Housed in a 15th-century monastery with lush Italian gardens that overlook the enchanting Renaissance splendour of Florence, Belmond Villa San Michele is a first-class dining destination, revered by locals and adored by guests from around the globe. Set amongst the romantic glow of fairy-lit olive-trees and ancient arches, the hotel restaurant La Loggia enjoys an incredible location that is ideal for couples. The best time to book? Undeniably after an aperitivo at sunset, when the skies are awash with golds, pinks and yellows.
The atmosphere is tutto bene. Tables are draped in brilliant white linens and topped with flowers, fine crockery and ornamental hourglasses that run down the balcony in near-perfect symmetry. It’s formal, but not stuffy, and is a great spot for an impromptu date night or even perhaps a proposal. From the moment we were shown to our dimly lit table, service was attentive, and many of the exceptionally friendly staff (who will remember your name) have been working here for years.
Food-wise, gourmet cuisine is at the heart of the executive chef Alessandro Cozzolino’s menus, which offer daring and surprisingly modern twists to Tuscan classics. “My story is a personal project. It is not based on techniques, but rather on emotions,” says the Michelin-starred chef. Originally from Caserta in Southern Italy, Cozzolino creates culinary delights that prioritise flavour and ‘quality over quantity’. The resulting dishes are like the city of Florence itself: extremely pretty and infused with a rich artistic heritage that manages to be daring whilst still honouring its roots.
During our visit, we dined on treats inspired by the Tuscan locale prepared by the chef himself. To start, we feasted on his signature pasta cooked in a Cacciucco fish broth, swimming with cuttlefish, prawns and lemon-balm leaves. Plates emptied, the waiters delivered our next course: homemade egg yolk fagottino filled with Florentine braised beef Peposo-style (ricotta cheese from Pistoia), and Chianina beef tartare finished off with fresh seasonal truffle, a standout that really enlivened our senses. The main course was the highlight: gently roasted lamb loin, peppers, olives, pine nuts and a spicy sweet and sour diavolo sauce.
There is also a great wine list. Paired excellently, we lapped up glasses of tangy and rare Ferrari Perlé Nero, wonderfully aromatic Pomino Benefizio, a rich Barolo Monprivato 98 and a vintage Bruno di Rocca. To finish, a lovely glass of Solalto served us well, before our sweetly named dessert, ‘Our Florentine Kiss’, a 64 per cent chocolate and caramel mousse topped with hazelnut sponge cake drizzled in barley cream – heavenly!
Finish your visit as we did, with a drink in the bar followed by a walk along the balcony to catch a glimpse of Firenze twinkling in the distance. It was pure magic.
For more information, and to book a table at Villa San Michele’s La Loggia Restaurant, visit www.belmond.com.