Today, elegant villas dot the hillsides together with one of Italy’s most cherished hotels, Villa San Michele.
Formerly a monastery, the hotel is a masterpiece of loving restoration by Belmond set within exquisite gardens. The colonnaded façade of the main hotel is said to have been designed by Michelangelo and frescoes adorn the walls within.
The fact that the villa looks down on Florence’s Duomo and is detached from the hustle bustle is one of its great attractions. Utter peace can be found in the vaulted lounges, the exquisite Loggia restaurant open to the hills and city view and in the beautiful semi-formal Italian garden.
The best rooms are, in fact, those hidden high above the garden in a modern extension which feels thoroughly Renaissance on the inside. Tiled floors, dark furniture and huge marble bathrooms are cool, comfortable and gracious – this is five-star luxury without the bling. The garden suites have private terraces overlooking the wisteria-clad wall of the old monastery and a magnificent flower-ringed lawn. Within the grounds there is also an open-air heated swimming pool.