio Hall
Firenze Orologio Breakfast
Firenze Orologio Front
If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the place
On last year’s Classical Singing Holiday, we stayed at the Hotel L’Orologio (the watch) in Venice. Of course, it had all the Singing Holidays ‘must haves’ : luxury bedrooms, comfy beds, superb showers and scrumptious breakfasts. However, there were two things that set the L’Orologio di Venezia apart, two things that raised this stunning converted Palazzo above the competitive waterline. The Hotel L’Orologio excelled because its location and service were unparalleled.
If only there was another hotel like the L’Orologio di Venezia in Florence, I hear you ask. Well, funnily enough, there is! Owner and watch junkie Sandro Fratini opened his first L’Orologio in Florence 8 years ago. It took him six years to transform a perfectly positioned Palazzo into the most perfectly placed small, luxury hotel. As a Florentine who owns the world’s most extensive collection of designer timepieces, Sandro is uncompromising when it comes to detail and organisation. One can only imagine the state of his sock drawer! As with the hotel in Venice or indeed like one of his Patek Philippe timepieces, the service at the L’Orologio di Firenze is one of quiet and relaxed efficiency. Nothing is too much trouble, and there’s a feeling of being enveloped in an atmosphere of calm that’s second to none.
Also, like its sister hotel in Venice, the location of our pad in Florence is breathtaking. Situated right on the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, the views are jaw-dropping. With its completely glazed upper floor breakfast lounge, you can sip on a delicious cappuccino while drinking in the front aspect of one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Italy.
This is an inspirational five nights of singing in the world’s artistic epicentre, and it seems only fitting that the second hand of our accommodation mirrors the beat of our music making.
If you’ve got the time, I think we’ve found the place.