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Five Stylish Italian hotels

Historic architecture meets modern design in in these tasteful retreats. By Rhiannon Batten

Il Salviatino, Tuscany

Torn between a weekend of city culture and away-from-it-all tranquillity? Il Salviatino, which opens in June in Fiesole, a stone's throw from Florence, promises both, with 11 acres of terraced Tuscan gardens and views of the Duomo. Built in the 15th century as a residence for Italian aristocracy, the villa later saw service as a campus for overseas musicians affiliated to Stanford University. Lavishly revamped as a hotel, it will feature a gourmet restaurant, holistic spa and 58 decadent rooms and suites, with original features.

Il Salviatino, 21 Via del Salviatino, Fiesole, Florence, Tuscany (00 39 055 015 0201; salviatino.com). Doubles start at €633, room only.

Hotel Villa Arcadio, Lombardy

Set in the Salò hills, looking out over Lake Garda, Hotel Villa Arcadio is one of the most romantic retreats in the country. Elegantly designed, the rooms are sophisticated, with luxury bedlinen and smart bathrooms. The restaurant has a gorgeous dining terrace and there are great views from the infinity pool. If this sounds uplifting, it's not surprising: the property was originally a convent.

Villa Arcadio, Via Palazzina 2, Salò, Brescia (00 39 0365 42281; hotelvillaarcadio.it). Doubles start at €200, with breakfast.

Palazzo Seneca, Umbria

A calming antidote to more over-the-top hotels, the recently opened Palazzo Seneca lets natural textures do the talking. Exposed stone walls, big fireplaces and wooden panelling are offset against quirky contemporary furniture, soft drapes and white walls.

Palazzo Seneca, Via Cesare Battisti 12, Norcia, Umbria (00 39 0743 817434; palazzo seneca.com). Doubles start at €120, including breakfast.

Relais Sant'elena, Tuscany

This family-run villa outside Bibbona village, was built in the 16th century on a farm, but there's little sense of the rustic for guests. Restored as an up-market B&B last August, its 16 rooms provide a winning mix of contemporary style, Renaissance detail and personal service.

Relais Sant'Elena, Via Campo di Sasso, Bibbona, Livorno, Tuscany (00 39 058 667 1071; relaisantelena.it). Doubles start at €160, including breakfast.

Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, Basilicata

If you prefer your historic architecture pared down rather than theatrically ornate, Sassi Di Matera should fit the bill. Opening next month in Matera, the backdrop to Mel Gibson's film The Passion of The Christ, this clutch of Neolithic cave dwellings have been sensitively refashioned as a boutique hotel. The 18 rooms all feature free-standing baths, plasma TVs, iPods, Wi-Fi and hi-tech lighting.

Sextanto Albergo Diffuso Sassi di Matera, Via Pecci 8, Matera, Basilicata (00 39 083 533 7331; sassidimatera.com). Doubles start at €300, with breakfast.