Last May, I spent a week in a beautiful villa in Colli Fiorentini, a 30-minute drive from Florence. It was the perfect base to explore the north of the region! The holiday villa was a prize for winning the Tuscany Now cooking competition last year (see the winning recipe for Courgette Baskets with Fried Mozzarella Balls).
Colli Fiorentini is a very pretty stone farmhouse with sweeping views of hills blanketed with vineyards and olive groves. With walls dating back to the 17th century, the house’s interiors have been thoroughly modernised in a style that blends traditional elements with modern preferences for space and light. A well-kept garden with lawns leads down to a swimming pool and hot tub set on a terracotta terrace facing the sunset over the Chianti hills.
Sadly, my husband was waiting for his passport to come back from the British immigration office and was unable to join me. Tuscany Now have a very strict policy and don’t allow changes to the bookings (which are also non-refundable), so we couldn’t postpone the trip.
It was upsetting at the time, because I had been dreaming about our romantic mini-honeymoon in Tuscany for a year, but in the end I had to go without him.
Florence is only a few hours’ drive from my hometown Rome , so my family came up to keep me company and enjoy the beautiful accommodation. I spent the first weekend with my brother Paolo and his girlfriend Mia (it was my brother’s birthday and we celebrated with my mum’s homemade Wild Strawberry Cheesecake) and then my parents took over.
We were really unlucky with the weather, which was unseasonably cold and rainy, so we couldn’t use either the villa’s swimming pool or the outdoor BBQ and pizza oven (I was obviously devastated)! :PDespite the rain, Tuscany was gorgeous and offered us plenty of things to do! I had been to Florence and other cities several times before, but this time my aim was to discover the gastronomy traditions of the region. The whole week was just about food and I came back to London with my bags full of local produce as well as a few extra kilos around my waist!We started off the first day with a visit to the nearby agricultural estate Fattoria San Michele a Torri, which produces and sells Tuscan wine and olive oil. The owner of the villa where we were staying, Francesco, took us to the farm and together we did the tour, followed by a wine and olive oil tasting.
Extended over 200 hectares of land, of which 50 cultivated as vineyards, 30 as olive groves and the remainder given over to cereal crops and woodland, Fattoria di San Michele lies astride the Chianti Colli Fiorentini and the Chianti Classico wine zones. A habitat particularly suited to winemaking, which produces smooth, aromatic red wines of great character. [Official Website]
There are many vineyards in Tuscany, in the Chianti region in particular, so you are never too far from an agriturismo. They offer free tours and tastings, so make sure to visit one if you are in the region (also see my other post about Le Poggiola agriturismo in Pistoia).In the evening we drove to Lastra a Signi, a small town on the outskirts of Florence, to have dinner at Trattoria Sanesi which is specialized in grilled meats. We celebrated my brother’s birthday with a bottle of Chianti wine and a delicious Bistecca alla Fiorentina (rich and tender rare steak of Chianina beef) with a side dish of Fagioli all’Uccelletto (one of the most classic Tuscan dishes, these are beans with a light tomato sauce).
On Sunday we drove through the Chianti region to San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. San Gimignano is a classic medieval walled hill town in Tuscany, famous for its 14 surviving medieval towers creating a beautiful skyline visible from the surrounding countryside.
While driving towards San Gimignano, you can spot the city’s skyline from afar, a breathtaking and unique view.
After a lazy morning and late breakfast in our Colli Fiorentini villa, we arrived at San Gimignano around 14:30 and all the restaurants had just finished serving lunch. Luckily Enoteca Gustavo serves food all day long and is located right in the centre of town. We had a fantastic lunch with Tuscan bruschetta, an amazing toast with Lardo di Colonnata, and a mixed cheese and charcuterie platter. We even made friends with the owner and I took a photo of him and my brother!
The gelato from Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano is a must, so we couldn’t leave without trying it. We then walked to the city’s walls to enjoy the view of the Tuscan hills surrounding San Gimignano.
We arrived in Monteriggioni on a Sunday afternoon, the main square was busy with families strolling around after their Sunday family feasts. We walked on the circular wall and then stopped at a cafe in the main piazza (dominated by a Romanesque church) for a drink and a spot of people-watching.
Monteriggioni is also famous for its weekly farmers’ market, which I didn’t get a chance to visit but you can read about it on Miss Foodwise blog.
We spent the evening at the villa, cooking a simple meal and reading a book in front of the fireplace! The next morning we drove to Florence to spend the day visiting the main sights.
So this completes the first part of my Week in Tuscany. In part two of my Tuscan trip I will share my visits to Livorno, Lucca, Siena and Certaldo Alto.