The Perfect Balance Of City & Country At Villa La Massa – Hotel Review

By Anwer Bati

6 months ago

Florence by day, rolling Tuscan hills by night


It’s a dilemma. You decide to go to Tuscany, but should you stay in Florence for its extraordinary artistic and architectural heritage and put up with the crowds? Or should you head to the rolling green hills of the countryside for a little peace and quiet? Luckily, staying at the Villa La Massa, you can do both. A sister hotel to Lake Como’s legendary Villa d’Este, though more relaxed, Villa La Massa is less than 20 minutes away from the heart of Florence by the regular free shuttle, but set in a secluded, rural location on a bend in the south bank of the river Arno.

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Hotel Review:  Villa La Massa, Florence

Villa La Massa - Arno River and Chianti hills

STAY

Arranged over several buildings and set in 25 acres of vibrant gardens – dotted with cypresses, olive groves and lemon trees – Villa La Massa is a haven of calm away from the frenetic bustle of Florence, with its views of both the river and the verdant, tranquil countryside attracting past guests such as David Bowie and Madonna.

The grand main building, dating from the 13th century, was once an aristocratic home which became a hotel in 1948 and, 50 years later, was bought by the Villa d’Este company. It is naturally the centre of the place, and rooms are appropriately decorated in Renaissance style – with rich fabrics, wooden beams, decorated ceilings and walk in wardrobes. Some come with four-poster beds, and some with Arno views.

Villa La Massa - Suite Colonica

Suite Colonica

Some of the rooms in the other three buildings also have views of the river, though most look on to the estate. And some rooms come with balconies, others terraces or gardens from which you can admire the Chianti hills in the distance. Two of the annexes, Casa Colonica and La Limonaia are decorated in a modern Tuscan style and are bright and contemporary with colourful fabrics and rugs, and many items made by local craftsmen. All the hotel’s 52 rooms and suites have large marble bathrooms, with the hotel’s own toiletries, tubs, double basins and helpful touches such as seats in the separate showers. The hotel also has six private villas for rent.

The atmosphere throughout is of elegance and understated luxury, amply enhanced by the charming service.

Limonaia

Limonaia

EAT

Villa La Massa’s main restaurant is Il Verrocchio in a large, slightly formal space with well-spaced tables. Chef Stefano Ballarino’s menu is refined Italian – including selections such as pigeon, bistecca Fiorentina and turbot – with a few contemporary touches. But almost as big an attraction as the top class cooking (Ballarino was previously at the Villa d’Este) are the lovely, serene views of the Arno from the panoramic windows and the outside terrace, just above the river. Luckily, it’s also the place where breakfast is served with a huge selection of breads, juices, cold meat, cakes and Tuscan specialities from the buffet, and dishes such as eggs Florentine a la carte.

Terrace on the Arno River and Villino on the background

Oliveto is more casual, open for lunch daily and dinner at weekends. It’s in a restored stone barn by the large open-air pool, and has a shaded outside terrace. There are light dishes and salads at lunch, as well as excellent pizza and pasta. In the evenings, the menu becomes more that of a traditional trattoria with Tuscan specialities. The ingredients are all of the highest quality, and as local as possible, including the hotel’s own olive oil.

The glamorous and welcoming Bar Mediceo in the main building is the place for pre-dinner drinks, cocktails from mixologist Alessio Baneschi and snacks – with the added bonus of outside tables overlooking the Arno in summer.

Villa La Massa - food and pool

Bistrot L’Oliveto

DO

You’ll certainly want to visit Florence at least once during your stay, and the shuttle stop, near the Ponte Vecchio, is very convenient for the Pitti palace, the Uffizi gallery, and the magnificent basilica of Santa Croce – three of the city’s biggest sights. The Duomo area is also in walking distance. The last shuttle back leaves at 8pm, so you can spend the whole day in town.

But there is plenty to tempt you to stay behind. First, there’s the spa, in the basement of the villa, with two treatment rooms, a Turkish bath and a Roman bath. Treatment products come from the 400 year-old Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. And there’s a well-equipped gym for a work-out. Yoga classes are also available, ideally outside.

Roman bath in the spa

Arno SPA

The hotel’s gardens are perfect for walking and running, as are the many nearby paths. Or you can borrow a bike to explore the Tuscan countryside. There are also golf courses nearby, and a tennis club (with free use of the courts for hotel guests). Horse riding is another option.

As Villa La Massa is in the Chianti area, wine is taken seriously, with a fine selection of Tuscan and other Italian wines in its 15th Century cellars, where you can book tastings. The hotel can also arrange visits to some of the area’s vineyards, such as Colle Bereto.

Villa La Massa - The Cellar

You can also enhance your skills and knowledge by signing-up for one of the many classes Villa La Massa offers, including, cooking, pizza and focaccia making, mixology, and painting. And, in autumn, you can go truffle hunting.

If you haven’t bought enough in Florence’s many designer and craft shops, there is also a luxury outlet near the hotel. And Villa La Massa’s own shop offers a range of attractive, high quality accessories, clothes and gifts that might tempt you.

THE FINAL WORD

Easily as impressive as any hotel in Florence itself, Villa La Massa offers not only good food and lovely surroundings, but also plenty of options whether you want to relax or be active. And you can spend a day in Florence admiring the art, knowing you can easily get back to a haven of peace and comfort come evening.

BOOK IT

Double rooms start from £473 a night B&B. Villa La Massa closes for the winter from the end of October to the end of March. Florence airport is nine miles away, while Pisa is 60 miles away (you can take a train to the centre of Florence). villalamassa.com


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