Our World

Hotel Villa San Michele

Travel & Experiences

Florence, Italy

Photo by Liz Metcalfe

In 2016, I was invited by Kravet Fabrics to a spend a week visiting textile mills in Italy, staying at the magnificent Hotel Villa San Michele beautifully situated on the Tuscan hillside overlooking the city of Florence. I find it fascinating to research the history of these famous landmarks and the stories behind them.

Florence was founded in the 1st century by Julius Caesar. It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci tested his first version of a flying machine on this very location. The façade of this ancient building is attributed to Leonardo's rival, Michelangelo, who during the 16th century enlarged the loggia of the Franciscan friars' monastery originally built a century before. The original ancient wooden doors still grace the entrance.

Photo by Liz Metcalfe

Photo by Liz Metcalfe

In the early 1800's the monastery was dissolved by Napoleon when he conquered Italy. He used the Michelangelo Suite as his Florentine headquarters. In 1900, Henry Cannon, a wealthy New York banker purchased the Villa and restored its gardens. During the Second World War, the Villa was badly damaged and in 1950 was purchased by Lucien Teissier, an art expert and his wife Mary, an interior designer and socialite. They transformed the Italian Villa into a luxury boutique hotel restoring the first floor, consisting of over twenty rooms. It was at the Villa during the 1960's that Mary was introduced to J. Paul Getty, the world's richest man at the time that consequently led to her divorce. While they never married, Mary received the second-largest inheritance from Getty and a monthly allowance for the remainder of her life.

In 1982 the Villa again changed hands and was purchased by Orient-Express Hotels that initiated a comprehensive restoration in cooperation with the Florence Fine Arts Authority. Today, owned by Belmond Ltd., this baroque monastery is a 5-star luxury hotel with many historical details intact including a high alter adorned with Pietra Serena columns and 15th century restored gardens. It is a truly exceptional example of classical Italian design. The hotel's La Loggia Restaurant is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Florence. Hotel Villa San Michele has had many celebrity guests including Justin Bieber, Julia Roberts, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Bella Hadid as well as King Charles and his wife Camilla.