If you want to be near Florence, but away from the city’s hustle and bustle, I know the perfect place. The Villa La Massa was built in the 16th Century (and was extended in the 18th and early 19th Centuries) and sits in 20 acres of gardens right next to the River Arno. It has been an hotel since 1948 and in 1998 became the sister hotel of the great Villa d’Este on Lake Como. Although it is much smaller than its sister, the Villa La Massa offers its guests something of the same experience, for it, too, is spotlessly elegant and supremely comfortable, and provides the sort of service which is both attentive and wonderfully proper.
I do like hotels to give me a bit of personal attention. When I arrived back at the wonderful St Regis Florence, I found that, on the bed of my suite, had been carefully laid out ten pictorial representations of the Ten Commandments which adorn that other website for the discerning, Bown’s Bespoke. For example, with the legend, “No device has done more to promote the vulgarisation of our public spaces than the portable telephone”, was a picture of one of the nasty things with a red line through it. The fine gentleman responsible for this thoughtful and amusing welcome was my butler, Andrea Nigi, whose picture I present to you. The butler service comes with the higher categories of accommodation, and is one of the reasons – and there are many – that the St Regis Florence is an exceptional hotel in this exceptional city. The charming General Manager, Valentini Bertolini, is rightly proud of his property.
After my recent dinner at Il Palagio, I am convinced that it is one of the best restaurants in Italy. Vito Mollica (pictured) is a magnificent chef and a charming man. He has one Michelin star, but it must surely be joined by a second before too long. His cuisine is refined, exquisitely judged and precisely executed and yields immense pleasure to those fortunate enough to dine at his tables. Those tables are housed within the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence, a place of frescoes, stucco, carved stone, gilt, crystal and sumptuous fabrics. It is, of course, a converted convent. (This is Florence, after all.) But the atmosphere, while exceedingly proper, is relaxed rather than reverential.
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See also Dining in France & American Farm to Table