August 6, 2020
“The chance of a lifetime!” said a friend a few weeks ago on his return from Venice. “No crowds, clear water, and room to breathe in the one of the most beautiful cities on earth!”.
I booked a plane immediately and spent a delightful few days wandering the city’s streets. We could get into all my favourite restaurants and the staff seemed more than happy to see us: no tourist fatigue here! The pace was relaxed and on a postprandial stroll through St Mark’s Square one evening we encountered only a smattering of other people — and this was mid-July.
Sitting along the lagoon wall near the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, gazing across to the Giudecca the next evening with the buildings gently glowing in a pinky wash from the lowering sun, was a treat. Hardly a soul passed by and the boats were few and far between.
The Palazzetto Pisani near the Academia Bridge is my preferred hotel; it has such an atmospheric approach via a hidden alleyway, you feel as if you are part of a film-set. In the morning, if you haven’t opted for the more extravagant Grand Canal facing rooms, you may well hear musicians practising in the music conservatory just behind the hotel.
I left Venice via the railway station a short water-taxi ride from the Palazetto and whizzed south in two hours to Florence. The train was smart and I had a carriage almost to myself. Then a forty-minute car-ride into the heart of Tuscany and the idyllic extended hamlet of Rignana.
In a previous career I spent a lot of time exploring central Italy and France whilst marketing property and as I cannot yet send you on one of my gorgeous long-haul travel escapades I thought I could help with something a little closer to home. Over the years I have built up considerable knowledge of a number of properties to rent and smaller hotels.
At Rignana I strongly recommend the Poggio alle Corti, an ancient fortezza dating back to the 13th century. A six-bedroom property, it is in walking distance of the delightful Cantinetta, a trattoria which is famous for its bistecca alla Fiorentina. This magnificent Tuscan home is in a wonderfully tranquil setting at the end of a ridge and commands sweeping views over its vineyards and olive groves. It is fully staffed and has a pool, tennis court and petanque court.
Descend the valley on foot and there are some peaceful strolls along the River Pesa through meadows and forests of green oaks to be enjoyed and, if energy permits, you can walk all the way to the abbey at Badia Passignano. If you are lucky you may hear the fluting call of the golden oriole before it migrates back to Africa. The house is available from late September.
Also available in the same area is the Villa le Barone Hotel. Just like many of our lodges in Africa and India, this small hotel is owner-run.
It has glorious gardens of some ten acres and is in walking distance of the village of Panzano with its bustling Sunday market. The property has a new heated pool and tennis court and is close to a golf course; it could also be combined with an apartment in Florence. We can of course curate various local tours and walking circuits for you as well as advise on all the best places to eat and which vineyards to visit.
Pictures courtesy of Villa le Barone, Palazetto Pisani, Bruno Davanso and Terence Bradley.
NB prices shown were current at the time of writing the newsletter and are not necessarily current now.
Please ask for an updated quote.
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