silvia
Silvia Pisci
Belmond Villa San Michele
Via Doccia, 4, 50014 Fiesole FI
22nd October 2015

Known as one of Belmond’s flagship properties worldwide and one if Italy’s most iconic hotels, Villa San Michele has to work really hard in order to keep up to its fame… Is it still able to do so?

Location
Away from the crowds of Florence, but only a 15 minutes’ drive from the center. From the hills of Fiesole you enjoy enchanting views over Florence while being surrounded by the ravishing Chianti countryside.
The hotel shuttle runs all day long and it’s very convenient to reach the city at any time. Plus, the drivers are friendly and knowledgeable, so you feel like being on a private tour of the city.
Who stays?
There is no question that Belmond Villa San Michele is one of the most romantic hotels in Italy, so you’ll see couples of any ages and nationalities. The luckiest ones are those who stay at the hotel of course, but many are coming “just” for a dinner at La Loggia restaurant or to sip a cocktail in the hotel gardens. Having said that, there were also a few families - the hotel's (great!) kids facilities are set away from the main buildings in order to keep the peaceful atmosphere throughout the day.
Style and Character
An old monastery from the 15th century renovated into a luxury hotel with a distinct local Tuscan touch, the classic elegance of this place is nothing opulent, yet the WOW factor is guaranteed. The harmony between Renaissance architecture (the façade is known to be an original work by Michelangelo) and the surrounding gorgeous nature is what leaves speechless. Belmond puts the cherry on top with its note-perfect warm service.
Service
The ability to combine old-times classic elegance and warm friendly service is, to me, Belmond’s strongest key of success. Rarely it feels that the elegant uniforms suit the staff so well. Everything was delivered in time, with a smile, and I felt pampered from the moment I entered the hotel till when I left…
As always, it’s all about the small details – the barman who remembers your favorite drink, the waiter who dismiss all formalities to play with a child, the feeling that you can enjoy your privacy at best while knowing that none of your preferences will pass by unnoticed.
Rooms and Suites
While all rooms are fairly spacious also on the basic levels, the view is what makes the difference. My hot bath with a view over Florence at sunset is something I will hardly forget in life. The décor is elegant but simple, with original details and wooden furniture from local craftsmen.
Bathrooms are ornamented by beautiful local marbles, and although I personally found them a bit too classic in style, I appreciated the fact that many of them feature windows to the outside panorama… and toiletries by Bvlgari :)
I loved the rough cotton linen (it’s one of those details that make the Tuscan-country charm!), although I realize that some of our clients might not enjoy them as much…
For those who like privacy and outdoor space, the Junior Suites (located on a separate building and all featuring a small private garden) are a perfect choice. These also have a slightly more modern feel. Instead, if you’re looking for the ultimate old-style charm, then go for the Suite Michelangelo – back in the days, this used to be no less than Napoleon’s Florentine base… it can now be yours for a bit more than EUR2,000 per night.
Food and Drink
La Loggia, the main restaurant at Villa San Michele, is well known also among locals as a top-class choice for traditional Tuscan dining. What made its fame worldwide, though, is its setting on what was once the cloister of the monastery. The atmosphere you can enjoy there in the evening, when the piano is playing, candles are lit on the tables, and Florence sparkles in the distance while Chianti is being poured on your glass…that's truly magic. No wonder that La Loggia is rated as one of the most romantic restaurants in the world.
Breakfast is also served in the cloister and it’s simply superb – everything is fresh and homemade, including bread, jams and cakes, appealing to any palate and ready to satisfy all dietary requirement. More than a monk, you feel like a king when spreading butter with VSM-sealed silverware, welcoming the day with such a view…

Serving light food and drinks, the pool bar is a cheaper and more informal alternative to La Loggia. I wanted to try it in the afternoon but it just closed (at 4.30 pm).

Lastly, don’t miss an aperitivo in the gardens, and trust the barmen’s suggestions… but always keep an eye to the prices if you want to avoid very unpleasant surprises!
Features, Wellness, and Amenities
The pool, nestled on the terraced gardens, is gorgeous although not very big (which is not a problem since the hotel is never very crowded during the day). There is no other place you want to be when the crowds clump in Florence during hot summer days.

The kids club is great! Away from the main building and well equipped to keep the kids busy all day and make them go to bed early ;)

With programs and private lessons to entertain kids and adults alike, the cooking school at Villa San Michele has gained an excellent reputation internationally as one of the best for Tuscan cuisine. The venue is beautiful, and prices are fair compared to what you usually pay in Florence for a private lesson.

I would have expected a bigger gym, I must admit…
Perceived Value
There are still places where Nature, art and service are blended in a masterly manner. When this happens in Florence you just have to pay for it, and you’re happy to. Villa San Michele is not for everybody, but once in a life this the place to splurge with your loved one, either to win her heart or later on to celebrate your anniversary.
Verdict
Villa San Michele keeps its position high on the top list of the iconic hotels in Italy, and for a reason. Competition among luxury hotels in Florence is played on very high levels, especially now that a couple of excellent new hotels offer a solid alternative to contemporary travellers. Still, the magic of this place is unique. I left Villa San Michele feeling privileged and thankful like few other times in my life.