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“Historic with views and bugs”

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Belmond Villa San Michele
Ranked #1 of 11 Hotels in Fiesole
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed April 8, 2006

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.

  • Stayed: August 2005
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37  Thank tullyraine
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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329 - 335 of 446 reviews

Reviewed October 26, 2005

Just returned from our second stay at the Villa San Michele and were delighted to find that it remains a very special place indeed. Not only is it situated in a perfect location, with breathtaking views of Florence, the place itself is stunning.

We were very well looked after from the moment we arrived and have seldom had such consistently good service. The restaurant serves dishes of the highest quality and the menu never palls. We booked a class in the cookery school and had great fun learning to make four classic recipes with the Executive chef - this is a great feature and definitely to be recommended.

Our Garden suite was lovely, well equipped and with a memorable bathroom/dressing room.

Stayed: October 2005
3  Thank elegantraveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 19, 2005

We had a deluxe double in the main building whith an excellent view of Florence. The sitting room section had been a corridor and the wardrobe, (clothes closet), had no doors and was in the bathroom. The marble tub was very small.
Excellent service, free minibus to and from Florence, excellent swimming pool and dining.

  • Stayed: September 2005
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2  Thank Maldoc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 11, 2005

My partner and I just returned from a 10 day holiday in Tuscany, 3 nights of which we spent at Villa San Michele. (For perspective, we stayed our first 3 nights at Locanda dell'Amorosa in Sinalunga outside Siena, and our final 3 nights at Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole.) Although we enjoyed our stay at San Michele, we can comfortably say that we will never return.

First, the positives: San Michele is quite a stunning retreat outside Florence. The views from the property over the city are amazing--quite possibly the best views of a city we've experienced anywhere, reminiscent of those from Ellerman House in Cape Town. The property is also a wonderfully tranquil escape from the city, despite the fact that you are only a 15 min drive into the historic center.

Now, the negatives: For the money, San Michele isn't worth it, in our opinion.

We reserved a junior suite and were told we had been upgraded to a nicer junior suite. For 1600 euro a night, we would expect more from the room. It was a nice enough room, but for that price we would expect a separate living room and bedroom, which this did not have, and a much bigger bathroom--though by European standards, and considering the historic nature of the property, that may be a bit unfair.

The restaurant was overrated. Food was good, but absolutely not worth the outlandish prices charged. We had dinner there the first night only, and it was unimagineative in our opinions, particularly compared to the wonderful restaurants in town the concierge recommended for our final 2 nights. (This seemed odd, considering the fact that the hotel has a well-regarded cooking school!) Despite the formal jacket requirement, they did not require us to wear our jackets, at least--a notable concession for such a stuffy place. Breakfasts were nice, however, as they would prepare whatever extra dish you requested beyond the wonderful buffet they offered.

Service was usually very good but a bit stuffy and business-like in our opinion, as noted in a previous review. As we are in our 30s and 40s, perhaps our relative youth might have been a factor here. Certainly, we feel that the hotel is more appropriate to an older set in their 50s at the youngest and in their 60s and up on average.

Basically, we are glad we experienced San Michele but would never return. For the money, we would get a bigger suite at one of the nicer hotels or villas in Florence with nicer and friendlier service and with better dining options. If you are considering Florence and feel like-minded, you may consider coming up to San Michele for lunch one day to get the escape without paying for the overpriced rooms and dinner!

  • Stayed: September 2005
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19  Thank Bill R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 26, 2005

Forget the sandy beaches on the Caribbean, forget the sunset cruises... if you want to experience pure romance, this is your perfect hideaway. Do as I did, book the romantic junior suite in the former Chapel and forget the rest of the world... after two days hidden in your suite, you may as well use the complimentary shuttle and go explore the beauty of Florence at just 10 minutes away. However, we could have spent 5 full days without leaving the resort, between the stunning restaurant, the excellent cooking school and the gorgeous swimming-pool!

  • Stayed: August 2004
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9  Thank AmanJunkie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 22, 2005

I just returned from Italy and stayed at Villa San Michele for three nights of our trip. Overall it was an extremely nice hotel and it is also VERY expensive. We had arranged one of the package deals with a superior room and the staff upgraded us to a junior suite upon arrival at no additional charge. The room was very large especially by European standards and very tastefully decorated. The bathroom was huge having two separate sink areas, a large walk in shower, jacuzzi tub, separate room for toilet and two separate dressing areas. In the junior suite, there was a very nice terraced outside sitting spot as well.
In some of the earlier reviews I read, there were complaints about thin walls and hearing others in the next room. We did not have that problem and there were people next to us all three days. We did have a 7 year old with us so perhaps we got put in one of the quieter, better insulated, rooms.
The pool area is as nice as any I have been to with a staggering view of the city of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan hillsides. It is heated, large and has more than ample amount of lounge chairs, towels etc.
Breakfast is included in the room rate and it is an enormous spread with all kinds of fruits, pastries, meats, cheese, champagne, juice, eggs and just about anything else you can think of. The outside eating area is in a cloistered terrace and overlooks Florence. Its very beautiful.
We did not eat dinner at the restaurant having a child with us as it is very formal. Jackets are required for men most of the year and some had on tuxedos for Saturday evening.
The staff was very attentive to any needs or questions we had however, they are somewhat businesslike and not ones to chat amiably with guests.
Overall, I enjoyed our stay and am glad we did it once. I doubt that I would go back though as having been to Italy several times, for a similar amount of money, I would rather rent a villa for a week or two in a small rural village. If you are looking for a beautiful and luxurious place to stay and get treated like a VIP as you tour Tuscany and/or Florence and are will to pay for it, then this place is for you.

11  Thank chril2us
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 4, 2005

The arrival to VSM is very nice, the location is private and quiet, the views are excellent and importantly, the concierage is simply outstanding.

To dine on the terrace at sunset was very nice. The food was good but not inspiring and more expensive than desired.

Our main complaint about Villa San Michele was room quality for the money. We paid ~US$1,000 per night for a room in need of improvement. The ceiling of our bathroom was decidedly below reasonable standards. The furnishings were in character but not terribly comfortable. The view was wonderful!

To sum up, there was much to like about VSM but we would explore an alternative on future visits to the Florence area. Ciao

  • Stayed: September 2004
    • Value
    • Rooms
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7  Thank k12dad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Belmond Villa San Michele

Address: Via Doccia 4, 50014, Fiesole, Italy
Phone Number:
Location: Italy > Tuscany > Province of Florence > Fiesole
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 11 Hotels in Fiesole
Price Range: $572 - $1,289 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Belmond Villa San Michele 5*
Number of rooms: 46
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

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