Come with us as we explore Italy and check out properties for Gira! Italian Vacation Rentals.
Today is Day 16. The half way point in our journey through Italy. We’ve had some time to rest, but for the most part we keep up the pace, joining with our wonderful partners here and taking to the road to see the very best villas that Italy has to offer.
There is a gentle rain falling as we leave Villa Castiglione, passing through Tavernelle briefly to enjoy a quick caffe latte and brioche at a convenient bar as we come into the city. As usual, it’s a quick visit to stand at the bar and watch the locals chat, glance at the soccer news and argue passionately about politics. This morning it’s a mellow crowd, mostly on their way to work in the center of town.
Our friend waits for us at the access road that leads to town from the Florence-Siena dual carriageway. She gets in the front seat and we exchange a quick Italian hello-kiss. She guides us through some country roads and we arrive at the entrance to Poggio al Frantoio, a delightful complex of two buildings. One is a stand alone villa called Villa la Pieve and the other has six apartments inside. Altogether, the estate can accommodate up to 42 people, so large groups can consider this for family reunions, weddings and other get-togethers. There are lots of large olive groves that surround the property, which gives it a nice countryside feel.
From here, it’s only a short drive to the hill town of Barberino val d’Elsa, one of our favorite spots in Chianti. We make a quick left turn near the town center and Le Fonti is at the end of the drive. Le Fonti has the good fortune to have what is so desired in Italy–a great countryside view in one direction and a charming little town to walk to in the other. The house develops on two levels, working its way down the hillside with a twin bedded room on one level and two doubles on another. The owner invites us into her home, adjacent to the house, for what she calls a caffe veloce (quick coffee), which turns out to be a hilarious break time in her kitchen, tasting her home made torta and, of course, delicious Italian espresso.
It doesn’t take long to get to Castellina in Chianti, the location of Montornello, a beautiful farmhouse that sits on the crest of a rolling hill with a broad and peaceful view. From here you can see the cultivated fields that will rotate between sunflowers, wheat and other crops as the seasons go by. Montornello offers the utmost of privacy, as there is a considerable distance to the nearest neighbor. The pool setting is one of the very best in Italy, and the house has lots to offer, with tastefully furnished spaces both inside and out.
There is an extraordinary Chianti made on the estate, which is sold throughout the world. The manager of the properties treats us to a tasting which is also a robust Tuscan lunch. It turns out to be a fabulous party. She speaks of her wine colleagues, who at the time are traveling in other countries to market their excellent products. We are served the very best of breads, cheeses and prosciutto. To top it off, we’re treated to an extraordinary traditional ribbolita, a soup made with bread and tomatoes. I had tasted it before, but this one is a family specialty that offers so much more.
Following lunch, we stop in to see Capannino, a tastefully furnished villa with an amazing view. Then we tour the set of simple and rustic farmhouses that are known as the Casali Lilliano. When you go through these houses, you get a taste of the farming tradition that goes back centuries, yet still remains much as it was throughout history. By the way, these houses are a good deal for an economical holiday in the center of beautiful Chianti–and new infinity pools have been added to most of them.
The real jewels are saved for last, and we have the good fortune to visit just around sunset. Tonight is a colorful show. Villa Belvedere is one of those ultimate-Tuscan-villa places that you really have to see (or stay at!) to believe. For a group up to twelve guests, it offers lots of space and a beautiful renovation that includes stylish furniture and a superb kitchen. The place has a solid feel to it. The grounds are extensive and the pool is very well positioned to give you a 360 degree view of sublime countryside.
The sky is a soft glowing pink when we arrive at Villa Oratorio, which can also be said to occupy the pinnacle of great Tuscan villas. Its origin was as an ‘oratory’, a sort of monastery that included a space where scripture was read out loud. The English word auditorium is related, although the villa does not include a large room with seats. It’s more like a rustic farmhouse, with its traditional beam construction and outbuildings. In the 1870s it was converted from a sacred building into a farmhouse. Today it’s one of the most tasteful and well-appointed villas in Italy.
Tomorrow: Lucca and Florence and all things Tuscany!