We rode the train from Rome to Florence, where two tall, handsome Italian men in designer suits pulled up to the station in a sleek, black luxury sedan to give us a pre-arranged ride. This is one of many perks as part of a stay at the aptly named Grand Amore Hotel and Spa. Those men, coupled with the hotel’s premium view of Il Duomo and Florence’s rooftops, almost upstaged the sexy hotel design of Italian architect Marianna Gagaliardi. In fact, architectural competition is at every turn in this “cradle of the Renaissance”.
Greeted by the smiling concierge, Daniela, my companion and I were ushered to a room filled with our favorites, thanks to a pre-stay form that offered our choice of beverages, flowers, pillows… right down to our mattress preference. Tickled, yet feeling a bit unworthy of the attentiveness, we pulled ourselves together, unpacked our bags and ran outside to explore one of the world’s most vibrant, romantic and charming cities in Italy.
Through the thick terrain of tourists along the landmark shopping area of Ponte Vecchio, we stopped to marvel over the medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River. Like a magnet to tourists, our next stop was to the Academia Gallery to view tombs of the greats before a glass of Chianti washed down our lunch of bruschetta, salad and lasagna. Savoring the sights was seemingly endless, but we finally exhausted ourselves into a nap back at Grand Amore.
Once re-energized, we stopped for a wine tasting at the hotel’s café, and then left for dinner off-the-beaten path at Café Nortte, a casual place to enjoy fresh, homemade Italian pasta you’d think your grandma cooked for Sunday family dinner. Back at Grand Amore, we were spent and ready for slumber, surrounded by walls hung with black and white vintage photographs from Florence’s Fratelli Alinari, a compliment to the ivory, crimson and grey color scheme.
By morning, the soothing classical music coming from a speaker in the wall signaled our time in Florence was at a close. Ten minutes later, a quiet knock at the door signaled our breakfast of favorites was ready, based on our pre-stay form preferences. I had one more experience before we departed, but first, a rainfall shower was in order, but I couldn’t resist the transition to a Jacuzzi soak.
I was glad to jump start my relaxation before my energy healing treatment with the spa's guest healer, Sunitha Ranasinghe. This petite woman is from Sri Lanka but has lived in Florence for more than 20 years. She has a gift that cannot be explained beyond her studies in Thailand and profession as an acupuncturist.
For my treatment, no needles were used. Sunitha used her hands -- and sometimes her feet as I lay on the queen-sized puff of a cushion set on the floor in one of the hotel spa’s treatment rooms. She had filled a wooden bowl with water but didn't ask me to soak my feet as I predicted. Instead, she instructed me to lie face down on the cushion so she might explore my acupressure points. Preoccupied with my feet, her hands finally pinpointed my sore neck and lower back, victims of walking and carrying luggage. Due to the prior evening’s wine consumption, I was also a bit hung over; Sunitha had her work cut out for her.
She stretched my arms, legs, and flicked off my negative energy. She pushed and prodded into the target of my body pains as I exhaled to remove the stress and pain. An hour later, I sat face-to-face with Sunitha so we could discuss her findings. She revealed my hip issues that remain from giving birth 26 years ago, but, she says she worked it out. More revelations indicated my “beautiful, big heart” and my future to do special things for this world. I am warned to empty my mind before bedtime, eat more vegetables, stop eating by 8 p.m. and follow my path to love and healing.
I exited Grand Amore void of bodily aches and pains I felt upon arrival. Instead of pain, I was filled with calmness and appreciation of this special lady who offered her gift of wellness to me.
Note: You can follow Sunitha Ranasinghe on