raindrops poured from dark clouds on to the red roofs
of Florence. Lightning flashed over Brunelescchi's dome,
followed by rumbles and claps of thunder. As I sipped
my Chianti and took in the view from Villa San Michele
in Fiesole, I couldn't help but gloat. Past the cypress
and olive trees down in the city, I knew tourists were
hovering under umbrellas and jumping puddles,
was having one of the most serendipitous moments of my
visit to Italy.
Villa San Michele is a Michelangelo-designed arched
facade, converted from a 15th-century Franciscan
plan had been to drop my bags and then hop a hotel shuttle
right back into town - see the Duomo, the Botticellis
in the Uffizi and shop for sandals. So what if I was heat-wilted
and tired from days of indulgence and hiking the Tuscan
countryside - I was determined to cover a bunch of Florence
"must dos." But the moment the cab pulled up
to the Michel-angelo-designed arched façade of this
converted 15th century Franciscan monastery, I could feel
my "be-a-good-tourist-see-all-the-sights" resolve
melting away into the old world comfort and elegance of
Villa San Michele.
Contreras, (the guest relations manager) greeted me in
the chapel-turned-lobby, looking as though she'd just
stepped out of the pages of Italian "Vogue."
With her bright-eyed charm, she coaxed me into haveing
a look around, leading me through the grand, airy downstairs
rooms, furnished with plush antiques and a masterpiece
fresco of The Last Supper in the Cenacolo dining room.
By the time we had reached the neatly terraced Italian
gardens where we could see the sky darkening over Florence,
I'd taken Danytza up on her suggestion to have lunch at
the hotel's Loggia restaurant.
can enjoy the spectacular view while dining at the
Loggia restaurant at the Villa San Michele.
handsome tuxedoed waiters hovered about, serving me Tuscan
specialties - a delicately spiced lentil soup, a glass
of Chianti, followed by a tower of vibrant berry gelato.
Taking in the delicious flavors and the dramatic view
of the storm, I knew what it must have been like to be
a Medici. There I was, escaping Florence's dog days of
summer in Fiesole, just like those merchant-princes had
done centuries ago.
The spacious suite where I spent the night was a far cry from the monk's quarters it had originally been. In the Carrara-marbled bathroom's Jacuzzi tub, I soaked away the aches I'd gained from previous days of touring. Before collapsing into the luxurious king-sized bed, I caught from my window a dreamy glimpse across the twinkling gardens - there on a private patio a couple was enjoying a candlelit dinner outside their suite, which had once been the monk's limonaia.
The pool at the Villa San Michele is just one of the many activities travelers can take part in.
The sun streamed through the glass roof of the former winter garden onto the breakfast buffet - two massive wood banquet tables displaying an assortment of fresh fruits, breads, cheeses, sausages and sliced meats. Pumped up by a cappuccino, I practiced my Italian on the waiter, even though he spoke perfect English. As I rattled off my Florence tourist plans for the day, he simply smiled, pointed to the sun and asked, "La piscina (the pool?)
At the top of the villa gardens, I floated in the still clear water, staring up at the blue sky. Behind me were the lush old Fiesole woodlands, in front of me a breathtaking view of the Arno valley, looking just as the Renaissance masters had painted it.
It was as if the archangel Michael, for whom the Villa is named, had intervened and done his saintly work; giving a weary traveler a vacation from her vacation
sweeping me up to heaven (or at least to a heavenly spot), tossing away my schedule, and giving me time and rest to prepare to take in the glorious treasures of Florence with freshened eyes.
If you go...
Villa San Michele
Via Doccia, 4 - 50014 Fiessole - Florence, Italy
Telephone: 011 - 39 - 055 567 8200
Fas: 011 - 39 - 055 567 8250