From Pisa, we drove through the rolling Chianti hills before arriving late afternoon at Salvadonica – the place you imagine Tuscany to be. We headed straight to the pool to catch the afternoon sun, our sunbeds looking out onto the fields of olive groves. Time stopped in that moment and anything work-related was conclusively left where it should be – on the other side of the world. The Italians do life so well – they have made it an art form to enjoy the simple, daily glories like food, wine and sunshine.
The property is magic. We took a glass of local wine and walked through the woods before heading up to the terrace for aperitivo at sundown. The terrace looks out over the valley and the stone-clad property, some of which dates back to the fourteenth century. The food was delicious and the homegrown produce took us on a journey of Tuscan flavours.
There’s plenty to do – morning walks and picnics, hot air balloon rides and cooking classes – but doing nothing (other than lie by the pool) is equally suitable.
When we left we drove 40 minutes south and stopped for lunch at Locanda Le Piazze – a boutique hotel and former farmhouse built in the 1540s. It sits among the hills of the commune of Castellina in Chianti and is surrounded by vineyards and cypresses. We had a long lunch (and more wine) at their garden terrace restaurant, Tavola which was a great stopover on our way to Montepulciano.
If you’re in the region, try and visit one of Tuscany’s small historic hill towns, Montepulciano. It’s not too far from Siena (which we bypassed) and is well known for its delicious full-bodied red wine. The city is filled with ancient buildings, charming squares and panoramic views of the Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana valleys. Wonderful little pizzerias are dotted all over the town – we had the loveliest dinner sitting outside, eating pizza and listening to an old Italian man on his accordion.
I used Airbnb and booked a little place for us to stay called Fattoria San Martino which was just outside the town – a twenty minute walk. I loved everything about it, but the friend I travelled with preferred Salvadonica. For me, I liked that the farm is cultivated biodynamically – the main house was restored using natural materials like lime, wood, stone and beeswax, the food is sourced or farmed locally and the energy is produced from renewable sources. The property also has naturally filtered waterlily green pond which was pretty heaven.
I had real sense of calm at this place. Everything about it seemed simple but so gorgeously Tuscan – the food, the rustic interiors and the general feel.
There’s this thing I do when I’m in Europe, probably more often than not – I fall entirely in love with a place and decide I’m going to live there. I visualise my life, think about all the logistics of moving and how I would make it work; I choose which street I would live on, where I would have my morning coffee and I imagine how I would fill my days. Cortona was not exception – I was absolutely convinced (and a year later part of me still is) that someday I will go back and live there.
It’s quintessential Italy. Old cobblestone streets and stone buildings. Alleyway after alleyway of cranky Italian women cursing at their husbands. The morning commotion of the fruit and veg drop-off as the church bells are sounding. Local butchers chatting away to the loyal oldies – and the sweet, sweet scent of pasta enveloping the whole town.
Our last stop of the trip was a hotel I’d also recommend, it’s called Locanda I griffin. I particularly liked that it had a swimming pool (summer in Tuscany is scorching and calls for respite) and it was just outside of the town, so you take a beautiful 30-minute stroll each time you go in and out. It’s a simple but charming place to stay and our room had beautiful big windows looking out onto the valley.