I scanned some of the comments on the Villa San Michele before I wrote this piece (one of them claims to be by a travel writer!) and I wondered if we stayed at the same hotel.
The villa is situated in the hills of Fiesole with beautiful views across Florence and the valley. The facade of the old monastery building was designed by Michelango and that is the hotel’s finest feature.
My wife and I visited in August 2005. We stayed in a room in the main building on our first night and subsequently in a junior suite in the grounds for the remaining time.
Many of the rooms in the garden area have small semi-private terraces with views of Florence. Some of the garden “cottages” have private spaces. The location therefore is “picture postcard” perfect. The downside is that the hotel is built into the hillside, so that any rooms in the main building facing the rear have a view of a stone wall a few feet from the window. No sun permeates this chasm and the rooms with this aspect have very little daylight. They are gloomy and in semi darkness at all times of the day to such an extent that one needs to leave the lights on no matter how bright a day it is outside. We were offered one of these rooms for the first night of our vacation and paid over €1,000 for the privilege of staying in it. They should have paid us!
I may on a bit of a rant here, but I hate hotels that give you the worst room in the house when you arrive late in the afternoon and think that you should find it acceptable. Normally this occurs when one is the last to arrive and everyone else has rejected the room…..leaving you to draw the short straw. On this occasion it was because of a full house and a late booking. However, they should have told us what to expect.
On our second day we were moved to a junior suite in a terrace of outside rooms set back into the hillside with large (floor to ceiling) front windows, containing a glass door inset into the window, overlooking the garden area. There are no windows to the rear or sides for obvious reasons. The glass door opens up onto a small semi private terrace with public walkways to the front of it. The décor of the room is tired and sparse - the most notable feature and conversation piece being a television that rises out of a box at the bottom of the bed. The room was furnished meagerly in a rustic manner (as is most of the hotel). There was nothing comfortable or chic about it. However, it was very clean. Although described as a junior suite, it was in reality a slightly larger than average sized bedroom. For this we paid in well in excess of €2,000 per night.
As the room was set into the hillside, it gave the feeling of staying in a cave – complete with bugs! The design,landscaping and the setting attract mosquitoes in abundance. I still carry the scars.
Again, because of the hotel’s location there are steps everywhere. It is not suitable for someone who has ambulatory problems. The swimming pool has stupendous views, but it is 90 plus stair-steps up the hillside. There is no lift, so you need to be into hill walking.
The restaurant with its external cloistered balcony has the most beautiful and romantic view over Florence. The food was average, not of Michelin star quality and nothing like it is possible to experience in France. Do not stay too late enjoying your companions or sipping wine slowly. The member of staff left to “close up” takes a dim view, scowling at the night owls.
Which brings us to service: It was polite and pleasant (except late at night, as above) and especially so during the lunch period. The Maitre de was professional and polished with the demeanor of a “Hudson” and would not have been out of place in Buckingham Palace. The front of house staff were welcoming, helpful and informative; the only exception occurring when we voiced our resistance to staying in the villa’s “dark room” for our first night.
Would we go back? Definitely not. I value my comforts too much. And in return for a 5 star price, I expect 5 star accommodation, comfort and service; not an overpriced, mosquito ridden, monastic cell.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A short distance from the centre of Florence, Belmond Villa San Michele is housed in a 15th-century monastery with a façade designed by Michelangelo. It is surrounded by a large, wooded park and lush terraced gardens boasting magnificent views of the city and the Arno Valley below. The 45 bedrooms and suites are simple, peaceful and elegant while the Renaissance splendour of Florence is a mere 15 minutes away with the complimentary shuttle service, running every 20 minutes. La Loggia Restaurant provides a unique dining venue where guests can enjoy their lunch or dinner, based on Italian and Tuscan cuisine, while admiring the view over Florence. For a light lunch or a snack, the Pool Restaurant, situated directly by the hilltop panoramic swimming pool, is the ideal place. For food lovers, the renown Cooking School offers hands-on lessons to learn how to prepare the best Italian specialties. A Kids' Club and a dedicated Kids' Concierge are available to make the stay of younger guests truly unforgettable. The new Davanzati Room offers privacy and tranquillity thanks to its exclusive location, and a spacious terrace with a view for small banquets, cocktails and coffee breaks. Ideal for hosting meetings, launches and presentations, it also serves as a space for banquets for up to 100 people. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Villa San Michele By Orient-Express Hotel Fiesole
- Hotel San Michele
- San Michele Hotel
- Belmond Villa San Michele Fiesole, Province Of Florence, Italy