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A beautiful Sunday in Firenze, thank you St. Regis Florence!

PHOTO: The ground floor view of the Winter Garden at St. Regis Florence (c) Sery Kim

After three days in Tuscany (more on that later), I happily came to Florence (or "Firenze" as it were) for a few additional days here in Italy. It's crazy, for me even, to think that I have been to Italy three times in the last five weeks: Le Meridien Rome back around February 19th; then Rome again last week -- yes, last week! -- at the Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Resort; and now to Tuscany with Il Catelfalfi and Firenze with St. Regis Florence. At the rate I am chalking up Italy points, I'll be ready to move here before I even know it!

PHOTO: My suite at St. Regis Florence (c) Sery Kim

The folks at Il Castelfalfi drove me to the St. Regis Florence instead of to the airport, which is a 15 minute drive away. We pulled up and I didn't realize this at-the-time but the hotel is located in a very old, very historic plaza called Piazza Ognissanti. Apparently in the 13th century Florentines spent the majority of their time shopping in this very area, as well as going to the church anchoring the square. It's rather small but it has a great location right next to the Arno River, three blocks from the famed Ponte Vecchio.

Once instead the hotel, St. Regis fans (such as myself) will note it is one of the more narrow hotels within the brand but it is no less lovely. The moment you walk in, your senses are infused with the signature Carolina 400 smell every St. Regis has. Of course, the service is impeccable. You are greeted while entering, then a different person takes your luggage and the two men at the official concierge desk greet you while being besieged by a sold-out hotel's guests.

Since I came at 10:30 my room wasn't ready so I headed upstairs to grab a cappuccino and then booked a transfer to The Mall. The hotel can arrange a transfer for you, 35 euro round-trip. If you haven't been to a luxury outlet before, and you love fancy designer brands, I would seriously say it is worth coming to Firenze just to go to this outlet. There's GUCCI, La Perla, Bottega, Burberry (lots of Burberry), Ferragamo (love Ferragamo), Prada and a lot more.

PHOTO: Two Gucci Marmont bags I was eyeing but didn't buy (c) Sery Kim

The lines to get into the store can be intense but luckily I came on a day where there weren't a whole lot of people. I found in the Gucci store the selection to be quite good. I was eye-balling these two Gucci Marmont bags and the prices were ridiculously cheap. The bags were 50% cheaper than in the U.S. Plus, on top of the discount, GUCCI was offering another 20-30% off and the luxury mall gives you 5% if you spend 500 euros and 10% off if you spend 1000 euros in one store. Then, on top of that, you get it tax-free and you get a tax refund of 12% if you are a foreigner! Meaning these two bags could be had for around $780 U.S.


PHOTO: My Prada bags (c) Sery Kim

I left Gucci without anything and headed to the Ferragamo store. Lately I've been really into Ferragamo shoes and man was it worthwhile. Not only did I find a great pair of shoes, but this belt I had been eye-ing in the U.S. (which was too expensive for my budget) was around $200 at the outlet. No way I wasn't going to buy it! So I snatched up two things in Ferragamo for an early birthday gift to myself -- only 24 more days to go! -- then I hopped over to the Prada store.

I really wish I would have taken a photo inside the store but photos were not allowed. I did sneak this photo of two bags I was eyeing when I took the stuffing out the bags to see how it would work. The white one was stickered at 900 euros and the oxblood one was stickered at 800 euro. I ended up getting the white one because, after all the discounts and savings and tax-free what-nots, the bag was about $675-$700 U.S. Original price? $2750.

Now that's a real steal! Note that the line inside Prada to check-out will run you close to an hour. INSANE.

PHOTO: The living room of my suite at St. Regis Florence (c) Sery Kim

I came back to Firenze on the seven euro bus that takes you from city center to the outlet mall, which is about a 50 minute drive from near Mercato Centrale, a 10 minute walk back to my hotel. I didn't want to wait anymore time for the St. Regis transfer but, little did I know, I should have done the shopping on Monday because the Uffizi Gallery and the Academia Museum are open on Sundays but closed on Mondays.

BUMMER! I love museums the most and am sad that I am going to miss seeing both of these great treasures. I suppose this is a good thing because it gives me a real reason to come back to Florence!

Anyway. More on the hotel. The suites are beautifully located on the Arno River, with grand floor-to-ceiling doors opening. Mine was directly on the break-line so I was very much calmed by the sound of rushing water, plus it started to thunderstorm with pouring rain and there is nothing I love more than rain on a Sunday. I took a video of it and if I can figure out how to put a video on this blog I will!

You know what. I actually haven't taken any photos of the bathroom so I will have to do that tomorrow, but the bed, couches and chairs are very comfortable. Of course there are very arty touches to the room as well. I really enjoy this classical style so it suits me quite well.

More on the hotel and Firenze tomorrow!

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