It’s been several months since I was in Italy, and while I meant to write about our wonderful experience in Tuscany, as soon as I was home, I didn’t. Instead, I literally hit the road running. Once I stepped off the plane in New Zealand, it was all go. My husband Tim, was scheduled for surgery and our three darling families and their “little people”, were all running on empty after a winter of viruses and sleepless nights. Needless to say, it’s taken a while to put pen to paper.
So here I am in Arrowtown, writing about Tuscany. There’s so much to love about Tuscany, especially if you like beautiful villas, fine wines, delicious cuisine, and are an admirer of ancient hill top villages.
So in this post I’m going to share with you three amazing Tuscan accommodation options…
Villa Podere Brogi
La Hotel Barone
And two great designer outlet shopping centres…
The Prada Outlet Store
The Mall Firenze
Villa Podere Brogi
On a previous holiday in Tuscany holiday, with our extended family, we rented a villa, Podere Brodi for Tim’s 60th birthday. It was without a doubt one of our best family holidays. Villas come in all shapes and sizes, sleeping from 2- 20 people and are the perfect solution to a big family or group. They are typically rented from Saturday to Saturday. Our hosts, Walter, Ana and Cristina were amazing, cooking us delicious breakfasts each morning, organizing a catered dinner for Tim’s birthday, pizza night and Ana even cooked my son-in-law Matt, his all time favourite dish for his birthday, Amatriciana. To read more about Villa Podere Brogi and our wonderful family holiday, click here.
However, this time, with just the two of us we opted for hotel style accommodation.
Hotel La Barone
So after leaving Rome, having stayed at the Rome Cavalieri (the best hotel in Rome) we headed north towards Chianti. We drove for about two hours before reaching Hotel La Barone, between Florence and Siena. Hotel La Barone is a stunning property, with a renaissance villa and manicured grounds. It’s geographic elevation provides great views of the Tuscan countryside, with its rolling hills and impeccably maintained plots of grapes.
The villa has 28 rooms. Some of the rooms are in the main building and others in smaller dwellings on the property. Our room, was spacious and beautifully decorated, however, the steep staircase was difficult to negotiate, especially with suitcases. We would have preferred a room on the ground floor so be specific when booking and choose a room that suits your requirements.
The next day we hiked to the small town of Locarelli. From the hotel there are numerous walking tracks, with self-guided notes provided by the hotel. The walk took us past several tabernacles, adorned with flowers, then out of the hotel property onto a local vineyard, Il Molini di Grace. Each plot of grapes, laden with fruit and ready for harvest, bore a name of one of the American owners grandchildren: Gemme, Gracey, Jack, Jae and more. Once in the village we ate a delicious lunch at Osteria Le Panzanelle, then climbed back up the hill to Il Molini di Grace vineyard for a wine and balsamic tasting.
The scenery and renaissance architecture at Hotel La Barone were memorable, and so was their cuisine. The breakfasts were excellent with an abundance of fresh produce, but the dinners were in another class, suffice to say we never ate dinner outside of the hotel. In fact, when booking you can sign up for half board, which includes breakfast and dinner. I’d highly recommend it.
Dinner was served from 7.30 pm and we sat outside. We started with antipasta. Never in my life have I seen such a magnificent spread of delicate, delectable morsels. The antipasta was a meal in itself. Take a look at these photos, but they don’t really do it justice.
After the antipasta we got to choose an entree and main.
I wanted to eat everything, every night. The dessert and cheese options were exhaustive. However, the piece de resistance was the antipasta.
When we left Hotel La Barone, a little heavier than when we arrived, we headed to our next Tuscan destination, Il Falconiere.
As we drove east, we were got further from the Tuscan hills to more low lying plains where the soil was fertile and perfect for crops. Fields of sunflowers coloured the horizon, ready for harvest.
Il Falconiere is located in the hills below the enchanting town of Cortona. It’s the perfect quintessential Italian hill top town, one of the prettiest in Italy. The city is enclosed by a stone wall and dates back to the Roman times. From this dominant position, the 360 degree views over the surrounding valley and Lake Trasimeno were exceptional.
Il Falconiere has an interesting history as with most of these beautiful old properties. However, it’s most recent make-over was in the late 1980s, when Silvia and Riccardo Baracchi purchased the property and transformed it into a hotel. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, Il Falconiere epitomises Tuscany.
The hotel has 31 rooms and suites, a Michelin Star Restaurant, two swimming pools, a spa and the hilltop town of Cortona, just 10 minutes away.
We ate at the Michelin Star Restaurant. The restaurant is located in a new, modern glass building adjacent to the original stone building. The contrast of old and new works well, and the degustation meal was delightful and full of surprises.
Il Falconiere is s stunning hotel and is in the perfect position to explore Cortona. However, the management committed a mortal sin on the second evening we were there. Without notifying the guests, they hosted a wedding on the hotel premises. As the guests started to arrive at 5 pm we realised the restaurant and bars were unavailable. You could not get food nor drinks on the property, unless it was room service. We had planned to go to Cortona for the evening so weren’t too badly effected, but guests who had come specifically to eat in the Michelin Star Restaurant were furious.
It put a slight dampener on our stay, but it is a beautiful property. Just check when you book that there aren’t any functions, during your stay.
Our night in Cortona was fun, eating at a more traditional Italian restuarant, Osteria del Teatro. Afterwards, we wandered the street, taking in the smells, observed the locals chatting, all the while wishing we did not have to leave Italy so soon. But, what we know for certain is, we will be back.
During our drive from Hotel La Barone to Il Falconiere we made a couple of small detours.
Prada Outlet Store
Our first shopping stop was the Prada Outlet Store in Montevarchi. This fabulous outlet store is very close to Villa Podere Brogi. The first time we visited was when we stayed At Villa Podere Brogi for Tim’s 60th. It has a wonderful selection of footwear, clothing, sunglasses and accessories all heavily discounted.
The Mall Firenze
Our second stop was The Mall Firenze, a huge complex selling many of the top designer brands. Endulge yourself in Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Chloe, Fendi, Jimmy Choo and so many more.
Make sure you allow enough time when shopping at these outlet store. Although all the good are heavily reduced, they are still expensive, so make sure you are making the right decision.
Fantastic- wishing Tim a speedy recovery!
Thanks Rob. Tim is doing well. Hope you guys are all good
Love your blogs Jane; I feel transported every time. Needless to say, Italy represents some of the best memory making and sensory warming places and your words do it proud.
You are way to kind!
I hope you are well.