Housed in a former monastery on a hillside just outside Florence, Orient-Express‘ Villa San Michele in Fiesole (Tuscany) is probably the finest luxury resort hotel I have ever stayed at! Its flawless service, unique facilities and ambiance, reach levels of perfection achieved by only a handful of luxury resorts, worldwide.
Beyond its fifteenth century facade attributed to Michelangelo, the outdoor heated pool with the most spectacular panoramic views of Florence, the lobby which is the former chapel of the monastery and the lush and carefully manicured gardens (abundant in full bloom roses at the time of my visit this Spring), Villa San Michele’s spirit is defined by the spirit of its staff who take immense joy in their everyday work and who regard their job as a ‘privilege to take care of such a jewel’, a member of team told me during my stay, with her eyes almost bursting in tears…of happiness. That is why, the service they provide seems so natural and effortless, with the utmost attention to details and personalized service.
On my arrival, the lobby was full, with guests check-in and out as well as guests waiting for the shuttle to take them to downtown Florence. Not for one second, I did not feel neglected. The staff would not only know me by name but they would also warmly shake my hand and introduce themselves. And service remained at the highest personalized standard from the first minute I stepped into the hotel, to my check-out, when they genuinely made me sad for departing.
The way staff interact with each other is also unique – it’s truly a family – they make little jokes (never the ‘gossip’ type). Each and every smile you get is not only genuine but also very friendly and respectful at the same time. To understand this achievement, one should consider that the hotel is closed during late Fall and Winter and most of the staff are away. But most of them return, year after year, season after season. They would take huge pride in the innovative ideas and novelties they are able to surprise guests. It’s like welcoming home a close friend and the joy staff take in surprising guests.
This year, the small chapel in the garden has been transformed into a kids club, ‘equipped’ with a huge range of toys but also tools to encourage children to learn through play and discover the pleasure of creating. A member of the staff is available 6 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm to take care of the guests who come to Villa San Michele with their children – who, one day, will surely become, when they mature, patrons of this magical place.
For the 2013 Summer season, Villa San Michele has put together a one of a kind concierge offering, from sightseeing of Florence by rafting on the Arno river which crosses the city; traditional Italian cooking lessons with Chef Attilo di Fabrizio A Morning with the Chef, to the 4×4 off road discovery of the famous carrara marble quarries . For an experience of a lifetime, Villa San Michele is probably the most romantic and aristocratic setting for a wedding or a special anniversary.
The hotel offers a choice of two style of accommodations – heritage rooms and suites in the main building and contemporary with a classic twist new accommodations, most of them Junior Suites and Suite built in the early 80’s. I was pampered to a Junior Suite, with a large private terrace (no photos or videos can do justice to the stunning views), not to mention the sound of birds and the wind going through the lemon trees which is unique. Junior Suites feature a large king size bed, a comfortable couch and sitting area, a generous business desk and a huge bathroom, with two separate vanities and wardrobes for Him and for Her, including an oversized marble shower and separate bathtub (make sure you don’t miss the Bvlgari green tea bath experience!).
As for convenience, Villa San Michele is the perfect way to explore Florence, within less than 20 minutes from the crowded city centre, with the scheduled shuttle of the hotel, which drops off and picks up guests from the same spot in the heart of Florence, in Piazza Reppublica. Florence International airport is 20 minutes drive from the hotel (10 km), while the main railway station is within a 15 minutes drive from the hotel. The historical cities of Pisa and Siena are less than 90 km from the hotel.
The terrace of the Loggia Restaurant which serves the finest authentic Tuscan food and exquisit selection of Tuscan wines, as well as the intimate Terrace by the swimming pool are the best spots to enjoy the most romantic dinner or a tasty lunch. Whether it is a traditional pizza or a more sophisticated dish, whether for room service or the buffet breakfast, the Chef makes a priority to service locally sourced ingredients, most of them organic.
Oliver Petcu in Fiesole – Florence
A comprehensive selection of photos is available in a dedicated gallery on our Facebook page.
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