Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel, Florence
It’s hard not to be moved by the mesmerising views of the sunlit Tuscan countryside as you look out from the grounds of Villa San Michele. Below you Florence shimmers, with the Duomo emerging from the terracotta rooftops like Venus from her shell. Yet astonishingly, it’s difficult to say what’s visually more appealing, the views at your feet or the San Michele itself.
Formerly a 15th-century Franciscan monastery, the villa was reportedly designed by Michelangelo, and many of the original features have been preserved. Think cloisters, wide arches, vaulted ceilings and terracotta floors worn smooth by the shuffling of monks. Dark wooden doors sport massive metal bolts and open into doorways designed for people of a mediaeval stature. Faded portraits still hang on the corridor walls, and a fresco Last Supper looks down upon the dining room.
But despite the monastic fixtures, Villa San Michele is anything but austere. Champagne and caviar are served at breakfast, mixologists prepare cocktails at Bar Il Chiostrino, fine-dining restaurant La Loggia has some of the greatest views in Florence, and the indulgent suites and standalone villa offer breathtaking views over Florence and the Tuscan hills.