Villa Le Maschere Resort, Barberino di Mugello, Florence, Italy **

Q: What is it? A: A High Renaissance Tuscan villa that has been turned into a hotel, with ”frescoed ceilings, elaborate stucco work and colourful terrazzo floors” and a pretty unmotivated staff.

The High Renaissance villa feels more like a hotel than a palace.

Feels like a hotel. And for what is essentially a palace I'm not particularly sure that is a great thing.

Overlooking an 44-acre park in the Mugello valley.

The park, overlooking the Mugello valley is one of the greatest assets of the villa.
Beneath the umbrellas you'll find not one but two swimming pools and a spa.

Rooms are furnished with sleek, modern stuff. Quite tasteful.

It's actually not badly designed at all, but I can't but wonder why they tapped into the business-boring style that has become so common? This image could be taken anywhere in the world!

Clean bathroom. No surprises.

Functional and almost antiseptic. That's the bathroom of room # 201. No complaints about that.

Dinner on the terrace of Villa Le Maschere was OK. Not more.

Main course of the set-menu dinner: Rack of lamb. I'm sorry to say but dinner was... not really up to par. Wine recommendations were sketchy as well. This is where this hotel lost another star.

This is what it looks like when the modern stuff is crashing with the old stuff.

The lobby where old building meets new stuff. Designed by the owner Milva Fusi. Apparently
she wanted to be a female Philippe Starck. Tasteful? Well, it's a matter of taste, isn't it?

Impressive. That’s the first word that comes to mind…
While driving up the hill after having passed the manned gate, you can’t but think “Hey, this is the kind of place where Berlusconi goes partying with his teenagers…” That’s what it looks like. Presidential. Or in Berlusca’s case Prime Minister-ish. A porter storms out to collect the cases. Good start. Upgrade to a Superior room? Thank you. That’s even better. This palace starts out with collecting points, stars and whatever you want to use for reviewing.

Everything on the inside is modern.
The bar is made from Corian®, which would be the antidote to anything of the High Renaissance. A glass elevator takes you up to the second floor. The room interior is strict and almost on the minimalist side, the bedpost being the only notable exception from the norm. It’s a room that you will soon forget. What makes the Villa Les Maschere stand out is the bold exterior and the 44-acre park surrounding it. Built in the second half of the 16th century it’s been a posh retreat for wealthy and well-fed owners. In 2009, after decades of neglect and after five years of (obviously) costly renovation, it had been turned into a hotel with Milva Fusi acting as both owner and designer. She hasn’t done a bad job as the latter, but her efforts supports my theory that money can’t buy you taste, nor can it create atmosphere.

When the hotel started to lose points:
I wouldn’t consider myself a grumpy reviewer, but I’d say that the members of staff at Villa Le Maschere that I met, were bloody uninterested in their job. The people tending at the bar, (yes, the one sculpted out of Corian®), were very busy communicating internally. At dinner, the waiter did his best to keep up but was unable to produce a proper wine recommendation, (or a sommelier). “Something red”, was his response when asked for something that would go well with the lamb racks. OK, “red” it was. Thanks. Upon checkout, the staff at front desk obviously wished to get kidnapped and brought away to be tortured. Anything but manning the reception. Where the hell is Matt Foley when you need him?

It must happen from within.
I often let hotels make mistakes to see how they deal with them. There are not too many actual interactions between a guest and the hotel staff, so it is fairly easy to pinpoint the actual events and occasions where it goes wrong. But in the case of Villa Le Maschere, it’s the overall impression more than anything else. Something is lacking; the service puzzle is still missing crucial pieces.
You will notice that the hotel management quickly responds to any complaints aimed at this hotel on TripAdvisor. Nice one. I wish that they could be as swift addressing the lack of motivation among staff members. Staying at the Villa Le Maschere was like dating a beautiful fashion model with no personality. An attractive exterior without a heart.

This piece of knowledge came at a cost of 348 € (breakfast included). Should I send them an invoice?

– – – – 

EXCEPTIONS: I’ll be fair. The staff at the relatively new spa, opened in 2011, stood out as helpful and nice. The porter who struggled with the bags from my car to the room (Superior, thanks!) kept a brave face despite all the struggling. Thanks for making a difference.

Villa Le Maschere Resort
Via Nazionale 75
50031 Barberino di Mugello


Wanna stay in a palace-like High Renaissance Tuscan villa despite my rather lukewarm review?
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