We set off from rainy London to the warming Italian sunshine which lasted throughout our trip. We were blessed with the weather as all the Italians reminded us, especially as the whole of Italy suffered with inclement weather during the summer. Rome even flooded in July!
The first hurdle was negotiating Pisa airport’s supposedly complicated hire car system. It turned out to be easy-peasy, Tuscan lemon squeezy – a short shuttle et voilà we had the keys to our shiny, compact Fiat 500. So far, we had learned that late September is a perfect time to visit Tuscany and we were soon to learn that a Fiat 500, despite being small, is sturdy and powerful as tested on the dirt roads dotted with ravines that wind around the region!
First stop was L’Andana, a fabulous Tuscan wine and olive estate not far from the sea. En-route we decided to check out the beach near Grosetto (about 30 minutes from L’Andana) to see if this hotel could offer it all – sun, sea, sand, wine and Michelin-starred food. Well, the beach was glorious albeit deserted as the season was over, but we could see the remnants and the potential.
At L’Andana we had just enough time to sample some food from the wonderful Alain Ducasse Michelin star restaurant and some of the estates own wines, including a delicious Spumante. After a hearty breakfast buffet laid out in the old kitchen, we set off to see Castello Banfi, a charming hideaway in the hills and one we decided was perfect for couples wishing to get away from it all.
A quick detour took us to Siena, where the Fiat came into its own for parking in a minute space. Then off at a brisk pace to see as much of this famous city on our very tight schedule. Gelato in hand we marvelled at the circuit for the renowned Palio held twice a year. The track is challenging to say the least – corkscrew turns, steep inclines and little space between the horses and spectators. We vowed to return to see this iconic race ourselves.
Next stop to rest our weary heads was Castello del Nero, where we were lucky to experience their amazing spa – the signature treatment using olive oil, lavender and hot stones is incredible! Breakfast on the terrace the next morning set us up for another busy day exploring, including a trip to see our favourite Reservations Manager, Catarina at Castiglion del Bosco. What a property! It certainly lives up to the Ferragamo brand – stylish, beautiful and luxurious. The standalone villas are exquisite with infinity pools, spacious interiors and panoramic vistas. Time didn’t permit us to see the newest addition Villa Oddi but Catarina waxed lyrical about its state-of-the-art technology, private cinema and tennis court and breathtaking views of Montalcino.
Onwards towards Florence to test a new hotel not on the Scott Dunn portfolio, Villa Cora, but one we had heard about in glowing terms. Upon arrival it was clear that this was a gem worthy of adding to the jewel collection of European Escapes. A majestic villa set in the hills above Florence, a stunning spa and outdoor pool, four incredible historic halls, a rooftop terrace for private dinners and the most charming staff imaginable.
The next morning we did as we suggest to our guests, and dropped the hire car off in downtown Florence. A car in the city is superfluous to requirements, especially given the infuriating one way systems everywhere! Check-in at JK Place awaited, described by the manager Claudio as a “home”. And we were not disappointed. From start to finish we were made to feel like old friends rather than customers. We dined on the terrace at Piazza Santa Maria Novella at lunch and around the huge wooden dining table for breakfast. In the evening, Angela suggested Il Parione for supper. It was the perfect end to the trip – a traditional Tuscan trattoria on a Florentine side street to which we walked taking in the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio and wonderful sights.
Create your own Italian road-trip by calling one of our European Consultants on 020 8682 5080 or by visiting our website scottdunn.com