Il Salviatino – a ravishingly updated 15th-century villa high in the hills over Florence – has a museum’s stash of 19th-century frescoes, antique bath tubs and valuable artworks. Beautiful boudoirs are graced with oak floors, silver candelabra, fresh orchids and exceptional views over the surrounding countryside towards Florence. When not taking in the views by the pool, there are two restaurants, a bar and a spa to explore.
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A can of Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil by Fattoria I Veroni
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability; after 4pm, you’ll be charged an extra night. Earliest check-in is 3pm.
Double rooms from £1563.38 (€1,706), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates €444–€2,900, including American-style à la carte breakfast.
Il Salviatino has a regular shuttle service into Florence.
From mid-January to mid-March annually.
At the hotel
Treatment rooms, gym, library, 12 acres of landscaped parkland, free WiFi throughout, free shuttle service to Florence. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Nespresso coffee machines, minibar, free mineral water at turndown, iPod docks available on request. Every bathroom has LED-lit rain showers with seats, and some have a Jacuzzi or an antique bath tub. All guests can call on one of the hotel's team of 'ambassadors' during their stay.
Our favourite rooms
The Melodia, Tegliacci and Affresco Suites are grand and opulent, with restored fresco ceilings, imposing fireplaces and plump chesterfields. The Ojetti Suite has a dramatic sun room, the floor of which is the glass ceiling of the hotel’s tremendous main staircase, a private roof terrace and a Jacuzzi bath with a spectacular view.
Open between April and October, the terraced pool area has three heated, cascading infinity pools, overlooking a green valley and surrounded by scented roses and lavender.
Set in a lush green corner of the hotel's grounds, La Spa at Il Salviatino uses products by Florentine’s famous perfumiers and cosmetologists. It has a dedicated team of therapists, specialising in aromatherapeutic relaxation and anti-ageing treatments. Treat yourself to a Tuscan-tinged pampering session that starts with a wine gel body scrub, moves on to a relaxing full body massage and ends with a moisturising facial.
Some Italian designer chic so you’re as stylish as your surroundings; trainers and swimwear for gym and spa; flat shoes for exploring Fiesole.
Smaller dogs are welcome to tag along free of charge, just not to meals in the restaurant. A dog bed and bowls are included and a dog sitting service is available on request. See more pet-friendly hotels in Florence.
Welcome, with free cots provided for three-year-olds and under. Extra beds are €70–€140. Babysitting costs around €30 an hour (book two days in advance). The restaurant has a kids’ menu, and there are floats at the pool.
La Terrazza has tables overlooking the Italian Gardens – you can even spy Florence’s Duomo in the distance.
Honour local heroes, with Gucci, Pucci, Cavalli or Ferragamo threads.
In winter (October to April), La Cucina del Salviatinois set in the hotel's library, a formal space, with just a cluster of candlelit tables and impressive portraits. In summer (April to mid-October), guests dine on the terrace – and at night, count the stars as they do so. The cuisine is a reinvented take on traditional Tuscan fare. Crowd-pleasers include ricotta and spinach gnudi and swordfish fillet with lemon and rosemary. Picks from the wine cellar are reliably excellent, and light snacks are served poolside too.
The Lounge Bar is a long, smart space on the ground floor, manned by baristas as beautiful as the surroundings. Patio doors lead out on to the balustraded balcony, which has wonderful vistas. The petite Pool Bar is open from April to September and serves light snacks and small plates.
You can eat at any time, wherever you wish to dine.
The 24-hour room service includes a selection of light snacks and dishes.
Florence's main airport, Peretola (aka Amerigo Vespucci; www.aeroporto.firenze.it), is just a 15-minute drive away. It's served by Alitalia (www.alitalia.com) and (www.cityjet.com), among others, and processes a handful a flights to European cities such as Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels and Madrid. Alternatively, fly to Pisa airport with Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) – a direct train takes 45 minutes to get into Florence and costs €5; or catch a flight to Bologna, and make the one-hour journey to Florence (www.trenitalia.it).
The nearest rail station is Santa Maria Novella, a 10-minute drive from the hotel. Tren Italia run services through this station, also connecting to Milan, Bologna, Rome and Venice (www.trenitalia.it).
The drive from Florence to the hotel takes just 10 minutes, and the hotel has free parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Spa Il Salviatino is worth dedicating a few hours of your life to, for its wonderful array of bespoke treatments. Try the skin-softening, sense-soothing 'Tuscany Pleaseure' wine-themed treatment package, which includes a blissful Italian-inspired aromatherapy massage, wine-must body wrap and exfoliating facial.
Ask the hotel to organise a private painting class, a cookery lesson, wine tasting or a session with a personal trainer. Il Salviatino can also arrange one-off experiences for guests, such as a visit to one of Florence’s skilled craftsmen to have shoes or a shirt made to measure. Explore the city’s boutiques, bars and galleries, and pick from the wealth of sightseeing options – admire the Duomo, visit the Campanile, trawl through the Uffizi’s collections and wander along the Ponte Vecchio. Walk through the olive groves and vineyards that lead to Fiesole and stop for a picnic.
Vinandro, a cosy wine bar, is five minutes’ drive away in Piazza Mino (+39 055 59121), and serves delicacies such as tagliata (Chianina beef steak with rocket and parmesan); the menu is brief but authentic (remember to book). North, on the outskirts of Montebeni, Ristorante Tullio on Via Ontignano (+39 055 697354) is worth visiting for hearty steak and peposo (spiced beef stew). Tullio has a deli, so stock up on picnic provisions, too. Sit among the bottles and hanging hams at Olio & Convivium (+39 055 265 8198), an elegant little eatery on Via di Santo Spirito that specialises in wine and olive oil.
Sweet-tooths should stop for ice-cream at Gelateria Badiani (+39 055 578682) on Viale dei Mille, or Il Tucano, at 8 Via Gramsci (+39 05 55 95 94).
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.