An artist’s palate with the most vibrant sights and fragrances of nature, Tuscany’s vibrant landscape of olive groves, and vineyards is not just to marvel at, but an invitation to cycle, hike, and explore. I was lucky enough to explore not one but four destinations on my recent visit.
Vitigliano Tuscan Relais is a hilltop setting overlooking the vineyards of Chianti. The exclusive country estate dates back to 1085, and later inhabited by the renowned Verrazzano family. The estate is now home to Marian and Keyan, who live on-site with their four children. The country house hotel includes a spa, hammam, swimming pool, and breath-taking 360 views of cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards. Luxury in Tuscany is the life you lead, not the possessions you have. “Wealth”, Marian tells me, “…is not your time piece or the car you drive, but the bottle of your own wine that you bring to share”. Marian fell in love when she first clapped eyes on the 1000-year-old site. This was to be their labour of love. The couple rescued the site, refurbishing it to its former glory, with sleek modernist style, open to share. Hosting a maximum of twelve guests, privacy is key at this secret hideout steeped in history. We stayed in a super chic contemporary barn, on two levels, with private garden. Exclusivity is embedded in the ancient walls. There are only seven suites, each individually designed, boasting exposed stone walls, and view to die for. As we walk around, Marian points out olive trees hundreds of years old, mountains and hillocks, and brings me to a tiny chapel, “…who must have lived here, died here, children born here?”, she says, and you can’t help but wonder.
One of the best ways to enjoy Tuscany is to get out into the hills on foot, and what better than living in an ancient hamlet? Nestled among the wooded hills near Cortona, Borgo di Vagli was founded 700 years ago. Architect-restorer Fulvio Di Rosa brought the historic estate back to its glory days, developing a collection of 21 restored stone dwellings in ancient surroundings. Real, earthy, and spiritual, Vagli promotes an inner purpose of simplicity, inviting reflection and contemplation. The village is perfect for those who want to get away from everything, and nestle in the lap of nature. Whether you want to explore castles or medieval cities, or walk and hike, Vagli is authentic Tuscan living in unspoilt natural surroundings. We went hiking before breakfast and the heady fragrances of wild flowers and grasses encapsulate as you take in the surroundings. For some r&r, the hilltop swimming pool has stunning views – a great spot for cooling off, or some yoga or meditation. If you don’t want to cook, the nearby towns boast Michelin star restaurants, but Vagli’s on-site trattoria offers hearty Italian food that is the real deal. You can buy a home at Borgo di Vagli that is fully managed and serviced through fractional ownership. The concept enables buyers to collectively own a one or two-bedroom luxury property,accommodating 4-6 people, for a set number of weeks each year. This gives you privacy with the comforts of a hotel, without the financial concerns maintaining a property throughout the year.
A haven for lovers of food and drink, Tuscans are proud of the quality of the fruits of their land. Producing the third best organic wine in the world, wine is the philosophy of Conti di San Bonaficio. The luxury hotel attracts wine lovers and enthusiasts who come for the full experience–from the vineyard to the winery, sampling wine directly from the barrel. The seasonal produce is so fresh that at dinner, looking over the vineyards, we witnessed one of their chefs scrambling up the hill with his hands full of fresh picked herbs!
Here, you can sit back and enjoy the fashionable rustic surroundings, or get hands-on in the culinary and wine tradition of the region. The hotel offers experiences such as olive picking, gelato workshops, a Vespa picnic, or the ultimate in luxury, hire a Ferrari. We were invited into the hotel kitchen to have a one-to-one cooking lesson with their Head Chef, Mateo. Thinking my vegan diet might be a challenge, we picked our own vegetables, baked our bread, and made our own tagliatelle…Tuscan skills we will keep forever!
Borgo Pignano is a luxurious country escape near the historic hill towns of Volterra and San Gimignano. The grand 750-acre organic estate is restored with great attention offering the highest level of hospitality. Art lovers flock here to enjoy and create works of art. The owner, venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz, is an enthusiast and has personally selected the art displayed around the estate.
Art extends to the dining experience. We enjoyed dinner on the terrace, savouring the beauty of our surroundings. Chef de Cusine Vincenzo Martella showed off his expertise in conjuring up exquisite vegan cuisine just for me. The result was beautiful to see and taste. “We only use the freshest, purest ingredients,” he tells me in true Tuscan pride, completely in line with Pignano’s ethos, ‘everything comes from the land’
This ethos is everywhere. Pignano produces almost all of its own food – grains and cereals for artisan breads and pastas, the gardens harvest vegetables. Natural honey and preserves are made here, along with cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. The bathrooms and spas are supplied with divinely fragrant soaps and bath products made from plants and flowers grown on the estate. I was treated to a full body massage at the spa, using organic ingredients pressed and bottled by Pignano’s own herbalists. I relaxed at the infinity pool nestled on the slope of a hill. Relaxation takes on a new dimension when surrounded views of the rolling Tuscan countryside.
The beauty of this region is whether you prefer an active holiday or just want to take in the culture and lush views, you will be surrounded by the wealth of nature’s bounty.
Accommodation was provided by:
Vitigliano Tuscan Relais and Spa
Borgo di Vagli
Conti di San Bonifacio
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