|Just five kilometres from Lucca, in the beautiful, sun-drenched Tuscan countryside, an elegant, cream-coloured nineteenth-century villa comes into view as you enter the gate. It stands fairly high on a hill, surrounded by a large garden in the typical Lucca Renaissance style, with two flights of steps leading up to the entrance, from either side. A peaceful atmosphere reigns everywhere, a balm for the soul of any traveller.
The interior and the garden
As you enter you find yourself in a large, welcoming room overlooking the Italian-style garden, which is not at all like the usual hotel foyer, starting from the reception area with a single antique desk and a smiling young lady in attendance who can't do enough for you.
The ceiling has exposed beams, and the original Tuscan Tessiere flooring gleams. The cream and grey walls are decorated with two large, subtle trompes l'oeils with trailing plants. The area is furnished with soft, comfortable sofas upholstered in cream chenille velvet, arranged around a low Indonesian teak bed that serves as a table on which there is a tray filled with white candles. These are offset by understated antiques, including a charming painted eighteenth-century gueridon, which complete the furnishings.
Light pours in through the large French doors with a single flowing tie-back curtain. After sundown, the room is lit by fine table lamps with crystal bases.
The pleasant, relaxing atmosphere that guests at Villa Marta so love, is created mainly by the cordial and attentive hospitality offered by Andrea Martellini and his wife Alessia, who run the hotel. They personally welcome the guests and see to their every need with friendly efficiency, making them feel as if they are staying in a private home rather than a hotel.
A short flight of steps in pietra serena leads to a pleasant breakfast room/restaurant with terracotta flooring, and rustic wooden tables on a cast-iron base reminiscent of the Art Nouveau style. The walls are painted in cream and yellow vertical stripes. A low antique cabinet in beige lacquer contains bottles of the excellent local wines (Montecarlo and other labels) and doubles as a table for the tempting buffet breakfast. The Menu del Buon Risveglio offers genuine products that are really good for you: a variety of yoghurts, jams, biscuits, cakes and fresh fruits, cold cuts for those who like savouries, and bread and brioches straight from the oven. For lunch and dinner, the chef presents a selection of traditional dishes.
The breakfast room/restaurant leads into the lounge decorated in a warm orangey-pink, where the rustic, slightly oldy-worldy atmosphere created by the wood-beamed ceiling, terracotta flooring, fireplace and antique furniture, is set off by the plasma TV. Here you can flop on the comfortable sofas and armchairs, and relax with a book or drink, bathed in the gentle light from the English-style windows overlooking the garden.
In summer, guests practically live on the terrace with its tables and umbrellas, surrounded by camellias and azaleas, and magnolia, pine, linden, box, bay and cherry trees, as well as the olive, cypress and holm oak trees that are part of the Tuscan landscapes featured in the paintings of the great Renaissance masters. Jasmine, with its heady perfume, covers the surrounding walls.
There is also a small house open on all four sides, with a lounge area furnished with a wicker table and chairs. Here you can enjoy the shade and unwind with a drink or something to eat, with the blue water of the swimming pool glittering invitingly nearby.
Where the rooms are concerned, if you're looking for the utmost privacy 111 is perfect, and opens onto the garden.
The hotel boasts a fully-equipped industrial kitchen, where cookery courses are also held. These are one of the best ways to appreciate the simplicity and distinct flavours of the Lucca cuisine.
There is also an Internet point at clients' disposal.
Hair appointments and beauty treatments can be arranged on request.
Guests may leave the cars in the large parking area.
The hotel also offers its guests bicycles to fully appreciate the beautiful scenery of the surrounding countryside.
Individual guided tours are also available to discover the area's cultural heritage, as well as painting courses taught by professional artists.
Inside the exclusive nineteenth-century complex there is a small Neo-Classical chapel, the ideal place for a romantic wedding. And, of course, the reception can be held in the main hall or the garden of the hotel.
The tranquil yet imposing Monastery of San Cerbone, still active today, stands on a hillside close by.
There are 11 rooms, all extremely comfortable, and four more will be added soon. Two are deluxe, where guests are pampered just that little bit more, with a towelling bathrobe and double washbasin.
Great attention is given to detail: fine, unusual bed linen, with coverlets that are all different; radiators and air-conditioners painted the same colour as the walls; minibar and mineral water in a glass bottle in every room; hand-made chocolates in the finest Lucca tradition to wish you sweet dreams.
The fabrics used either have a flower motif combined with small squares or with stripes: red and beige are featured in some rooms, and lilac and pale green or aquamarine in others. Some beds have elegant canopy drapes. Most of the ceilings have exposed beams, and the terracotta floors cool rush mats. Each mirror is a different design. The decorative elements and the frames of the prints change according to the key colour of the décor. The doors are white. Extra comforts are provided for guests in each room, in the form of a desk and two armchairs, and a minibar. All the rooms have air-conditioning, direct dial phone, satellite TV, hairdryer, as well as the minibar.
All the bathrooms have windows, some have a tub, others a shower. They are tiled in cream and grey Tessiere majolica ware, the basins have either a marble or pietra serena and tile surround. There is a Pija courtesy kit and also a mini kit with fruit-scented shampoo and conditioner.
Deluxe room 103 is the ultimate, with its original patterned Tessiere floor and a fresco on the ceiling featuring birds and masks. Linen fabrics in cream and grey create a soft, refined atmosphere. There is an antique wardrobe in treated wood.