Superlatives could seem inadequate to describe this experience. This hotel is right up there in our top ten which includes Gidleigh Park, Cliveden, Ellenborough Park and others. We love trying wonderful places especially when we can get an offer and breakfast is included. This hotel, a private villa was built in 1860 for the Baron von Oppenheim and has been restored to period glory, from the chandeliers to the marble floors and everything in between. We had driven from Pisa and arrived on a misty morning to be met by Marco at the most informal hotel reception ever. This was like being welcomed into someone's home. Marco, Alessandro and other front of house staff that we encountered but whose names we didn't learn were always attentive, helpful, smiling and kind. They went out of their way to make sure we were informed, advised and encouraged; nothing was too much trouble and everything was done with good grace. Our room was outstanding, a huge room with a four poster bed, two big windows overlooking, on one side, the pool and woodland and on the other the front gates and the driveway and in the distance the hills beyond Florence itself. The bathroom was huge with a bath and separate shower. We had read about the distance from the town and knew what to expect and we were quite happy with a walk down to the Oltrano and beyond. We were offered the shuttle bus but didn't use it. We had a car and sometimes parked along the road at Piazzale Michaelangelo, (free parking), and walked down to the town from there. This spot is a 'must' to see the sunset view over Florence, it is just wonderful.
We ate in the hotel, their cuisine is stunning, the chef is obviously passionate about his kitchen and the outcome is wonderful, delicious food. We had a full meal in the evening, a smoked duck breast amuse bouche, a shared starter of risotto with brown cow's pecorino (sic) and ham, a local chicken dish with crushed potatoes, a zuppa inglese followed by extra complimentary brandy snaps, chocolates and macaroons. All of this was absolutely spot on, fine dining, and the service ever attentive. A big mention for Vittoria and her staff in the dining room who were lovely. Breakfast was a real pleasure, the choices of fruits, yoghourts, jams, breads - made in the kitchen, cakes, (thank you for introducing us to kitchen made ricciacelli!) croissants and tarts - also made on the premises. Eggs were cooked to order with panchetta all accompanied by the best coffee. We also had room service, a simple fillet steak with chips, simple but beautifully cooked and served. We shared the hotel with a gastronomic group who meet there to eat 'special' food, on this occasion a particular Tuscan chicken dish served in the dining room of the original house, this was on the Friday night. On Saturday there was a dinner for the Tuscan Porsche owners club. I think the message here is that local Italians recognise the quality of what is available here.
There is a heated swimming pool, the only one in Florence, and a full spa offering a range of treatments. We did not try the pool or the treatments.
Four days from Nov 30th to Dec 4th was an excellent time to go. Yes, there was a rainy day but the was also a full on blue sky day and the town was busy but without the crowds that can make visiting the sights a pain. There were no queues for the Uffizi, the Santa Croce, the Baptistry and other places, it was wonderful, in the summer these can be two hour waits and we don't do those well!
I believe it is so special that everyone should visit Florence at least once in their lives if they have the opportunity, it is magical to see so much preserved history in one beautiful city and it holds such an important place in our cultural heritage. This is the perfect hotel to enjoy such a once in a lifetime experience.