In Fiesole, a city near Florence, Italy, French luxury giant LVMH-owned traveling group Belmond has a beautiful hotel——Villa San Michele.
Carved into the Fiesole hills, Villa San Michele enjoys the view of Florence, with unparalleled magnificent scenery. It was built by the Davanzati family in 1411 before the Renaissance, and later the family entrusted it to Franciscans as a monastery. During the Renaissance in the 16th century, the building was renovated and gradually expanded, giving it its current appearance.
In 1817, Villa San Michele was sold to Francesco Frosini Martinucci, a famous figure in Florence at the time. He transformed parts of the house other than the church into private summer villas, which were no longer used as monasteries. Afterwards, the villa changed hands several times and was eventually acquired by Belmond in 1982. In 2019, Belmond joined the LVMH Group.
How does this ancient hotel dating back to the 15th century root into Florence, the “City of Flowers”? When it meets contemporary art, what wonderful sparks will it collide with? In the early Autumn, invited by Belmond, Luxe.CO came to Florence to visit Villa San Michele.
Driving up the winding mountain road and worked into an open garden, the facade of Villa San Michele inspired by the works of Michelangelo is presented in front of us, with two lion sculptures decorated on the walls. Ms. Sophie Micol Fabiani, the head of the hotel, introduced to us that the lion is the emblem of the Davanzati family. They decorated the lion on buildings, and now it has become a symbol of the hotel, appearing on the hotel’s doors, tableware, and letters in the bedroom.
Under the monastic arches of the entrance of the Villa, there was a “man” in a suit seated on a sofa crossing his legs, whose head have been replaced by huge rocks.
This is the hyper-realistic sculpture named Teenager & Teenager, which was created by the couple Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. They are famous for their surprising use of materials and their meditations on the human condition, which is often puzzling while inspiring.
“These rocks actually represent technology, the information and everything that has become on us occupied in mind. our hotel has been collaborating with this contemporary art gallery called Galleria Continua. Each year there is a theme that is given to this exhibition. This year, we wanted to explore the relationship between the individual and the surrounding environment, especially was individual and its relationship with technology.” Sophie explained. Building on the success of its Italian debut in 2022, this is the second time that Belmond has cooperated with the internationally renowned art gallery Galleria Continua to hold an exhibition.
The rest of the work are placed in the Cloister and living room. Under the solemnity of this Renaissance architecture, they coexist fantastically, with a sense of deconstruction.
This year, the collaboration between Belmond and Galleria Continua goes beyond Italy, expanding to Belmond’s 7 hotels in Italy, Spain, England and Brazil.
In the Villa San Michele, the original Church was used as the reception area. Rich curtains and antique furnishings create a timeless, sophisticated appearance. The Cloister, transformed into a soft, cozy room complementing the adjoining loggiato and harmonizing with the hotel’s botanical and floral elements.
The San Michele Grill & Bar offering Neapolitan pizza, pasta dishes and grilled meat and fish are a good place to go.
Dining restaurant La Loggia was also reopened in May this year. Executive Chief Alessandro Cozzolino has designed new menus for 2023. Customers can also enjoy the beautiful scenery of Florence while dining.
On one side of the restaurant hung two works of art of Michelangelo Pistoletto. A mirror was cut into different shapes, one of which placed on the other canvas, and the two perfectly complement each other. In this way, mirrors bring the people into the image.
Pistoletto was one of the representatives of Arte povera, a main art school in the 20th century, and broken mirrors in various shapes are his iconic works. He once said: “I came to the mirror to try to transmit the idea that each viewer can have the same autonomous responsibility as the artist. ”
In 2018, Pistoletto performed his iconic act of smashing mirrors at his exhibition Oltre Lo Specchio at Galleria Continua Beijing.
The hotel also collected two works by Argentine visual artist Leandro Erlich. In Clouds, multiple layers of painted glass are stacked together to form the appearance of clouds, expressing the artist’s idea that the entities we imagine may also be just piles of nothingness.
This series of works has once exhibited on his Leandro Erlich: The Confines of theGreat Void held in the Art Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts in China in 2019.
Leandro Erlich’s another installation Window & Ladder was placed in the garden. The work consists of a ladder extending towards the sky, and a suspended window frameing the magnificent landscape of Florence under the hills. The piece embraces ideas of universal beauty through differing points of view, as well as challenges and manipulates viewers’ concept of reality.
It was a part of a larger exhibition organized by Belmond and Galleria Continua in 2002, and was bought by Belmond as a permanent addition to the hotel’s grounds.
The garden was renovated in 1982, redesigned by Italian landscape architect Pietro Porcinai when the Villa San Michele was bought by Orient Express, the Belmond’s predecessor.
In the garden, Luxe.CO talked with Sophie and she told us: “We have seen this year Asian clients coming from different countries for the first time. This is something quite new for us. And there are many reasons. One is we’ve become part of LVMH so our name has circulated amongst new audiences, but also, I think because the young generations travel a lot now and come to Europe.”
In terms of culture and history, Belmond is so special that it has rich stories to tell. Sophie said: “What is immediate here is the view. But to understand the history of this building and the care that we give to the gardens, the food that we serve, you need more time. You need really need to experience it.”
| Image Credit: Luxe.CO、Villa San Michele official website