Florence’s stately Grand Hotel closed for renovations last September and is slated to reopen quietly on May 1 as the St. Regis Florence. The already 5-star hotel’s re-branding from Luxury Collection to St. Regis signals the arrival of butler service, fewer but larger guest rooms, 19 luxury suites, a spa (individual spa suites are the thing here; no more stripping down in a locker room before your massage), and all sorts of sterling silver bells and whistles.

Modernizing a 15th-century palazzo designed by Filippo Brunelleschi (the Renaissance starchitect responsible for the city’s hard-to-miss Duomo, above) required more than hammers and paintbrushes: the hotel spent three years obtaining permits from local and state authorities before the first construction worker arrived.

The formal reopening won’t take place until September but this summer guests can peek at the hotel’s restored frescos, grand public spaces, and oversized rooms. Staying in this restored Renaissance palazzo is about as close as you can come to sleeping at the Uffizi. Legally.

Ann Shields is Online Senior Editor at