Il Salviatino

Without pretense.

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Before I left for Italy, my mother—a self-proclaimed aficionada of anything Italian—warned me that I wouldn’t want to come back.

“I think God invented the country to show the world how to live,” she would say.

My partner and I were travelling with a large group to celebrate with our dear friends as they exchanged vows. It proved to be a rare party of epic proportions, beginning in Rome and ending up in Montepulciano. Once friends parted ways, we made our way to Florence.

We planned on touring the Duomo, walking the kilometre-long Corridoio Vasariano, and taking in the bounty of Renaissance works.

None of that last bit happened. Instead, Il Salviatino happened.

As we near the villa’s entrance, there is a sweet yet distinctly masculine scent wafting in the air. A nod to Florence’s deep-rooted history in perfumery, I presume. I soon learn that the aromas are curated for the property.

They set the tone for our stay.

The villa itself sits hillside in the town of Fiesole, a summer retreat for well-to-do Florentine families, and a mere 15-minute drive from Florence. The hand-restored, 45-room hotel offers impressive panoramic views of the rolling landscape and nearby city centre. It dates back to the 15th century.

As we walk in, we are struck by the handsome entrance, tall vaulted ceilings, and an impressive stairway sophisticatedly lit by oversized candles. Next door, I find my personal heaven: a dimly lit library with an impressive collection of old-world literature and two not-so-plush-but-who-cares leather sofas.

Attention to detail is a strong suit here, both in ambience and in service. Corridors boast museum-worthy artworks and 19th-century frescoes. Guest rooms are individually decorated, offering an elegant blend of local artistry and modern amenities. Handmade linens, carefully curated paintings, and the finest leathers mingle with the latest technology, such as an expansive flat screen TV cleverly disguised as a mirror.

If it seems like I’m gushing, that’s because I am. This is luxury at its finest—without the pretense.

Members of the hotel’s team refer to themselves as “service ambassadors.” Always ready to help yet equally discreet, they can make just about anything happen for their guests. Ever wonder what it is like to hunt for truffles? They will organize an excursion on the grounds surrounding the property with a local expert who, along with an equally skilled dog, reveals a tradition that has been passed down for generations. You may wish to brush up on your Italian (and your hand gestures).

If you decide to simply revel in the hotel, get ready to be pampered. After the barista treats us to an espresso or two, we make our way to the traditional Italian gardens. They are formal in design, with symmetrical “rooms” outlined by hedges; in place of flowers are water features and beautiful sculptures. Guests wouldn’t dream of kicking off their flip-flops here—they wouldn’t be wearing them in the first place. The ambience is admittedly on the formal side, but it is welcomed as it only adds to the hotel’s elegance. As Il Salviatino suggests, why not honour local heroes with Gucci, Pucci, Cavalli, or Ferragamo threads?

The property transforms at night. Lanterns, candles, and candelabras illuminate the terrace, gardens, and restaurant, creating a romantic, whimsical feel. The restaurant, La Cucina, is set in the hotel’s library during the winter months; in summer, guests dine on the terrace. The cuisine is a reinvented take on established Florentine fare. Standouts include the tomato soup with burrata and fresh basil, whole fish with lemons, ravioli filled with ricotta and black truffle, and, of course, the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a famed Florentine T-bone steak.

I had no idea it was possible to melt into such a blissful state, but that’s exactly what happened at Il Salviatino.

My mother was right.


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February 5, 2017