There is so much to see in Tuscany. You can drive or train from one amazing hill town to the next, sampling local dishes and wines in shady piazzas, lingering in museums and Duomos, shopping in centuries-old stores and markets, and strolling the cobblestones from Porta to Porta, until you’re utterly satiated. Basically, I tour until all I can do is crawl up to a steaming bowl of pasta fresca e ragu di cinghiale paired with a sumptuous Brunello with my last ounce of strength, and pass out in my crema caramel. That is the usual plan for me.
The most economical, convenient and enjoyable way to settle in for a few days, to a few months, in Tuscany is to rent countryside villas and farmhouses, or an apartment or condo in a medieval city, as your base for travel with friends or family.
A few years ago eight friends and I, dubbed over a decade ago as the Tuscan Women, searched for and found the perfect house to spend our precious week in our favorite place on Earth, in the small lake town of Londa in the Mugello region north of Florence.
To help with your own investigations, here was our agreed-upon criterion for The Search that kicked off this life changing experience. (And, by the way, I begin every vacation at “The Search”, a joyous process that I relish almost as much as “The Trip”.)
- Comfortable accommodations for 9-12 people
- Kitchen(s) where we can cook and prepare for dinners and parties.
- A concierge to help us with local info, getting tickets or train schedules, hiring services and getting around.
- A quick walk into town for supplies, restaurants and morning espresso.
- Killer views and outdoor spaces.
- Peace and quiet but swift access to Florence and all of Tuscany.
- A pool to cool off and grounds on which to paint, sketch or stroll.
Well, we found the ideal, quintessentially Tuscan escape at the Villa Luciano. Its foundations were cut into a countryside hilltop overlooking the lake town of Londa and the Sieve Valley north of Florence in the 18th Century. One of the most exciting moments of my traveling life was to drive up the hill for the first time with my friend, Judy, and see the elegant gate and facade of this magnificent country home, surpassing our impressions of the property from images on the web.
The home is so livable and cozy that Roseanne, Theresa and I stayed up the first night drinking vodka and grappa and reading Tarot into the wee hours, too excited to sleep. We spent lazy days on the grounds and took excursions by car or out of the easy-access, nearby train station at Contea. We toured Siena, Florence, Arezzo, San Gimignano and Venice, in small groups or all together, and had the best vacation of my life up to that point.
We asked the concierge to book tickets for the Uffizi Gallery and the Academia in Florence, hired Gabriella for an amazing handmade pizzetta party in the original downstairs, brick oven kitchen, drove to Dicomano to Paolo’s favorite restaurant where I discovered Cinghiale, toured the Frescobaldi Estate (the oldest wine dynasty in the Sieve) and strolled Londa day and night.
Let me tell you, the house is so beautiful in its rural elegance, so well appointed with its three kitchens and countless balconies, patios and hideaways to explore and relax, its comfy bedrooms and the soft light drifting through the shuttered windows, that you could never leave its walls and still enjoy your time in Italy.
Then, as if it could have gotten any better, the owner of the Villa, Paolo Spagnoli, hearing of the 9 American women about to arrive in Londa at his family’s country home, invited us to dinner at his apartment in a modern suburb of Florence. That evening began a long friendship and many more visits to Londa and reunions over amazing meals over the years, sometimes with Aunti Paola, Elizabeta, Sandra, Alessandro and Eduoardo.
For more information about the Villa Luciano, the Spagnoli Family, the history of this iconic property, its location and amenities, visit http://www.villaluciano.com or contact me here.
Buon viaggio e arrivederci!