Perched on the side of a steep hill overlooking the red roofs of Florence, this converted 15th-century monastery is enshrouded by Italianate gardens filled with lemon trees, jasmine and rosemary, and plenty of nooks and crannies to play ‘hide and smooch’ in. A moss-encrusted statue here, a flower-covered pergola there, an ancient chapel tucked up in the trees – actually this is one of the hotel’s 45 rooms – how private can you get?
The strict ‘no mobile phones’ policy ensures the atmosphere is always peaceful, which is huge relief when you want to wash the worries of the world away, lying by the pool. As tempting as it is to spend all your time around said delightful pool, there’s a free shuttle service that makes it dead-easy to pop into town for a visit to the leather market, Uffizi or Duomo before returning to the villa for an early evening aperitif.
Dinner is at La Loggia, the hotel’s open-air, cloistered restaurant. Here, giant vases of pink hydrangeas and cream tablecloths decorate the scene, and all the tables are directed towards the spectacular views of Florence and the Arno Valley. Order the warm lobster fillets with celeriac and thyme purée or the homemade Tuscan pasta with wild duck ragout and one of their finest bottles of Brunello, then settle in for one of the most magical meals of your life.
I can honestly say I have seldom come across a five-star hotel that boasts as much charm as Villa San Michele. All the original features of the main house have been preserved, including rustic terracotta floor tiles and frescoes that date back to 1602, yet the rooms – all scattered around the property – are tastefully updated with shiny walnut furniture, flat-screen TVs and enormous Carrara marble bathrooms. No wonder celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot, Vivienne Westwood and Julia Roberts return year after year – I know I’ll certainly be back.
Tel: +39 01 852 67803