Perennially popular: Holidays in Tuscany
Thursday 29 May 2014
There’s a reason people flock to Tuscany year after year. The Italian region’s enduring appeal lies in its captivating blend of celebrated art and architecture, tranquil countryside and picturesque towns and villages that can often seem lost in time.
There is also the regional cuisine to enjoy and celebrated wines, such as Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico. But, even for the returning visitor, Tuscany usually offers something new to discover – whether it is an overlooked stretch of coastline where you can still find a deserted sliver of Mediterranean sand, a new secluded villa or a chic city retreat to enjoy.
The noble Marchesi Antinori family is synonymous with Tuscan winemaking, with a legacy stretching back 26 generations and a 10-estate empire that produces some of the region’s most respected vintages. For the first time this year, a property on the family’s private summer getaway – Guado al Tasso estate near Bolgheri on the Maremma coast – is available to rent. With access to its own private beach on this unspoilt stretch of coastline, Palone Basso sleeps up to 10 and costs from €3,000 for seven nights through Trust & Travel, excluding flights (00 33 1 40 29 47 32; trustandtravel.com).
In the frame
Florence groans under the weight of all of its magnificent architectural and artistic treasures – and increasingly its enticing roster of places to stay. One of its first families of fashion is the shoe-making Ferragamos label, but a branch of the family also presides over a very stylish line in boutique hotels. Its latest property is the Florentine outpost of Portrait Suites (00 39 055 2726 8900; lungarnocollection.com). It opened this month, overlooking the River Arno with superlative views of the Ponte Vecchio. The decor channels 1950s Florence and the birth of couture, but despite the glamour, it’s family friendly, with spacious suites and lots of extras laid on for younger guests. Doubles start at €450, room-only.
An artistic escape
There’s a creative slant to any holiday at the Villa Lena (00 39 0587 083 112; villa-lena.it), set near Palaia around 40 miles south-west of Florence. At the centre of this 500-acre estate is a Neo-Renaissance villa with expansive grounds scattered with a number of apartments and houses to rent. There is also an artist-in-residence programme, plus talks and film screenings throughout the summer as well as children’s activities, swimming pools, a playground and a restaurant. The theme here is easy chic – apartments and houses have been decorated by Paris-based Clarisse Demory, who has fitted out each space with a smattering or vintage finds and recycled furniture. One-bedroom apartments start at €195 per night.
Tuscany’s gently undulating countryside lends itself well to touring by foot or bicycle. Spend a leisurely 10 days exploring the heart of the Chianti countryside between the Etruscan city of Volterra and the hilltop town of Colle di Val d’Elsa on two wheels with Headwater (0845 154 5263; headwater.com). Between now and 14 October it can arrange a self-guided tour that will take you through picturesque towns and villages, fields of vibrant sunflowers and tranquil olive groves. Nights are spent at charming hotels with plenty of time to sample the local fare. The 10-day itinerary costs from £1,479 per person, including B&B, eight evening meals, bicycles, route maps and luggage transfers. Flights extra.
Tuscany is dotted with thermal springs that have been popular since Etruscan and Roman times. The Unesco World Heritage-listed Val d’Orcia – the classic Tuscan landscape of rolling hills topped with feathery plumes of cypress trees – is home to several notable spa towns. Of these, Bagno Vignoni is one of the prettiest, with a thermal pool as its central square instead of a piazza. Just outside is the Hotel Adler Thermae (00 39 0577 889 001; adler-thermae.com) a health spa with its own thermal pools and swimming pools. Beauty treatments use the hotel’s own range of organic products, while there’s also a children’s club and lots of activities including yoga, meditation, guided hikes and fitness walks. Prices start at €240 per person per night for half-board, including access to all the facilities and the daily fitness activities.
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