Villa San Michele – Fiesole 

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What a beautiful place to spend an afternoon!

My last few days with two journalist friends has introduced me to some places I didn’t know, both in and around Florence, and as Heidi had been a resident in this hotel some years ago she recommended that we visit it for Amy’s on-line food magazine.

We were lucky that the weather had improved from a miserable drizzle in the morning to merely overcast in the afternoon because we found that after an enjoyable walk around Fiesole and the artigiano food market there were simply no taxis to be had – and calling one up from Florence to take us 500 yards down the hill just didn’t make sense!

So we entered the drive of this prestigious hotel like pilgrims – and rather hot and thirsty ones at that- as the entrance to this hotel is seriously uphill – and better suited to the minivan that they thoughtfully provide to bring their guests in and out of Florence – and blessedly – that included us on the way back down !

Our gracious hostess Patricia Soriano told us all about the hotel .

The building was originally a monastery and  the façade, which was based on a design attributed to Michelangelo, dates back to 1600 when the building was enlarged and renovated by Giovanni di Bartolommeo Davanzati -owner of Palazzo Davanzati and part of the family of Florentine trader Bernando Davanzati – who is  shown below in a painting by Christofo Allori  (son of painter Allessandro Allori )

The Hotel is now owned by the Venice Simplon Orient Express Group and Patricia told us she was thrilled to have met the legendary  James B. Sherwood when he stayed at the hotel a couple of years ago. Sherwood saved the luxury train in 1977 after he bought two of the special carriages at a Sotheby’s auction in Monte Carlo, and spent the next few years (and 16 million dollars!) locating, purchasing and restoring some 35 vintage carriages to recreate this fabled train.

The suites and bedrooms in this hotel are equally timeless and luxurious and frankly the beds look a whole lot more comfortable than those on that beautiful train – at least for my 6ft 4 in husband!

The Hotel is also introducing a Kids Club next month – to enable parents to get a few hours alone to do some serious shopping – or sightseeing. The chapel has been redesigned to house up to a maximum of ten children being looked after by a qualified child-minder.

The most exciting part of our visit , for me, was to find that the hotel has its very own Cenacolo with it’s very own Last Supper painted in 1642 by Fiesole born Baroque artist Nicodemo Ferrucci .

Hotel Villa San Michele, Florence, Italy

This restored fresco of  the Last Supper- like those of Ghirlandaio in San Marco and Allessandro Allori in the cenacolo at Santa Maria del Carmine, comes complete with a treaturous cat who, crouching on the same side of the table as the un-haloed Judas with his money bag , seems to have stolen some food from the table.

I think that this Hotel’s Cenacolo has got to be a great place to end a Last Supper Tour – with an aperitivi – or even a supper cooked by the Hotels long-standing (30 years) and well regarded, Chef Attilio di Fabrizio?

Last but not least – I think this must be an unbeatable view of Florence  – again -thanks for the hospitality – and what a lovely way to spend an afternoon?

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