Special Places to visit

Photographs shot at Tuscany Now’s villa Il Cortile Pratolino.

Kensington, Chealse & Westminster Today | July/August 2015

Paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence illustrate how the landscape of Tuscany hasn’t changed since the 15th century; the same umbrella pines and cypress tees line the winding roads to hilltop village, through olive trees and vineyards, medieval architecture and frescoed churches. Now there are great restaurants, markets overflowing with local produce, villas and facilities for visitors who can fly in from London in comparatively no time at all. This area became known as Chiantishire because of the long-standing British love affair with Tuscany. When the teeming crowds in Florence and Siena became too much, retreating to a luxurious villa in the midst of this historic countryside has been the answer for ex prime ministers and celebrities alike.

II Cortile Pratolino is just one of such villas and you don’t have to be famous to stay here, a secluded 18th century farmhouse sleeping fifteen reached through private olive farm land on the slopes of Monte Chianti, 360′ views, an infinity pool, air conditioning for the summer months, a delightful family; Lilliana, Danielo and children to can for you and cook delicious welcoming food, what’s not to like? The villa, near the village of Montegonzi, is within easy reach of Florence, Siena, Arezzo and hilltop villages such as San Gimignano. Nearby there’s golf, tennis and hone riding. This properly is one of over 180 in the exclusive portfolio of Tuscany Now, all inspected to maintain their exacting standards of high quality and friendly efficient staff. Now add their exciting extra experiences: shop for Chianina beefsteak, perfect courgette flowers and huge porcini at the market in Montevarchi for a cookery class. You’ll see whole stuffed roast pigs and lampredotto, a compaction of innards. There’s wine tasting at local vineyards to test your palate, a truffle hunting expedition or a day out to discover the secret insider’s view of Florence and its great art and architecture. The wine grown h it was originally known for its round bottomed bottle covered it’s a straw basket, the fiasco, or flask popular in the 1950′s. “Fare Fiasco” or ‘make a bottle’ in Italian translates as ‘make a slipup’, hence our word ‘fiasco’. The world renowned Chianti Classico wine is now boated in straight sided bottles. The Mazzei family of Castello di Fonterutoli has been producing wine since 1435. Production has moved into the 21st century and is produced from a blend of several grape types. A tasting and tour could finish neatly with a reining lunch in their Osteria. Another estate, Tenuta La Novella on top of a hill overlooking San Polo in Chianti also offers both their own Vin Santo and extra virgin olive oil. Try Pecorino the local sheep’s cheese that is heated in the manufacture creating Ricotta as a by-product or Buffala, a superior softer type of mozarella. There’s no shortage of high quality restaurants in this area. The menu at Ristorante di Badia a Coltibuono, another wine making estate, is seriously mouth-watering, here are just a few of the Primi Piatti; – homemade pasta with salt cod, celery and black olives, Gnocchi with broad beans, blue cheese and crispy bacon, Black chickpea veloute’ soup with homemade fresh milk curd, homemade noodles with braised wild boar, pine-nuts and raisins. Making a choice could take some time, but there’s also a tasting menu at 55 euros including four wines that could make it easier. Perhaps one shouldn’t leave without riving the dark chocolate cake with rosemary scent and salt flakes. After that, returning to this idyllic villa to mho on a sun-bed looking out at Leonardo’s unchanged landscape followed by a gentle swim in the infinity pool seems a no brainer. www.tuscanynowandmore.com

Kensington, Chelsea and Westminister Today