Belmond Villa San Michele
The Belmond Villa San Michele is a hotel situated on the hill of Fiesole overlooking Florence, Italy. It is named after the church of St Michael the Archangel. Today it is owned by Belmond Ltd. and is operated as a luxury hotel.
The original building was a monastery, founded in the early years of the 15th century for the Franciscan monks. The land on which it stood had been donated by a Florentine family, the Davanzatis, who also contributed to the monastery's upkeep by gifts of woodlands, further buildings and money
The monastery remained the property of the Franciscans until 1808 when the monastic orders were dissolved by Napoleon and, in 1817, it returned to secular use. By this time, many of its most treasured possessions had been dispersed throughout Florence's churches and art galleries.
In 1900 the Villa was acquired by Henry White Cannon from New York City, who landscaped the gardens, erected large greenhouses and restored the building after the fashion of the Victorians, by adding wrought iron gates and by applying a rust-coloured patina to the walls. He also converted the courtyard into a winter garden by covering it with a roof of glass and iron.
He set about restoring the 20 first floor rooms, while living on the second floor, but the cost involved was substantial and to finance it, he turned the villa in to a hotel for those wanting to visit the nearby art treasures of Florence and the surrounding countryside.
In 1982, Orient-Express Hotels, which already owned the Hotel Cipriani in Venice bought the Villa San Michele and the surrounding land. A comprehensive restoration of the buildings was embarked upon, this time with the cooperation of the Florence Fine Arts Authority.
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