The Chianti and Grosseto regions offer not only sumptuous wines, but the converted farmhouses and the landscape in which to drink them

The vines were "weeping" when we went to Fontodi. Droplets of sap hung from the ends of the neatly pruned branches indicating that the plants were about to explode with abundant growth.

The vines were "weeping" when we went to Fontodi. Droplets of sap hung from the ends of the neatly pruned branches indicating that the plants were about to explode with abundant growth.

We would probably never have noticed this had we not been living right in the middle of a vineyard. We had come to stay at "La Rota" on the Fontodi wine estate in one of three apartments which have been created by the conversion of some old stone Tuscan farm buildings.

Originally our accommodation would have been the home of estate workers who operated a system of share-farming with the owners called "mezzadria". This arrangement began to change after the Second World War, leaving many beautiful old buildings to fall into disrepair. This is one of the main reasons why "agriturismo" is now so prevalent in Italy. Farmers and estate owners have found themselves with empty buildings on their land and have decided to convert them to rent to people visiting the area.

"La Rota" lies down a dirt track in the middle of the vineyard. Inside, handmade Tuscan country furniture is set off by botanical prints, terracotta tiles, rugs and pretty fabrics. Each apartment has its own private garden shielded by a hedge of oleander, magnolia, spirea and forsythia. Rosemary, sage, and thyme plants fill the air with aromatic scents. The rooms are beamed and the windows shuttered.

Our bedroom had a big window, shaded from the full strength of the sun by a traditional Tuscan trellis of brickwork, which made soft grid-like shadows on the wall when the light streamed through. Beyond the little private havens, there is a swimming pool right on the edge of a vineyard.

This is the heart of Chianti country and Fontodi is one of Chianti Classico's top estates. They also make very good olive oil. The Manetti family bought the estate in 1968 and now have a state-of-the-art winery. The family has been "chiantigiani" for over three centuries and also has a terracotta business which has been in production since the 17th century. The tiles and pots that you see at "La Rota" are from the Manetti factories at Ferrone.

From the manicured landscape of Chianti country, with its rolling hills and little valleys planted so uniformly with vines and olives, we moved south and west towards the coast to reach the Grosseto region of Tuscany. The area is dominated by the Maremma plain which centuries ago was swampy and malaria-infested until it was drained to produce agricultural land. The coastline is wild, dramatic and studded with ruined castles.

The Monti dell'Uccellina nature park covers about 20km of the coastal mountains and the marshland around the mouth of the river Ombrone. Further inland, hilltop medieval towns like Capalbio and Magliano are visible from afar, across the flat Maremma plain.

Here we stayed at the "agriturismo" on the La Parrina vineyard. Dottoressa Franca Spinola, the present owner, is a descendant of the family that acquired the estate at the beginning of the 19th century. Three years ago, she converted the main 18th-century villa, where she was brought up, into rooms for letting. "The rooms are still called after the people who used to stay in them," explained the Dottoressa. The villa forms one side of a huge courtyard, partly shaded by plane trees. On another side, above the tasting rooms for the vineyard and the old estate chapel, there are also self-catering apartments.

Not only can you stay at La Parrina, but you can eat food and drink wine produced on the estate. When we visited, the farm shop was selling strawberries, large knobbly kiwi fruit, huge bunches of basil, asparagus, rocket, artichokes and zucchinis, complete with their delicate pale yellow flowers.

The estate also makes its own cheese: small logs of goat's cheese flavoured with oregano, rosemary, pimento and almonds, mozzarella with layers of rocket and basil, various types of pecorino, one containing truffles. They might even have some ubriaco or "drunk pecorino" which is left to mature in a wine barrel lined with grape skins. There is fragrant Parrina honey and peppery olive oil, too.

In the villa there is a restaurant serving breakfast and dinner for anyone staying on the estate. When the weather is warm, food is served outside on the large terrace at the front of the house. Orange trees are trained up the façade and we became quite intoxicated by the thick, sweet perfume of the grapefruit trees which were flowering during the time of our visit.

On summer evenings there is the alternative of a simpler meal in the tasting room. Tours of the winery and of the cheese-making are encouragedm and tastings can be organised. "We may seem to be doing a lot of different things but it all works well together," says the Dottoressa as she says goodbye to us, surrounded by her pack of beloved Maremma sheepdogs. La Parrina is a special place.

La Rota Fontodi, Panzano, Greve in Chianti, Firenze, Italy (00 39 055 852005, www.fontodi.com). From June to September Casa La Rota 2 (sleeps 5) costs £1,000 per week.

Antica Fattoria La Parrina, 58010 Albinia (Grosseto), Italy (0039 0564 862636). From 5 June to 17 July, bed and breakfast in a double room costs £68 a night; an apartment (sleeps 4) costs from £320 a week. From 17 July to 28 August, rooms cost from £410 a week, an apartment from £450. Dinner, including wine and grappa, £15.

Fiona MacLeod flew from London Gatwick to Florence with Meridiana (020-7839 2222); fares from £155. A cheaper option is from Stansted to Pisa on Ryanair (08701 569 569, www.ryanair.com). There may be even better deals available on charter or scheduled flights through Sky Shuttle (020-8748 1333).

Fiona McLeod was lent a hire car by National (0990 997 000)

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