There’s a diva in all of us. Deny it all you like, but it doesn’t take much to arouse that diva, and it’s the smartest hotels that prey on the weakness. After a long journey the mere sight of a hotel coming in to view is enough to relax the exhausted traveller. But open the taxi door and hand that traveller a glass of prosecco before they’ve even put a foot on the ground and you’ve already won.
You could treat them like crap for the rest of their stay and they wouldn’t notice. Not that that happened at Il Salviatino. But for a hotel that offers a package whereby a ‘discreet service ambassador’ will fill a private bath with prosecco, spumante or champagne, light scented candles and place another bottle on ice for consumption, you can be sure they have it all figured out.
Hiding up a hill on the fringe of Florence, this 15th-century villa is encased within a fortress of cypress trees and overlooks a garden of fountains, orange trees and terracotta pots of Technicolor blooms. And just beyond the trees is the Duomo basking in that beautiful pink glow of Italian evenings.
Il Salviatino looks like the set of a Chanel advert. All it needs is Keira Knightley pouting her way down the grand staircase, her silk gown trailing on the steps behind.
Rooms and suites range from having antique wooden floors, domed frescoed ceilings and free-standing baths in the shape of a 12th-century sarcophagus to simpler spaces furnished with granddaddy leather armchairs, candelabra and original fireplaces. White roses and orchids lighten the rooms along with barely-there cream curtains that flutter at a whisper of wind.
Then there’s the library. Library? Really? Who cares about a hotel library where you can swap a battered copy of Eat, Pray, Love for a James Patterson? But this library is the Italian answer to the Bodleian. Candlelit and creaky-floored, the room smells of leather and dust and contains yellowing pages of Moliere, Dante and Homer. There’s a piano in the corner, an honesty bar of backlit bottles and once you sit down the only thing that will rouse you is the sunshine and the pool on the hillside.
For all its majesty, there’s something quite homely about the property: the fireflies that dance up the driveway; biscuits tied in ribboned cellophane; and a puppy-soft throw at the foot of the bed. And despite its classic features, the hotel isn’t short on mod-cons: free wifi in the gardens, a raindrop shower with LED lighting, a wall-sized mirror doubled up as a TV and discreet Bose speakers playing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto at night.
The only disappointment was the food. There was no menu at breakfast and trays of pre-packaged fruit, cold cuts, yoghurts and pastries were brought over like oversized airline food. It was a shame to be denied a choice.
What looked like a promising dinner menu dissolved into bland and extravagant portions – the mixed grilled crustaceans were an exciting pile of perfectly cooked crimson claws and tails and heads but cried out for a pinch of salt and garlic; the risotto was underwhelming; and after a quick chat with fellow guests we found we weren’t the only ones left wanting as they swanned off into town for their remaining meals.
Il Salviatino is a class act, and if they can whip the kitchen into shape they won’t have to do much else to satisfy this diva.