Il Salviatino, Fiesole

LOCATION: Those wealthy 14th century merchants knew a thing or two.

LOCATION: Those wealthy 14th century merchants knew a thing or two. When the weather in the centre of Florence started to swelter, they downed tools and retreated to the hills – more specifically, to Fiesole. Now the Florentine sprawl is such that Fiesole is really more a hilltop suburb than a separate entity, but it still manages to feel tucked away from the city’s bustle. It’s here that you’ll find Il Salviatino, originally the summer hunting lodge of an aristocratic family, for a while an overseas campus of Stanford – lucky students – and now a rather gorgeous luxury hotel.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: There’s a real ceremony to arriving at Il Salviatino. Imposing gates open on to a winding drive, and as the car wheels crunch on the gravel you’re confronted with a building of almost eye-wateringly handsome symmetry, reached by swooping double staircases leading up through ornamental gardens. The view is only rivaled by the one in the other direction – back towards Florence. From the terrace restaurant the city spreads out below in a perfect tourist panorama of terracotta roofs, primrose walls and the Duomo’s recognizable dome.

THE FACTS: Inside, the building has retained its historic good looks, with a vast, book-lined library, ruby-red stair carpets and haughty looking portraits. The 45 rooms vary in size and design, with some in the main villa and a number of suites set in the gardens. We stayed in one of the very smallest rooms, but it was still charming, with an intricate mahogany-lined dressing room that cried out for a manservant to unpack your bags, and a sumptuous red-walled bathroom. A mirror spanning nearly the width of a whole wall turned neatly into a wide screen TV, solving the problem many historic hotels face of allowing guests to enjoy modern technology without a committing terrible design faux-pas.

A GOOD BASE FOR: Those who want to visit Florence without the fuss. There’s an extensive spa next to the pretty pool area, lined by loungers, so if one member of a party prefers relaxing to sightseeing, or everyone just wants a change of pace, this is a great choice. There’s a free hotel shuttle taxi running every hour into the centre of Florence, so it’s not inconvenient to be out of the centre.

WOW: There’s no denying Il Salviatino has been blessed with good looks, both in the hotel itself and its gorgeous setting. But the food in the restaurant has the power to blind you to anything else. The prices are high even for Florence, but this isn’t Tuscan peasant cooking (though there’s a lot to be said for that). The dishes are dainty and quite exquisite, which means you can save room for dessert. Have the deconstructed Tiramisu. Trust me.

HOW MUCH: Deluxe rooms start from EUR 300