Given that some of the world’s most exquisite and momentous cultural offerings hail from bell’Italia I have high hopes for Il Salviatino. My own job is to sell beautiful fantasy and spectacle on stage; and I believe in the words of Walt Disney when he said that fantasy and reality overlap. So as I decant my biggest, most fabulous gold jewellery and my finest Italian shoes into my modest leopardskin weekend case, I hope that after a brief flight I'll soon be feeling like Sophia Loren dating Michaelangelo on the set of a Fellini film. With the Ferrero Rocher ambassador waiting on me as I savour my Barolo.
As our driver pulls into the grounds of Il Salviatino passing through towering gates, the grand mansion rears into view at the top of the hill, all strong masculine and imposing lines among beautiful floral gardens, I realise my vision wasn’t so off. Imagine my delight as I emerge from the car to be greeted immediately by two handsome, immaculately groomed men in matching beige Italian tailoring, introducing themselves as my ambassadors for the duration of my stay. No gold-foil chocolates, but instead a much more fitting glass of welcome rosé champagne is offered to me and Mr Smith as our bags are whisked away to our awaiting suite. As there is no reception or check-in to mar the homely feel of the house, all we have to do is call our ambassador for any whim or request to be tended to. This must be the height of discretion and luxury.
The overall design feel of Il Salviatino is very masculine, elegantly executed, and not overbearing. It’s for grown-ups make no mistake, with dark heavy woods against white walls adorned with renaissance paintings, padded red velvet doors and vast high ceilings. Anything girlish or floral is kept to the stunningly manicured gardens. Our suite has a beautiful view of the terrace, and the skyline of Florence twinkles beyond.
Then I realise my bathroom has no bath, only a shower. This is a dealbreaker for me – Miss Blaize and her bubble baths are not easily parted, a very British trait I’m told. It is time to test my ambassador. My damsel-in-distress call is rewarded with a message flashing back on my phone: ‘Il Magnifico has been alerted.’ Within 15 minutes I am given a new room with a Jacuzzi bath and a 20ft bathroom and an even more beautiful view of the gardens. Il Magnifico is on my Christmas card list forever.
Mr Smith books for us to dine on the terrace overlooking the gardens, despite my wariness due to the heavy rain earlier. Yet warm evening sunshine prevails (these ambassadors really can work miracles) and our alfresco experience is superb, accompanied by soft melodies wafting over from the pianist. Classic Italian cuisine is of course flawless and I sample everything from tuna tartare, to meatballs and even wild pork. Penne with squid is a showstopper.
At the first sign of a goosebump, an ambassador appears at my side with an array of cashmere blankets to drape at my shoulders. A Hennessy nightcap in the library completes a beautiful and romantic evening. Vintage books are to be found all over the mansion, not just the library. Even in my room, there nestled next to GB Shaw’s plays is an unlikely source of romantic advice in the form of a small book from 1908 on ‘Modern Cement Sidewalk Construction’. Headings include ‘Don’t work for a rich cheap man and lose your reputation’ and ‘A lesson in the use of the expansion joint’. Wise words, indeed.
The next day, after a blissful breakfast of eggs Florentine – well, when in Florence – I fancy some retail therapy. A luxury shuttle deposits us in the town centre at – to Mr Smith’s dismay – the equivalent of Bond Street, albeit infinitely more picturesque, naturally. Like a homing pigeon, I bypass the labels that I can buy in London and snap up instead some fabulous vintage, including an adorable Moschino jacket. But what I really came for is the famous parfumerie, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Occupying a former church it is full of herbal potions, spicy syrups and exotic tonics in pretty bottles with charming apothecary-like labels. The stuff of dreams, it is the most sensual shopping experience I’ve ever known. Scents even spill out into the street so that Mr Smith has to drag away the person dressed in a Lagerfeld cape, turban and shades, madly sniffing at the windowsills. At least now I have my own fragrance with which to remember this amazing trip.
To relax from a day of shopping and sights, we seek out the spa. Il Salviatino is perfectly located so that you can dip in and out of the hustle and bustle of central Florence, and retreat back to the mansion for sanctuary. I select some of the signature Spa Il Salviatino treatments to revive myself – an Egyptian jasmine body massage (I wince at the thought of recommending the ‘grape-crushing’ treatment to Mr Smith.) Two and a half hours of pure heaven later, I emerge genuinely smelling of jasmine. So much so, that when I return to my room Mr Smith remarks that I am ‘glowing’, and he even checks to see if my feet are actually touching the floor.
Aperitivo is by far my favourite time of the day, and I couldn’t leave Il Salviatino without sampling their service. The hotel's signature cocktail proves to be my favourite; a classic dry martini and shaken to perfection – just like all that they do. Nothing here is nouveau in any sense – even the light fittings are discreetly concealed to retain a classic feel. But more than that, while this isn’t somewhere to experience on a budget, nor is it the place to have other people watch you spend your money; if that’s your wont, head for St Tropez. Il Salviatino is about discretion and stealth wealth. Every detail – from the fragrant rose jam at breakfast to the fresh white roses in the rooms – screams, or rather murmurs delicately, elegance and class. I really was Sophia Loren for the weekend, and I won’t lie, it was wonderful.
Anonymously reviewed by Immodesty Blaize (Burlesque beauty)
Whenever you book a stay at a Mr & Mrs Smith, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life guests had to say in Il Salviatino's guestbook below.
We thought this hotel was just wonderful and the staff could not have been more helpful. The rooms are gorgeous throughout the hotel and the views simply spectacular. Florence is just a short ride away on the shuttle bus so you can dip in and out of the bustle of the city as you please. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough. We hope to return.
Sarah, BlackSmith stayed on 6 Oct 2013
We had the most phenomenal honeymoon at Il Salviatino and are counting down to our anniversary so we can go back! Nothing was too much trouble – private museum tours, last-minute car hire debacles, countless restaurant reservations, vineyard lunches – the fabulous concierge sorted it all. The location – minutes out of Florence yet with the feeling of being miles away – can't be beaten. It's understated luxury at its absolutely best; our favourite ever Smith hotel.
Stephanie, SilverSmith stayed on 14 Jul 2013
The excellent hospitality - nothing was too much trouble. The beautiful, peaceful, opulent surroundings. We didn't want to leave.
Tracy, SilverSmith stayed on 3 Sep 2012