When we are on vacanza, we tell ourselves that it is okay to indulge in four hotel breakfasts each morning. For some reason, our appetites multiply in direct proportion to the length of the spread, and if I had zero self-control, I might still be at the breakfast table at Belmond Villa San Michele. Perhaps that is why I am devoting a post solely to breakfast, and also to our sumptuous bathroom and the divine turndown service. (Please do refer to previous posts for photos and summaries of the lush grounds and also aperitivi hour.) The property boasts many magnificent characteristics: the meticulously manicured terraced gardens and pathways, the ancient structure itself with airy salon rooms and a scrupulously restored fresco of ‘The Last Supper,’ and the wholly encapsulating view: blue skies for breakfast and an impressionist’s menage of pastels at sunset.
In the morning, after the sun rises over Fiesole, guests trickle onto the veranda overlooking Florence to begin their day with breakfast and a view. Everything on offer is delivered from nearby Tuscan farms or otherwise grown or prepared on site; nothing is presented unless it is at the height of its season. The frutta di stagione is a beautiful assorted rainbow, and while many other Italian hotels offer very little fruit at breakfast, (Italians tend to keep it simple with a brioche), the frutta offerings at Belmond Villa San Michele make up for any previous hotel breakfast that may have been lacking in this category. Juicy green figs, bright pink grapefruit and orange, Italian plums, ripe melon, and the most comforting, flavorful stewed fruit: pears stewed with sage, apples stewed with cinnamon, as well as the last of the season’s peaches.
The kitchen staff is up early to bake dozens of fresh fruit cakes and various types of breakfast cookies. There is even a buckwheat cake, and choices for gluten-intolerant guests. At a property overflowing with bygone era charm, the food and beverage team are highly aware of the modern travelers needs and desires. There are fresh juices, nuts, cereals, all the different kinds of milk and milk substitutes you can think of, as well as a whole other table devoted to the savory: Tuscan cheeses, enough salami options to go head to head with your local salumeria, an oversized basket of various freshly baked breads, bright red tomatoes, eggs… need I go on? Each item is ready for it’s close up, and each is the highest quality that one could possibly find.
Guests can also order from the menu, which has plenty to choose from for the health-conscious. There are vegetable juices, egg white omelets with dark leafy greens, and countless other finely prepared options. No stone is left unturned at Belmond Villa San Michele, beginning with welcome aperitivi.
Ours had its own private patio overlooking the terraced gardens and all of Florence below. The room was large by all European hotel standards, and the bathroom bigger than many Manhattan apartments. After a tour of our room, during which we were like two small children at an amusement park, our eyes darting from one point of interest to the next as if we only had all of five minutes to soak it up, we did as those on holiday are supposed to do: we sat on our terrace and remained motionless. We indulged in welcome prosecco, snacked on hazelnuts and fresh fruit, and allowed the Tuscan sun to kiss our bare shoulders. I believe this is called ‘relaxing,’ otherwise known as ‘luxuriating,’ an activity that Italians have mastered as if naturally predisposed. If it is indeed a genetic predisposition, I don’t think it’s swimming in many New Yorker gene pools.
So it is a wonder how powerful a hotel bathroom can be to someone on vacation. At home, bathing is a daily necessity: we allow ourselves mere minutes to shower and get ready each day. When on vacanza, especially when ensconced in a bathroom like ours at Belmond Villa San Michele, we exult in the warmth and deep relaxation of a different kind of purification. Our oversized room has two areas on opposite sides of the bath for each person: each person has a personal sink with personal toiletries (Bulgari and Penhaligon products), each person has their own hanging space, shelf space, and drawers; three times as much storage space as my last apartment. The oversized bathtub commands the center of the Tuscan-tiled room, with a giant urn filled with bath salts at the ready. The shower is large enough to host a small tea party, and I find it rather difficult to decide each day, the bath or the shower, so the only practical choice is to bathe more frequently.
Each day that we return to our room, the lotions, soaps, gels, and cleansers have all been replaced yet again, even if all I did was remove one from its basket. Turndown service is another exquisite affair: at Belmond Villa San Michele, it is so much more than fluffed pillows and fresh towels. Bedside mats are placed on either side of the bed, slippers wait for our warm feet, glass-bottled water is set on each bedside table next to a thoughtful pad and pen for any last minute thoughts. Memos are left on the desk detailing the next day’s activities on offer, such as a personal training session through the Tuscan hillside, or a private grape-pressing afternoon with the sommelier. Rose petals spell out each of our initials on the bed, and each night, a romantic dessert is freshly prepared for one final sweet before buona notte: decadent chocolates, chocolate-covered strawberries, and other homemade delicacies. I am challenged to come up with a minute detail or some speck of an idea that Belmond Villa San Michele has not thought of already. This is the stuff of penultimate relaxation and magnificent beauty, just fifteen minutes from Florence, with the most superfluous breakfast, impeccable service, and glorious bathroom. See you next time, a dopo.