Belmond Villa San Michele gets all the attention, given its Michelangelo façade and pride of place high on the hill overlooking Florence. But slightly down the hill in the same town, Fiesole, a bit closer to Florence, Il Salviatino is a hidden gem, an intimate 15th century villa recently renovated to show off its vintage highlights with a more contemporary feel. Colors are lighter, furniture a mix of modern and traditional and furnishings arranged to maximize space. Many of the rooms and public spaces have intricate frescoes, now more visible due to the lightening of décor around them. Chief among them: the Affresco Suite centered around an 1886 fresco by Bruschi and two oil canvases by Gabriel van der Leeuw.
The grounds, measuring 12.5 acres, now include dense gardens with a history of their own—some of the plantings were designed by a local arboreal archeologist to revive local fruits and vegetables that once appeared bound for extinction. They form the basis of the menu devised by new chef Stefano Santo who previously ran the kitchens at other Tuscan retreats including Borgo Santo Pietro and Castello del Nero in dishes such as gnocchi with pumpkin and chanterelle jus.
Given its proximity to Florence and the artisans who have always been an important part of that city’s population, the hotel has also introduced a program of experiences that guests can book to learn more about their artistry on an individual basis. Some of the experiences including creating a unique perfume, leather notebook or artisan paper.
Back on the property, guests are looked after by service ambassadors and encouraged to relax after busy days running around Florence, whether in the hotel’s spa or in the extravagance of a bathtub filled with champagne. And activities are expanding to keep them on the property when the hotel opens for the season in April from hunting for truffles to combing through the forests for wild plants which then form the basis of dishes in a cooking class. Or if they feel like exploring the countryside, they’re given a Ferrari for a self drive tour–the best way to travel the Tuscan landscape.