A detailed and unsponsored review of the amazing Villa San Michele by Belmond – probably the best luxury hotel in Florence
Florence is an amazing place. I should know because I have been there many times. But in a city with so many tourist attractions (read my list here) finding a good hotel worth its money is not always easy. That’s why I wrote this review of my new favorite hotel in town for you: The Belmond Villa San Michele.
To be fair, the unique luxury property on the outskirts of Florence isn’t exactly cheap. But it is well worth it. Where else can you sleep in a Renaissance monastery with the perfect views of Florence?
If you are looking for some authentic pictures (beyond the usual booking sites) and a first-hand impression of this amazing luxury hotel, you came to the right place. Tuscany is really a special place (make sure to read my guide) and this hotel will not disappoint. So, let’s start with my review of the Belmond Villa San Michele, shall we?
Note: This is a non-sponsored review. I had no association with Belmond hotels at all and paid for my 3-night stay myself. I do earn a small commission from purchases through the links in this article.
Villa San Michele: An overview
The unique Belmond luxury hotel (book it here) has quite ancient origins. In the mid-15th century, the noble Davanzati family donated the grounds to the Franciscans who build a monastery there and used it ever since. In the 18th century, when Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved all orders, the monks had to abandon the Villa San Michele, though.
Interesting fact: The famous French statesmen and military genius even briefly used the derelict monastery as his headquarters in Florence. It was converted into a hotel in 1950 and Belmond took over the property in 1982 and transformed it into the hotel you see today: Nestled into the most beautiful gardens ever, there are 45 rooms and suites, 1 restaurant, a spacious pool.
Unlike most other luxury hotels in Florence, Villa San Michele is located in the suburb of Fiesole, where once Leonardo da Vinci tested his flying machines and the Medici had their private villas. The views of the city is nothing short of spectacular.
All in all, the hotel is quite intimate and feels, thanks to the 15th-century building, incredibly authentic and comfortable. Guests will enter the property via a winding road and marvel at the ancient chapel which now serves as a lobby (and can be booked for weddings, etc.).
The rooms at Villa San Michele
But let’s talk about the rooms first. I had a Junior Suite (book it here) which I feel is the perfect room category. Unlike the standard rooms (which have the bonus of being in the historic part of the hotel), the suites all share a little terrace overlooking Florence.
With 35m² /377ft² the Junior Suite was comparable spacious and are really lacking nothing. It was tastefully decorated, if a bit conservative, and featured all the amenities you’d expect at a luxury hotel:
A well-stocked mini-bar, coffee machine, entertainment system, slippers and bathrobes, and so on. There were small sitting area and a sofa to rest your sore feet after a long day exploring Florence.
I particularly liked the huge bathroom with its totally separate his and her sinks and ample storage space for your luggage. Ladies will probably appreciate the fact that Aqua di Parma shower gels, conditioners, and so one are supplied.
The terrace of the Junior Suite was quite large (around 30m²) and came with a little sitting area and a sunshade. Sadly, it only grants a moderate form of privacy as only a small hedge separates you from your neighbor, and people may see you from the terraces above.
It’s probably nothing to complain about because there’s not infinite space in a historic villa, but again something you should be aware of. From what I saw, the Limonia Suites were located in a more private part of the gardens.
The restaurant and breakfast at Villa San Michele
Villa San Michele is a relatively small luxury hotel and so there is only one proper restaurant where dinner, lunch, and breakfast is served. You can also get small snacks at the bar or the pool bar, though. But let’s start with breakfast.
Breakfast at Villa San Michele deserves 5-stars for the view alone. Enjoying your morning coffee (or hot chocolate in my case) with the fantastic panorama of Florence unfolding in front of you is just priceless. The spacious terrace is just breakfast perfection.
That being said, the buffet itself is only mediocre, and maybe a testament to the fact that breakfast is not exactly the most important meal in Italy. While there is a selection of mozzarella, salmon, ham and the other basics, I really missed a wider range of the fabulous Italian cheese (Gorgonzola, Robiola, you name it) or a selection of the amazing Tuscan salami and wurstel.
Juices and fruits were great, while the bread selection was a bit wanting. I expected a bit more than just toast, plain focaccia, and baguette. I don’t remember seeing any gluten-free options (though, I am sure they can be arranged).
Naturally, I also ordered me some eggs benedict (which were okay) and scrambled eggs (which were very lovely), while international sweet classics like porridge really weren’t en par with the quality standards you’d expect at a Belmond property.
All in all, Villa San Michele serves decent breakfast with a view to die for. The historic cloister, where you’ll find the breakfast buffet, is also quite the special and impressive spot. In my opinion, nothing speaks against booking a rate where it’s included.
The La Loggia Restaurant
With such a beautiful setting, I couldn’t help but reserve a table for one night as well. While there are quite some lovely restaurants in Fiesole as well, I do recommend you to eat dinner at Villa San Michele once.
It’s quite the fine-dining hotspot in Florence right now and tables are often fully booked. According to the hotel-website “few restaurants in the world are as romantic”, and I can certainly sign that.
I think Belmond aspires to score a coveted Michelin star here. I’m not entirely sure they are at that level yet, but the tasting menu I sampled was quite well-executed across the board. At 125 € per person, it was also not too expensive for 6 courses.
I well remember an exceptional Amberjack ceviche and a roasted pigeon with the most interesting texture. The wine list was also quite reasonable, and fans of Brunello will probably rejoice at the rather low markups.
So, definitely reserve a table!
You’ll find the pool of the Villa San Michele on a verdant terrace above the hotel. The view from here is, again, spectacular. It’s the perfect space to while away a lazy afternoon or go for an early morning swim.
Personally speaking, an infinity pool would have been the cherry on the icing, but maybe there were some restrictions when integrating it into the 15th-century ensemble, I dunno. The pool is 25 meters long, so perfect for swimming and the big sun loungers allow a bit of privacy despite the limited space.
What I really hated about the pool are the beach cabanas. You had to book them separately for like 120€. If you didn’t book it, you couldn’t rest there. You’d get a bottle of bubble and some nibbles for it, but the whole concept just screamed insolence. When you are paying 1,000 € a night for a top luxury hotel, you just don’t expect Ryanair upselling methods.
I only had one quick lunch at the pool bar, so I’m a bit hesitant to write about it. Generally speaking, the quality was very good, though the prices a bit hefty (26€ for a Carpaccio). Cocktails were also quite pricey and rather standard in their execution. I don’t mind paying 20€ for a Moscow Mule, but then I sort of expect a 20€ Moscow Mule which it clearly wasn’t. But then again, prices at comparable luxury hotels in Italy are about the same.
Oh..and perhaps it bears mentioning that there is no spa. There’s a tiny little fitness room, but no spa. I usually don’t miss it in city hotels, but I certainly wanted to point it out.
General service at Villa San Michele
The service at Villa San Michele was spotless throughout my stay of 3 nights. Often, you experience those little moments at luxury hotels that make you cringe. Like when a waiter crosses your table with his arms to retrieve a plate or house-keeping doesn’t coordinate with your breakfast or excursion times.
At the Belmond Villa San Michele, I had none of these moments at all. Everything, from concierge to house-keeping was flawless. The complimentary shuttle bus to downtown Florence was obviously a nice bonus.
To be fair, there weren’t those wow-moments either (like when the staff reminds you to take an umbrella because it’s going to rain later in the afternoon, etc). But overall it was one seamless and unobtrusive process that spoke of well-refined management of the property.
Summary of my Belmond Villa San Michele review
All in all, Villa San Michele is definitely among the top 3 luxury hotels in the city. It certainly is my favorite property in Florence. If you are like me and prefer a spectacular view and some solitude instead of a central city hotel, I’m sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy the Villa San Michele.
Service was, as mentioned above, spotless, as were the well-appointed rooms. The pool area is a bit in need of an upgrade, and the lack of a proper spa might be something Belmond needs to address in the future.
I’m sure the overall design of the hotel will speak to guests who enjoy a classic take on luxury. In terms of breakfast, I would have expected a bit more variety, even though dinner was superb.
Overall, I can recommend the property from the bottom of my heart. It offers a fairly good bang for your buck in a unique historic setting. You’ll truly feel like residing in a Medici villa, and I guess there is no better accolade for a hotel in Florence, eh? So what are you waiting for?