I have just returned from a lovely week at the Villa Tolomei. I am going to start with saying that Mija is a true gem in this hotel and her salary should be doubled immediately. She is absolute perfection in all that she does to assist guests and she makes you feel like a best friend from the minute you arrive. I cannot say enough good things about this girl who is the heart and spirit of this beautiful old building and clearly has a natural way with people. To her I send my absolute warmest thanks for helping me get through a difficult time that was the reason for my break away.
Now for the few niggles and I am saying these to help the hotel not criticise. This hotel has the potential to rival the Florence Four Seasons, if it plays its cards right. But it needs to do its homework and the very nice owner who kindly invited me to join a private party on the first night, needs to help some of his staff to turn this into the greatest little jewel it deserves to be.
I am not going to point out minor niggles of things that went wrong - largely down to the hotel not being quite finished yet. They perhaps needed to finish off a few things before opening as this would have prevented some of the earlier more negative reviews. There were a few things in my room that needed to be done but other than that it was plush and they had upgraded me to a Junior Suite which for a solo traveller who usually gets the worst room in the hotel was an absolute treat.
If you want to travel alone, this is a safe a peaceful location and quite frankly the walk into Florence is really not that far for anyone who is reasonably fit. On one occasion I managed it in just 12 minutes, but that was at a very brisk pace as I was rushing to catch a bus. Coming back it is up hill so bring a good pair of trainers and throw your mules in your bag as I did. Then you can always put better shoes on when you go into places.
If however, you prefer taxis or can't manage the walk, then 10 Euros will get you to town. Centre and train station cost slightly more but it certainly isn't a fortune. I like to emerge with the Italian culture so I did a lot of buses - the open decked buses are very good and you will see alot and quickly whilst getting a bit of local info. Buy a ticket for 2 or three days - it is much cheaper than going for one and then you can also use all the local buses as well. For two days, I paid 25 euro whereas for one it was 20. This will take you to places like Fiesoli up in the hills which is pretty and give you a good overall flavour of Florence and Tuscany.
For anyone who wants to see outside Florence, Lucca by train is easy and is a walled city with no cars - it is very pretty and a contrast to the hussle and bustle of Florence. I also went to Pisa and my tip there is if you are going to shop, wait until you go outside Florence - particularly for local touristy gift like items - you will pay half the price outside of Florence. However, if money is no object then the wealth of designer shops will be your destination. I was fortunate enough to be there for the Vogue Fashion Night and it was absolutely spectacular and great fun.
The villa is very imposing and very refined. It is pure elegance and when they tie up the loose ends it will be wonderful. The pool was heated and everywhere was clean and spacious.
The bar staff are friendly and I felt no nervousness about being a single woman in the hotel or enjoying an espresso at the bar. It was easy to chat to the guys and other guests and no one made me feel out of place. I have experienced difficulty in other hotels.
Okay now for the guidance I promised earlier. Some of the staff need more training. A lot of the problems are caused by not being able to speak English. That is fine in a three star hotel, but this hotel is likely to be used by international businessmen and women for conferences, as well as those looking for a peaceful location. The clientelle will mainly be older and more refined guests and they will expect to be understood. I am saying this from a place of authority because I am an accent reduction and English specialist and I would love to have been able to work with some of them to help their communication skills. (If the owner decides he would like my help, he is welcome to contact me.) I will happily come out and teach them English inhouse or over Skype and he may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org If not me, then he must get someone else to do this because he is risking his reputation by the very fact of the poor level of English of some of the front of house staff. It is acceptable not to have maids etc speaking English but the reception staff are the first person a guest will meet and if they don't understand what is needed or wanted then they are going to complain and this will lead to bad reviews which will not help the hotel to get established.
I am not going to name names but one man just doesn't have the training and he was on duty for four days that I was there. I was experiencing some problems with my room and needed his help. He just didn't seem to understand well enough what I needed. I also think in September there should be the option for heating in a room. I had to ask for a second duvet as I was cold and it took a long time for this man to find anything at all to give me. That is not five star treatment and needs to be addressed. There should be access to a linen cupboard or a blanket in the room if nothing else but as the weather was mixed, as it can be in September this far North, then guests should not be calling reception at 1am to ask for a blanket.
There were several other niggles like no light fixture in my wardrobe but to be fair to them they did try to resolve things quickly and offer a token of their apology. But this is not the best way. This is treating sypmtoms not curing the problems. It is far better to get these things right from the start and bringing tea and cakes on a tray without so much as a napkin to cover them with when their are flying mozzies - unavoidable at this time of year- then that is very one star and I really want this hotel to climb the ladder of success and succeed.
This is my honest review of the hotel which is charming and lovely and don't be put off by my comments because they are meant to help this hotel do better and I know it can. The minor teething problems are likely to be a thing of the past before too long. I cannot stress enough that in this day and age where so many speak English and the hotel's aspirations as a conference centre, as well as luxury retreat, are one of its primary aims, it must make sure that the front of house manager is fluent in English. One poor couple had just had a bereavement and could not get their internet to work. I was lucky enough to have someone show me how to get it going and I suspect that was what they needed. It is different in Italy and you need to know how to change your device but the man at the desk didn't really help them and they were back and forth. I did not want to interfere but they were clearly distraught wanting to contact someone and this handled badly. PLEASE GET YOUR STAFF SOME ENGLISH LESSONS AND MAKE THIS THE HOTEL IT DESERVES TO BE. IT IS AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL AND LUXURIOUS, DON'T LET LACK OF TRAINING BE ITS DOWNFALL!!
That's really all I wanted to say...I love this hotel and I do hope they will take on board the criticisms in the spirit they are made, which is that I want them to succeed and I want to come back and give five stars next time.....JO xx
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Villa Tolomei Hotel & Resort 5***** is the fantastic luxury hotel in Florence with panoramic swimming pool and restaurant with terrace and view for all of you seeking the convenience of a hotel combined with the privacy and comfort of a unique residence just 2,7 km-1,5 miles from the famous Ponte Vecchio on the historic city centre of Florence. Free Parking and Wi-Fi. ... more less
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