Sunday, July 3, 2011


Two new places were tried last week: a drink at the five star hotel just outside Florence, Villa la Massa and dinner at the Cenacolo del Pescatore in the centre of Florence

VILLA LA MASSA is a top-notch luxury villa-hotel about 7 km outside of Florence proper - an oasis of calm and serenity on the Arno river. It's an ex-Medici villa complex from the sixteenth century, composed of the main villa, the converted stables and a smaller villetta, all within a stone’s throw of one another  (37 rooms in total). The complexes surround the pool and the patio area where I was seated, sipping my gin & tonic, nibbling on hazelnuts and being serenaded by the piano man off in the corner under the arches of the stable where the restaurant is also located. It was perfect, truly perfect and, if I were coming to Florence in the middle of summer and wanted five-star digs, this is exactly what I would choose, no doubt about it. It was cooler here than in the centre, in serene natural surroundings, and the non-invasive relaxed demeanour of the staff would make for a perfect stay.

Dinner at the CENACOLO DEL PESCATORE in Florence offers a different experience to other places in Florence. In fact, due to its completely closed and restrained decoration, once inside (after ringing the door bell), you forget entirely where you are and give yourself up to the wait staff, your dinner company and the food. We had a fantastic Japanese waiter (the chefs in the kitchen seemed to be all Japanese also). Thin, with spiked hair and dressed in black with white leather shoes, he moved with great flair - a flick of the fingers here and a twirl there, on the heel of his shoes when turning around. I mean every time he took something away or brought something to the table he performed a subtle kind of Michael Jackson move - we loved it!  What most people who eat here seem to go for is the degustation menu, a choice of 3 courses from the menu (50 euros) or 5 courses (70 euros). We chose the latter and washed it down with a nice bottle of Fiano d'Avellino from Campania. The degustation dishes are chosen by the kitchen and the evening kicks off with some little surprise anti- primas to whet the appetite (the first was diced raw salmon with rice served with a glass of boutique beer). The menu is predominately fish based but there are a few meat choices. The restaurant is run by the Italian chef Daniele Pescatore.

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