From truffle hunting to lying by the pool listening the peal of church bells, Venetia van Kuffeler discovers Tuscany has an extraordinary amount to offer
Our home for the week was Villa Le Cipressae, a magnificent seventeenth century villa that has recently been restored and converted into a beautiful private home. The emphasis is on home, because Villa Le Cipressae is not your average holiday rental. The house is filled with beautiful furniture, glorious artworks, and every mod-con you can imagine. Hidden behind spectacular stone gates, Villa Le Cipressae is set on a hilltop overlooking rolling vineyards and olive groves dotted with magnificent palazzos and cypress trees. The landscape couldn’t be anywhere but Italy, and must be some of the most romantic in the world. The trip had been organised by Tuscany Now & More. More than a villa rental company, the organisation is happy to tailor your trip to your personal requirements.
A villa that can be used all year round, inside was as magnificent as the exterior. The well-equipped kitchen had all the appliances you could possibly imagine, and a separate room that housed endless different sets of plates (from fine French bone china to Tuscan ceramics), knives and forks, fine crystal glasses and serving platters. Villa la Cipressae is clearly a home where eating and drinking well is an occupation to be taken seriously. We were up for the challenge…
The housekeeper Crina was on hand to let us in on arrival, clean for three hours a day (included with rental), and generally advise on the local area in terms of shops and restaurants. One evening, Elena, a chef from another of Tuscany Now & More’s villas, came to cook supper. This seven-course truffle-focused extravaganza was not for the fainthearted. Her tagliatelle al tartufo was a triumph! Most evenings however, we cooked ourselves. With fresh, local ingredients so easily available, either from the vast Esselunga supermarket or roadside stalls, cooking was a pleasure.
Days were spent in the garden and by the pool, listening to the chatter of happy children and the peal of church bells. A pergola of grapes offered two long walkways and plenty of shade for sleeping babies and dining al fresco.
Literature fans could spend hours in the library browsing the shelves, or in the office (also a bedroom), examining the walls decorated with shipping maps. We went to sleep each night sunkissed with full bellies, beneath the golden cherubs mounted above the bed in the master bedroom. It was a happy week.
Asides from swimming, lazing in the garden and planning our next meal, Tuscany has so much to do, and we barely scratched the surface. We visited the medieval town of Lucca less than 10 minutes away, famous for its vast Renaissance-era city walls, and home to the annual Puccini Festival. We wandered along the winding streets, climbed the Guinigi Tower, walked through the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro (also the site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre), and rode bicycles along the top of the city’s walls. The backstreets are filled with good restaurants to while away the afternoon, sipping wine and watching the world go by.
Tuscany Now & More was keen to tempt us with a day at a private beach club in Forte dei Marmi or perhaps a private tour of Pisa. The company has recently been rebranded to introduce curated experiences where Italian hospitality meets bespoke, ultra-personalised experiences. For example, explore Chianti’s countryside in a classic Fiat 500, or tour the marble quarries of the Apuan Alps by Jeep.
Furthermore, Tuscany Now & More has an array of foodie experiences on offer this autumn, including guided boar hunts at Il Borgo di Petroio, a beautiful stone farmhouse set on a 900-acre estate in the hills, and truffle hunting at Villa Lungomonte, a grand fifteenth century villa with sweeping views of the Tower of Pisa. Wine and cooking classes can then be arranged to show off the booty gathered during these activities.
Guests can also discover the culinary delights of Florence’s Artesian Gelato Festival this month, and the San Miniato Truffle Festival next. Aren’t you just a little bit tempted? Tuscany Now & More can provide insider tips, and of course, the best villa accommodation for your escape to Italy.
Venetia van Kuffeler stayed at Villa Le Cipressae www.tuscanynowandmore.com/villas/villa-le-cipressae/
For further information and bookings, please contact www.tuscanynowandmore.com or call 0207 684 8884.