Places to Stay: Il Saviatino, Florence

City Break, Europe, Food and wine, Hotel, Italy / Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Il Salviatino, Florence, Italy

In Florence, there is such a thing as too much beauty. All those perfect buildings, the art, the architecture, the sculpture, can be so overwhelming it can spark an affliction called Stendhal Syndrome, or ‘hyperkulturemia’. There’s even a special room at the Uffizi set aside for such an occurrence, should you feel a rush coming on.

So thank your lucky stars for Il Salviatino – a secluded mansion hidden in the wooded hills of Fiesole, on the outskirts of Florence. This historic property makes the perfect sanctuary for overspent culture vultures, and is close enough to be within fainting distance of the Duomo, yet far enough away to escape the madding crowds.

If you want to know how Kate Moss feels when she goes away, this is perhaps as close as you’ll get. The atmosphere is relaxed and discreet, like staying in a private villa, and the decor stylish and elegant – sweeping stone staircases, stained-glass ceilings, mosaic floors and original oil paintings. Built in the 15th century, the building recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, and is now bang up to date with new Thai spa, plunge pools and fabulous five-star decor. Each of the 45 suites is sleek and minimal, with artisan-made bed linen, dark wood furnishings (or cool creams, as in the Greenhouse suites), and rare pieces of art. In one is a vast marble fireplace; in another, a 12th-century Venetian sarcophagus bath.

On arrival, we were greeted by our very own ‘service ambassador’ (there’s no front desk), who was on-call for the duration of our stay. Each morning I rang my ambassador (all very Ferrero Rocher) and asked her to bring breakfast to my room. I literally couldn’t tear myself away from the view.

Within half an hour, a trail of immaculately dressed waiters filed in and promptly set about arranging silver platters of food and fresh flowers beneath my window so I could eat while gazing out. Nothing here is too much trouble.

Dinner, too, is served wherever you wish to dine. Michelin-starred head chef Carmine Calo showcases his “ingredients and imagination” philosophy, using only the best local and seasonal produce. So after an aperitivo on the terrazza, soaking up the peachy glow of the city below, we were treated to sautéed wild Grigio del Casentino pork, beef sirloin flavored with Chianti herbs, and John Dory with fava beans, olives and green tomatoes.

But if all that gets a bit much, there’s always the Devarana spa to retreat to. Housed in the 11.5 acres of grounds, it has a dizzying array of Thai treatments to soothe even the most acute bout of Stendhal Syndrome. Heaven does have mercy.

The deets: Via del Salviatino 21, Florence, Italy, +39 055 9041111,

The damage: Doubles from 440 Euros per night, including breakfast. Check the website for offers.

Why go: To live like Italian nobility, to give Stendhal a run for his money.

Review by Katie Monk

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