I’ve been to Tuscany before, but always with Florence as my home base. Doing day trips to Siena or Lucca, or heading out into the countryside for a day of winetasting before retreating back to the city. When the opportunity arose to spend a whole week in Tuscany, I jumped at it!
The focus for this trip was romance travel (destination weddings and honeymoons). We had the opportunity to tour some gorgeous properties and meet some fantastic local business owners (florists, caterers, event planners, and photographers). And, of course, eat and drink some amazing local food and wine.
If you’ve ever dreamed of getting married in Tuscany, we can absolutely hook you up!
[Photo: The dining hall of Corte dei Papi villa in Cortona]
But I am really excited about Tuscany in general, and what a different experience it offers vacationers when compared to the big cities.
We stayed at the Buccelletti Casali and Cantina, in Castiglion Fiorentina. It’s a charming property that has been in the Buccelletti family since 1625. They’ve been growing olives and making olive oil for generations, and they now make wine as well.
They have converted the old farm workers’ houses into clusters of villas and apartments. Plus, they’ve turned the olive oil mill into a stunning event space. It was the perfect home base for a week spent exploring the surrounding countryside.
[Photo: Buccelletti Casale and Cantina]
The accommodations themselves were the first big difference from previous trips to Italy. I was in a cute little house with two bedrooms and bathrooms, a living/dining area and small kitchen, and a private yard/garden.
We could prepare our own breakfasts of farm-fresh eggs, homemade bread, and locally produced yogurt, jams, honey, and fruit. We had bottles of wine and olive oil produced right there on site. And the cuisine could not have been more “farm to table”. So different from staying in a hotel!
When you’re out in the country at an agriturismo like this, it does help to have a car, so that you can get out to the local shops and markets. But at the Buccelletti Casali, we had a basket of provisions (replenished mid-week) and it was more than enough for breakfasts and snacks.
We were a group, with a very organized itinerary (and drivers/guides), but I would highly encourage clients to rent a car and enjoy a more independent stay in Tuscany. The roads are great, the traffic is light, and they drive on the right side of the road. It’s very manageable for American drivers.
[Photo Credit: MIP Studios via Shared Adventures – a road in Cortona]
While we were there, we had a busy itinerary filled with site inspections at hotels/inns/B&Bs, guided tours of Tuscan hill towns, tastings at local vineyards, and many lengthy multi-course meals with wine pairings. Brutal, I know.
We learned how cheese is made. We met mayors, hoteliers, restauranteurs, and the fascinating couple who purchased and renovated the villa featured in “Under the Tuscan Sun”.
[Photo: Ann & Kristy at Villa Laura]
Some of the highlights, for me, included:
- Cortona – a town of steep streets, gorgeous views, Etruscan history, and tempting shops.
- Pici – traditional hand-rolled Tuscan pasta, made from just the “poorest” of ingredients (flour and water).
- Podere il Casale – a pecorino cheese producer, organic farm, and farm-to-table restaurant outside of Pienza, where we enjoyed a fabulous meal completely sourced from right there onsite. (So delicious that I purchased and carried home their very heavy hardbound cookbook in the hopes of recreating that magic)
- Brunello di Montalcino wines – made with 100% Sangiovese, bold and fruity, one of the best Italian reds!
The Tuscany Takeaway
Tuscany is all about the slow food movement, slowing down to take it all in, and enjoying the views.
There’s no long list of “must-sees”. You can while away an afternoon (guilt-free) sitting by the pool sipping wine and snacking on prosciutto. Or riding an e-bike through the countryside. Or rolling up your sleeves for a cooking class.
I realize now that I was doing it all wrong when I visited Tuscany as a quick side trip from Florence. Tuscany invites you to stop, linger, indulge, experience, and enjoy. And I can’t wait to come back and do it all again!
[Photo: Villa Le Prata in Montalcino]