A Renaissance monastery with a façade by Michelangelo, transformed into a stylish boutique hotel: this is the Belmond Villa San Michele, a prestigious hotel nestled in terraced gardens with views over Brunelleschi’s Duomo in the heart of Florence below

From its façade attributed to Michelangelo to the fresco of the Last Supper on the wall, surrounding woodlands where Leonardo Da Vinci first attempted to fly, and fine dining Tuscan style within a 15th century monastery, Belmond Villa San Michele is a uniquely beautiful place to stay. As the sun casts golden light on Brunelleschi’s Duomo in the heart of Florence below, guests are relaxing in style in the peaceful hills of Fiesole, sipping an aperitif in the privacy of terraced gardens hosting 400-year-old wisterias. This is an historic and elegant place to stay, undoubtedly one of Italy’s finest boutique hotels.

Villa San Michele is all about the Tuscany of dreams. Two ancient sun-baked stone columns form the entrance gate. Olive and lemon groves scent the air. This Renaissance former monastery radiates classical Italian charm. Stepping through the ancient wooden doors still feels like walking into a Renaissance-era church. Chandeliers and tall windows bathe the room in soft light. The aspe and high altar remain, adorned with pietra serena columns. A painting of Christ hangs on the wall. There are four holy water stoups, two of which are dated 1515—possibly the year of the church’s original completion. In the Cenacolo Room, art aficionados feast their eyes upon Nicodemo Ferrucci’s Last Supper fresco, painted on the walls of the former refectory in 1642. It has not always looked so spectacular. Over the centuries, smoke from the fireplace and steam from food dulled the colours. When it was restored in 1999, a host of previously unseen details were revealed. A white cat appeared at the foot of the table and an oil lamp above Christ’s halo. Judas’s identity became clear: he is the only apostle without a halo.

More treasures are there to discover, among them the 15th-century fresco of the Ascension Of Our Lord, and Donatello’s coat of arms for the Davanzati hangs in the cloister. A painting by Santi di Tito hangs on the wall, and a stone coffin bears the insignia of Pope Eugene IV. Perhaps the villa’s most famous guest was Napoleon Bonaparte, who after his dissolution of the monastic orders used the Michelangelo suite as his headquarters.

Today the accommodation is firmly rooted in the hotel’s rich past. Guest rooms in the old monastery feature walnut furnishings, terracotta floors and Carrara-marble bathrooms with separate showers and large sunken tubs. Annex rooms have larger bathrooms, and some have gardens. All have views over the cloister or the spectacular surroundings beyond. Suites offer everything from private terraces to wall-to-wall glass and stone fireplaces. The Leonardo is especially impressive, so-called for its position on the hill where Leonardo da Vinci tested his flying machine.

Though sensitive to the villa’s past, there have been plenty of welcome additions. Contemporary art is spread across the grounds, while a swimming pool and cutting-edge spa round off a retinue of luxury facilities. Expect Swedish massages, facials, body and hair treatments, yoga classes and a state-of-the-art fitness centre.

The large outdoor terraces, in addition to offering splendid views of Florence and the Chianti hills, are enhanced by the elegance of the Varaschin furnishings. Expect views of cypress trees spilling down to terracotta rooftops, with the city itself, some 2 miles away, reached by a complimentary transfer. And, this panorama is best enjoyed with a drink in the garden bar or on the dining terrace, where the chefs make the most of ultra-fresh ingredients. The Villa has three excellent restaurants—La Loggia, Ristorante San Michele and the Pool Grill.

Breakfast in Ristorante San Michele is delicious—an abundant selection features made-to-order omelettes and eggs, and buffet with cheese, salmon and meats. Extra luxurious is the champagne and caviar breakfast. Restaurant La Loggia, the main restaurant located in the Renaissance loggia, is an incredible setting. Also expert mixologists mix up cocktails at La Loggia Bar as well as the cloister bar—perfect for sunset and the oh-so-Italian aperitivo hour.

CountryClubuk Members enjoy exclusive rates at Belmond Villa San Michele. You can book a night or nights or add to a ‘Grand Tour’ itinerary making a seven-night holiday in all, for an even better CCUK rate. Call Member Services on 020 7399 2960 to check options, or contact us by following the link below.

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