Tuesday, July 3, 2012

HOTEL CHECK ITALY, part 10, Villa Mangiacane

This is a spot for those who love Tuscan country living. Villa Mangiacane is surrounded by its own vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti Classico area. You are enfolded in warm hospitality and Tuscan ambience, and feel truly like personal guests.  

The rustic and intimate hotel does everything to arrange a real Tuscan experience you, including wine tasting tours and bookings at local restaurants – there are 5 good ones within a 5km radius.

Villa Mangiacane was built as a palazzo for a Cardinal in the Machiavelli family and another Machiavelli (the famous Nicolo), wrote The Prince in a stone house on the opposite ridge.

His name lives in the restaurant Albergaccio Di Nicolò Machiavelli, easily reached by a walk through the vineyards. And the spirit of his times lives on in the original villa with frescoes restored and rooms lavishly furnished – a long labour of love by a South African who bought the previously rundown villa.

Afternoon tea and newly baked cake in a salon in the original villa

While the choice suites and lounges in this building have kept an Italian style, the newer Mazzei Villa housing most of the rooms is more eclectic, with African art and trendy modern touches. Africa runs out too into the Tuscan gardens. Among the lawns, pools and fragrant roses and lemon trees, there are dozens of sculptures from Zimbabwe.

Sunny swimming pool  among lawns and rose gardens
A sparkling swimming pool is set amidst open lawns and gardens behind the Mazzei Villa – a pool bar opens later in the summer, and a second pool lies in shadier position by the Machiavelli villa. The signature sculptures from long ago stand on the gateposts – two stone dogs – to illustrate the name Mangiacane (eat dog), trying to rise imposingly above lush growth.

Mangiacane stone dog gateposts beyond verdant gardens

Come good weather, which we did not have, you can dine in the garden. We dined out every night, generously provided with a free shuttle and booked at local restaurants by reception.

In this boutique hotel with only 27 rooms you get very personal treatment by the GM and his multinational staff.

"Where will you eat tonight?" "What will you do tomorrow?" They go all out for you to have a really rich Tuscan experience. Whether hiring a car for you for the day to get to the architectural gem of Siena, or arranging a Chianti wine tour just for you, or booking you at the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David and so on. There is a complimentary shuttle to Porta Roma in Florence. And to nearby San Casciano.

Pretty little San Casciano, 5 km 

The little town of San Casciano is a gem only 5 km distant with narrow streets lined with small shops, eateries and fragrant rose bushes – and no curios at all. An authentic Italian town. We were encouraged to try all the restaurants and trattorias there – Villa Mangiacane booked our tables and gave us free lifts back and forth to we could have that experience. Not just us – but many other guests took advantage of this opportunity.

San Casciano is a great place to eat local food at very reasonable prices – our favourites were Cinque de Vino and Cantinetta del Nunno.

It was also a good spot for buying designer sunglasses (it seemed much cheaper than Florence).


In the newer building (also housing reception and dining room) there are three Superior rooms with private gardens and plunge pools (30 sqm), some deluxe rooms (35 sqm) and Junior Suites (50 sqm), some with plunge pools. The lowest category are Classic rooms – not recommended to top luxury customers. Our Junior suite rose up like a tower in the middle and did not feel at all Junior, more like a fully fledged suite. Downstairs a lounge with easy chairs, sofa and attractive items of furniture. The sitting room opens into a huge bathroom with a big round bath and adjoining open shower, two basins and dressing tables, and glass cabin with toilet and bidet. Upstairs is a cosy bedroom with massive bed – dreamily comfortable – luxury linen and pefect pillows. And a small toilet/bidet cabinet.

We loved our room, but we did envy the private garden next door where people were relaxing on sunbeds while their kids played in the plunge pool. Their plunge pool, looking a bit opaque after the torrents of rain when we arrived, was cleaned up and sparkled.

Deluxe room

Deluxe room bathroom

Junior suite upstairs bathroom (in some it is downstairs)

Junior suite
We looked over a Deluxe room with generous bathroom but rather small bedroom. And another junior suite, this time with the bathroom upstairs. Every room is different and all have hand-plucked items of furniture.

Verandah in the original villa overlooking the hills around Florence

The most sought after rooms are in the Machiavelli Villa. There we saw the Royal Suite (with opulent marble and onyx  Jacuzzi bath, dramatic four poster bed,  and personal steam room), and a Terrace suite offering lounge/parlour and romantic bedroom. There is one two-bedroom suite on the upper terrace expecially suitable for families.

Upstairs bedroom in a Terrace Suite

Weddings, cooking courses and wine...

The wine cellar is rented out for weddings along with the accommodation above it – the extravagantly decorated Royal suite, and often the whole Machiavelli villa is taken up by the wedding party. Prices are very competitive with Florence.

Like so many Tuscan country hotels, they offer Tuscan cooking courses in a dedicated kitchen. You dine what you cook at the adjoining table.

Within an hour's drive there are multitude of sights and wine tasting opportunities. Anything from a half day of wine tasting to 7 or 8 hours including medieval villages and Chianti Classico wine or the famous Brunello di Montalcino, with its brilliant garnet colour. From 450 euro to 1500 euro for 2 people including a  gourmet lunch.


You are only 12 km from Florence and its treasure house of Renaissance culture, with a free shuttle to the city gates  subject to availability. Good idea to book galleries a few days in advance to avoid queues. If you want to do the minimum with regard to art (and concentrate more on the food and wine experience) choose Galleria Dell'Accademia to see the David by Michelangelo. A huge and magnificent piece of work. You are not allowed to photograph it - but feel free to snap the burlesque copy in the inner square.

A copy of the David - great for Facebook inserts

How to get to Villa Mangiacane

25 minutes by car from Florence International Airport. There is a free shuttle from Porto Roma – a circle just outside the Florence city walls. From the city centre a taxi ride to Porto Roma cost 6 euros.

In a nutshell

A place for a great Tuscan holiday with plenty of help to dine around, taste wines and discover the charms of Tuscany. The mood is rustic, laid back, personal and friendly with every effort made to help you expand your Tuscan experience.

View over terracotta rooftops from our tower junior suite

Pool and African sculptures by the original Villa
Entrance to the newer wing including reception

Note: images are our spontaneous snaphots in typical blog style.

See our website for an aerial shot of the attractive pink villa.

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