As the home of the Apennine Mountains, a fine collection of Renaissance art, including the works of Michelangelo and Botticelli, and rolling green hills adorned with some of the finest grapes in the world, Tuscany continues to offer a tranquil region of Italy for truly getting away from hectic homelife.
Whether you harbor an inner sommelier or not, with a reasonable driving distance to Florence and Pisa, as well as a short jaunt to beautiful beaches and coastal routes, we took in of the best hotels in Tuscany to get a taste of what the region has to offer for those with a particular vision in mind…
For a very warm welcome: Vitigliano
Nestled in the Chianti region roughly halfway between Florence and Siena, Vitigliano occupies a unique hilltop setting accessed by a dirt track – something one learns is a sign of exclusivity and lets you know you are no longer on the main tourist trail here. Once atop the vista, the first essential element for a Tuscan getaway is front and centre – the view. Honestly, if your villa isn’t on high, then look elsewhere. Here, one can see the burgeoning countryside and gently imagine the potential of the grapes growing down below, and that is just from the car park. Once inside the complex, one immediately feels comfortable and embraces a sense of intimacy within the six-suite villa. That isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of additions on offer; from a chapel, to a wellness centre or a conference house, there is plenty to love here.
The exposed natural stone of the suites adds a rustic twist to an otherwise luxury abode, with marble finishes in the bathroom and warm design flourishes such as the parquet flooring made from old wine barrels. There is a stunning view from each room should you choose to take some time out for yourself there, but there is an impulse to drop your bags and tear yourself away to sit by the pool on one of the comfy daybeds. Wandering around in this private hideaway, it is easy to feel at home and slip into a deep state of relaxation. Though there are activities to do nearby, we opted to simply unwind and enjoy the sunset.
As the sun sets and inviting aromas drift from the kitchen, one can’t help but opt to dine al fresco. And although the menu changes with the seasons, the food sampled here was superb. And whether you are a vino aficionado or not, the absolutely lovely owners are always on hand to make the perfect recommendation for what would best accompany your meal. The morning after brings a beautiful breakfast set out on the terrace; the in-house chef also baked possibly the most delicious, bouncy gluten-free bread imaginable. All there is to do now is decide how long you can stay.
When you want to get serious about sustainability: Borgo Pignano
There is no mistaking the motives of Borgo Pignano as you drive up to the large estate and pull into the car park to the view of a working farm. Though any Tuscan getaway worth its salt will produce its own wine or, at the very least, overlook a vineyard, Borgo Pignano goes that little bit further, and isn’t shy about it. On a tour of the farm space, one sees how the production of cold-pressed olive oil and its own organic flours takes place in a quest for self-sustainability. To complement this is a range of other livestock and the buzz of bee-keeping as organic honey is also prepared on-site and available to buy from an impressive pantry of offerings.
Though the drive for sustainability is a fairly modern principle, there is palpable sense of history running through many of the other building elements, some of which have stood here for two millennia. The earthy undertones also run throughout the accommodation as a range of rooms occupy the fringes of the main complex in stand-alone buildings, such as the farmhouse, and require a short drive to your abode.
There is a wide choice of rooms, but a particular highlight is La Canonica, the Priest’s house – a particularly beautifully crafted option, which is available as a large house or two suites. You are spoilt for choice between rooms, suites, maisonettes, cottages and the farmhouse, each as charming as the next, and they each cater to a wide range of guests’ desires and ideals of where they wish to lay their head on an evening.
With an on-site art gallery, spa and multiple dining options (including a fine-dining experience for a touch of class), there is a plethora of easy-access activities, as well as bolder options for the adventurous such as cooking and painting classes, horseback riding or, quintessentially, wine tasting. On that note, one could simply while away an evening drinking dreamy cocktails on the garden terrace as the sun slowly disappears beyond the horizon and you slip into a deep state of peace.
To feel a bit like royalty: Castello di Vicarello
If the length of the aforementioned gravel road traversed in order to arrive at a front gate was an indication of just how beautiful a hidden hotel may be, then Castello di Vicarello may be a clear winner. The drive is so long off the main road that you begin to think you are lost, but don’t turn back, for this place is nothing short of stunning. It is so beautiful and scenic as to almost be cinematic, and it is easy to imagine film producers banging down its doors to shoot a paradise-set romance inside these wonderful walls. We arrived as a wedding party was having a last lunch before departing, which added a wonderful communal street feeling in the cobbled courtyard. To be honest, it’s best to call this place what it is: a castle.
There are eight magnificent, elegantly decorated suites on offer here: four situated within the main walls, and three more independent ones that are contained within the gardens, as well as a deluxe eighth offering. Castello also doubles down on the luxury by offering two pools, each with a different view of the beautiful woodlands. If you can tear yourself away from lounging by the water sipping the local blend, then you can explore the grounds and see the harvest – grapes or olives – for yourself, time of the year depending, of course. There is also the ever-popular well-being aspect as the complex has an on-site spa as well. Let’s face it, with biking, horseback riding, truffle hunting or cooking classes on the agenda, you’ll never want for anything to do. And speaking of cooking, there is of course a beautiful array of food on offer for both dinner and breakfast. There is a wonderful atmosphere here: long rustic wooden tables are decorated with jars of fresh flowers as some of the finest foods – such as locally sourced meat and fish, and vegetables from the on-grounds garden – are served from the ancient-stone kitchen.
And on an evening, if you are lucky, and the sky is clear, then the clear air opens up a canvas of stars from horizon to horizon. Castello di Vicarello shines brightly from the region.
For a modern twist: Conti di San Bonifacio
Outside Conti di San Bonifacio sits a small, gleaming red vespa invitingly catching the sunlight. The small sign lets you know it is for hire should you wish to take it for a spin. These are the small details that make one truly feel like they are living a slice of Tuscan life. The light-brown brick building walls, gravel stone driveway and lush green lawn also help, of course.
On this 125-hectare site sits 1,000 years of history dating back to when the Counts of Bonifacio ruled over Verona. Today, Countess Sarah di San Bonifacio has created a more modern, classic-feeling resort, meticulously designed and housing seven suites. Each one is custom built in the Tuscan style using traditional chestnut beams; the walls are covered with cool, soothing tones and the rustic desks and chairs enrich a natural vibe. An open en-suite bathroom houses a sumptuous shower and bath space should you wish to take a long soak to enrich the relaxation to its highest potential. As soon as one steps across the threshold in these rooms, a sense of calm and relaxation washes over you and that feeling of truly being away sinks in. Step outside and the terraces overlook the vineyards below – it is the perfect place for taking in some antipasti and a glass (or two) of fizz.
Elsewhere, the pool glistens in the sun, and the exclusive nature of the resort doesn’t go unnoticed as you feel total privacy either in your own space or sharing it with the few other guests. The evening restaurant is relaxed with a delicious menu on offer. The only problem here may be ordering too much as the meals are warm and hearty. Don’t, for instance, order a mouth-watering pasta dish to be followed by wild boar and polenta, or one may feel fit to burst as we did. Magically though, there is always room for one of the delectable desserts on offer, or another tipple. After all, the estate produces a trio of award-winning organic red wines (and an organic olive oil), as well as a Prosecco – perfect for celebrating a very wise holiday decision.
Feature by Nicole Gray