Discovering the Real Italy with Tuscany Now & More by Amy Stewart
Thursday August 20, 2015
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Why is it that when whenever you mention Tuscany, people’s eyes light up? Maybe it’s the impossibly green, almond shaped trees lining the dusty roads. Or perhaps it’s the juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes bursting in your mouth. Maybe it’s just the memory of silky olive oil drizzled over crisp salad.
Tuscany’s irresistible charm lies in all of these things and much else besides, so when the team here at StyleNest were asked along to experience a luxurious villa in the Chianti region on behalf of luxury rentals company Tuscany Now, we couldn’t resist.
Who are Tuscany Now?
Tuscany Now was founded by husband and wife team Simon and Barbara. They specialise in handpicked luxury rental properties across Tuscany and the whole of Italy. Their journey began in 1990 with just one property – and fast forward 25 years full of experience and learning on the job, they now have hundreds of properties, a team on the ground in London and an international team in Italy helping to make their guests’ experiences as positive and unforgettable as possible.
These guys really know Italy, and also each and every one of their properties inside out. “We not only select the houses, but we push the owners in improving the houses with better furniture, changing the colours of the walls, adding bathrooms and shaded areas in the garden as well as adding more modern garden furniture to ensure a comfortable stay,” explains Simon. With this in mind, I couldn’t wait to find out where we would be spending the next few days.
Luxurious properties, oozing with style
After flying into Pisa, we were driven to our villa – Il Cortile Pratolino – around an hour and a half away. It didn’t take us long to fall in love with its labyrinthine interior; the many hidden half-rooms with their quaint furniture and tiny windows, the bedrooms with their grand beds and opulent bathrooms. From the outside the property is just as gorgeous – old stone scattered with paint shutters, enrobed in acres of green valley.
The infinity pool was the cherry on the cake. Few places have we been where on your morning swim, you’re greeted by views of undulating emerald valleys overseen by mountains, shrouded in blue mist, saluting proudly in the distance.
Tuscany Now offer a whole host of different properties depending on your tastes. They range from small, quaint and cosy to opulent and dripping with excess. I chatted to Simon about some of the most noteworthy.
“The most extravagant has to be La Luna”, he tells me. “The owner is an Italian Senator. It has a genuine Roman mosaic in the bottom of the pool”. If that isn’t enough for you, what about this? “The most expensive would have to be the whole hamlet of Casa Mora, which is available to rent for £40,000 per week for 40 persons and includes two pools, a theatre, restaurant, bar, library and 4 thousand acres of land”. Now, that’s what we call a luxury holiday!
Not your average getaway
What makes Tuscany Now different from other villa specialists is how they go out of their way to make your holiday an unforgettable experience.
On our first night, we were treated to dinner at the villa by the very talented in-house chef – just what we needed so late at night when we were tired and everywhere else would have been closed. We feasted on milky barrata cheese from cows just 5km away, gloriously sweet melon and salty Parma ham. You can opt for the in-house chef whenever you like – if you really want a break from the kitchen, you can hand over the culinary reigns morning, noon and night.
In fact, you can pretty much customise your holiday exactly to your tastes. Tuscany Now are on hand 24/7 to make sure you have everything you need, from cars with chauffeurs to cooking lessons and babysitting. Just make your request, and the owners will stop at nothing to make it a reality. I was so intrigued by this, as I assumed all of the organisation and planning would make it impossible. Apparently not. I asked Simon about some of the more unusual requests he’s received. “We have been asked to redecorate bedrooms to match colour themes for a wedding anniversary, to colour the water in a pool, dress staff up in costumes…” I had a feeling he could go on!
To make sure that they can accommodate all of these needs, you can’t simply book online. You’re encouraged to call, to allow the owners to properly talk you through all of the features of your chosen villa as well as any special requests you have.
New for 2016, Tuscany Now have launched Tuscany Now and More, which includes tailor-made experiences to really elevate your holiday. Keep an eye on their website for more details!
Eat, drink, sleep – repeat.
If it isn’t the food that keeps people coming back to Italy, I don’t know what it is. During our stay, we were treated to an exclusive cooking lesson from local chef, Irene, who took us around the medieval Montevarchi markets where we handpicked our ingredients (let’s just say, it was a world away from your local Sainsbury’s!) Back at the villa, she taught us how to make a range of traditionally Italian delights – including incredibly sweet and indulgent apricot compote.
We followed this up with visits to two local vineyards, Marchesi Mazzei and La Tenuta Nouvelle, where we learned about the painstaking wine production process and got to sample some of the fruits of their labour ourselves.
Standing at the peak of the vineyard, with a view of a thousand swaying vines snaking their way down into the valley, I began to understand why people’s eyes light up whenever you mention Tuscany. “Italy has something very special – people just fall in love with this country”, offers Simon. “Italy is one of a kind.” After my stay at Il Cortile Pratolino, I’m inclined to agree with him.