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Grand Hotel Villa Cora, Florence 

18 Viale Machiavelli
Italy 50125
Tel: 39 055 22 87 90
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From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:
Old-world opulence is ingrained in this restored nineteenth-century mansion overlooking the Boboli Gardens. Built in 1868, the villa has been home to aristocrats from Napoleon III's widow, Eugenie, to an Egyptian pasha, and the remarkable staff sustain this noble aura with warmth and professionalism. The 46 rooms and suites fill three buildings on the estate, with the most lavish on the piano nobile of the main villa. Above that, spacious second-floor rooms are decorated (in some cases, exaggeratedly) with a rose motif honoring Empress Eugenie's love of the flower. The third floor is eclectic, with embroidered baldachins, soft lamps, and heavy satin drapes in deep gold, green, and burgundy. The smaller Villa Eugenia has modern frescoed ceilings and direct spa access, and La Follie is a two-bedroom former gatehouse with a private garden. Though a chauffeured car is at guests' disposal for the short ride to Florence's center, you may never feel the need to leave Villa Cora. It has two terrific restaurants—the elegant gourmet Il Pasha and a luminous garden restaurant next to the heated white-stone pool—as well as two bars, one with an impressive selection of cigars, and a full-service spa with a sauna, steam room, and massive whirlpool bath. —2011 Hot List

Which room to book: Several third-floor rooms in the main villa have terraces with a view of Florence. In Villa Eugenia, Japanese-inspired No. 219 is gracious and more spacious.

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