24-hour room service: Il Salviatino, Fiesole, Italy
Florentine luxury with a view to thrill
Saturday 08 May 2010
It was tempting to ask for a room with a view, what with Il Salviatino occupying a villa overlooking the Florentine skyline from the foothills of Fiesole. Although not that high up – it's only a 12-minute drive from the Ponte Vecchio – the house enjoys the kind of Italian view for which the inglesi go crazy, the dreamy nib of Brunelleschi's dome framed by ancient pine trees.
But knowing what can happen when you change rooms – I've read my Forster – and this being Italy in the spring, it was enough to gaze at Florence over the rim of a glass of prosecco from the terrace, which stretches the length of the house. Even La Pietra, Sir Harold Acton's former home nearby, can't boast a terrace with views like this.
The proprietors of Il Salviatino have spent £50m converting it from an abandoned university campus into what they hope will be the chic new stop-off on the jet-set merry-go-round. One suspects it was a plan conceived in the days before the meltdown, though it was encouraging to learn that artists Jake and Dinos Chapman celebrated a birthday here recently, when Kate Moss took a suite.
Il Salviatino should be paradise: a Florentine villa dating from the 15th century with its own landscaped gardens, which in the 1930s was the home of art critic Ugo Ojetti, who used it to entertain Mussolini. But a spell under communists, who destroyed all its artworks, followed by a 50-year occupancy by Stanford University, hadn't done the house any favours, and almost all the fittings here are new. No expense has been spared in the renovation, and yet the atmosphere lacks magic, though vaulted ceilings and terracotta floors help remind you of the villa's noble past.
The décor is classic and restrained, except for the odd glitch like white leather Chesterfields. With an eye on its origins as a country home, the owners have sought to create an intimacy by dispensing with formal hotel trappings such as a front desk. Each resident is allocated a "service ambassador", a liveried staff member who attends your superstar whims from the end of the phone. This means there are quite a lot of staff hovering in corridors, which can make relaxing in the public spaces difficult. But the service is certainly attentive, and you are encouraged to make any demand of your service ambassador.
Depending on your take on suburbia, Il Salviatino is either brilliantly or badly placed. Optimists will say it has all the benefits of a country house within a short drive of the city, while others might prefer to stay in the centre for a city-break and head to the countryside for a retreat. There is a complimentary hourly shuttle to and from the centre, so going into town is easy. Since Florence is small, the airport, which is only served from the UK by Meridiana (00 39 0789 52682; meridiana.com) from Gatwick, is only a 15- or 25-minute taxi ride away. Otherwise you can fly to Pisa and take the train to Santa Maria Novella train station, a short drive away. On-site facilities include two excellent restaurants, a spa offering Thai massages and treatments, a DVD library and an outdoor swimming pool, which is currently still under construction. But for most inglesi, another glass of prosecco overlooking that view should be entertainment enough.
There are 45 rooms, each a bespoke design with considerable variety between them. Those with views are on the smaller side, but if you're feeling flush the Ojetti suite, on the top floor, is quite breathtaking: spread over three levels and on three sides of the house, it has a glass-floored roof-top conservatory, a Jacuzzi overlooking the duomo, and a bath with a panoramic window of the olive grove. It will set you back €3,900 a night, but for the month of May all rooms are capped at €510, so be quick and you may get lucky.
Many of the better rooms have stand-alone marble baths, a great decadence until you find there's nowhere to put the soap. If you don't mind not being in the main house, there are four conservatory bedrooms lower down the garden, which are spacious and light and decorated in brilliant white.
Back in the main house, all rooms are decorated in muted brown or Tuscan yellow, and each has a standalone full-length mirror with, amazingly, a TV concealed in the glass. Other gadgetry includes Nespresso machines, Bose sound systems and iPod docks, and a hi-tech lighting system operated by a hand-held control panel, which can lead to some grumpy fumbling in the night.
Another lighting issue arises in the rain-shower, where the light comes on when you turn the tap: a good idea until you turn it off again and are left groping in the dark. But all is forgiven because of the beds: vast expanses of crisp white luxury, decked in linen of such high quality you wouldn't dare use it for table cloths, let alone sleep in it.
Il Salviatino, Via del Salviatino 21, Fiesole, Florence, Tuscany, Italy (00 39 055 904 1111; salviatino.com )
Deluxe rooms start at €510 per night including breakfast and unlimited soft drinks in-room. The Ojetti Suite starts at €3,900 and the Marcello Suite at €4,450.
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