Villa La Massa is set on a 15th century property in Florence’s countryside, which has had an iconic reputation for centuries – passing ownership from Cardinal to Count and later transforming into a five-star Leading Hotels of the World estate, welcoming the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill, Madonna and hosting celebrity weddings, such as David Bowie’s. Only 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle of glittering Firenze (so close in fact that the Duomo is visible from parts of the hotel), guests have 22 sprawling acres to enjoy, with the river Arno directly beside the villas and Tuscan landscapes of cypresses, olive groves and colourful villas in every direction. This large estate should be on the top of the list for those wishing to experience the best of Italy’s Tuscan charms as well as the splendour of Florence.
At Villa La Massa, guests have a choice of 51 spacious rooms in five different villas – each with a different style and some with their own private courtyards and gardens. As the courteous and knowledgeable Guest Relations Manager, Luisa Diaz accurately mentioned “There are some luxury venues that could be anywhere in the world – but you simply cannot replicate this style, this historical charm, these artisanal touches and this landscape anywhere else in the world except at Villa La Massa.” Perhaps that is why the world-famous Villa d’Este bought the establishment 10 years’ ago as a sister property – which has only served to heighten the fame of Villa La Massa as one of Italy’s most quintessential, and yet still understated, vacation venues.
GUEST EXPERIENCE HIGHLIGHTS:
§ Grounds: 22 acres on a countryside estate, yet still proximal to Florence. The river Arno weaves its way along the estate (visible from most villas and also from the restaurant). The grounds are immaculately kept and include olive groves (Villa La Massa has its own olive oil) as well as a large variety of flowers, including Florentine irises (the inspiration for the city’s emblem). The villas themselves are always in full bloom, radiating their colourful Tuscan exteriors and containing beauties within, from knight’s armour and weaponry to Florentine art and furnishings.
§ Accommodation: With over 51 rooms to choose from, spread across the five villas, guests will be spoilt for choice. Furthermore, no matter how full the capacity of the estate, guests always enjoy a sense of privacy, given the separate villas and the spacious interiors. The rooms themselves are exceptionally spacious and they have been brought to life by Florentine architect Francesca Garagnani and local artisans with a design sense that is typically Tuscan – rather than overdesigned, there is a focus on comfort and natural beauty that helps guests unwind and enjoy the exquisite countryside. Our suite 42 in the central Villa (Villa Nobile) included:
~ A separate lounge area with gorgeous wooden windows overlooking the Arno river (a stone’s throw away).
~ A main room with a large king-size bed and the same windows as the lounge with river and valley views.
~ 2 bathroom areas with marble interiors – the first acting as a washroom with views of the river and the second acting as a bathroom. They were equipped with Helleboro amenities branded and produced exclusively for Villa La Massa.
~ An inviting and subtle colour palette with Tuscan hues throughout the 50 m2.
~ A rustic brick ceiling with wooden paneling (Tuscan style) and Renaissance-styled art.
§ Gastronomy: The culinary concept centres around Il Verrocchio – a restaurant which features traditional Tuscan and Florentine cuisine with flair right on the banks of the Arno (the only restaurant in Florence directly on the banks of the Arno). Having worked as the chef at Villa d’Este for 10 years and before that at the Kulm St. Moritz, Andrea Quagliarella has a notable reputation among connoisseurs and celebrities alike. As we visited in the Autumn, we were graced with one of the local highlights – the Tuscan white truffle, which became the core item on the Autumn specials menu. We also enjoyed regional fine wines which are famous worldwide, with top labels of Sangiovese. Our menu included:
~ Remarkably tender Tuscan beef tartare with melted parmesan and shaved truffle, presented artistically.
~ Florentine bread soup with black cabbage and beans.
~ Home-made Tagliolini with white truffle shavings as well as a three-year-matured rice risotto with the same truffle shavings.
~ A masterfully prepared tender Tuscan steak with Porcini mushrooms, truffle and glazed potato with a red beetroot crisp, presented perfectly. We also enjoyed a delightful traditional codfish dish, served with beans.
~ Dessert was a sensorial delight with a rich red wine-infused pear that re-awakened the palate, served with vanilla ice cream.
§ Wellness: Villa La Massa is truly a countryside retreat and a retreat would be incomplete without a relaxation treatment. There are a range of treatments available, including couple treatments in the signature couple’s room, and the products used are the famed Florentine Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Whether or not guests book a treatment, use of the Spa is included, which contains a steam room, sauna, relaxation area and roman-styled bathing area. The hotel also has a fully equipped gym as well as bikes for the more adventurous.
§ Best time to visit: Spring months when the flowers (including the famous Florentine irises) are in full bloom and the wine and truffles are at their best.
§ Book the Arno suite for a romantic experience directly on the Arno river, with large interiors and a private garden and patio. Families may wish to book the whole Casa Colonica, which has four suites and private central courtyard.
§ Naturally, visiting Florence is essential. From the sought after jewellery sold on the Ponte Vecchio to the designer shops around town to the unrivalled art scene, which graces the streets as well as the hallways of renowned galleries, featuring masterpieces from Michelangelo to Donatello. Florence feels like the very birthplace of the Dolce Vita.
§ Book a cooking class with the chef! This is also an essential element of any Tuscan stay and cooking with Andrea Quagliarella will certainly advance your cooking skills.
§ In 2020, Villa La Massa will open a new infinity pool in the olive groves for guests, taking the retreat experience to the next level. A new restaurant will also be a part of the construction.
§ Join the likes of David Bowie by celebrating your wedding at Villa La Massa. The estate even has its own charming consecrated Chapel for such occasions. The chapel is also open for guests throughout the year and during holy periods, such as Easter, a local priest holds a service for the guests.