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.
- A Sense of Place – AFRICA NEEDS YOU
- Escape to Italy?
- Covid: the road still to be travelled.
- A trio of treats. Series of 3 (Part 3): Tiger reserves.
- A trio of treats. Series of 3 (Part 2): Khajuraho.
- A trio of treats. Series of 3 (Part 1): Lucknow.
- A Sense of Place – Engaged people may save the planet
- A word on lions and a trio of treats
- A Sense of Place – India’s most holy city
- A wealth of wilderness walks in Namibia
- Travel snippets from Miles
- A trio of treats on the green island of Pemba in the Zanzibar archipelago
- A Sense of Place – THE INSIDE TRACK on Cape Town guiding
- A Sense of Place – Migrations of people and beasts: East Africa
- A Sense of Place – An era of revolution and global alliances
- A Sense of Place – A walk on the wild side
- A Sense of Place – The ghost ingredient is back
- A Sense of Place – Liuwa Plains and Kafue National Parks – Zambia
- A Sense of Place – Literati in the Pink City, the Capital of Rajasthan
- A Sense of Place – A Tamil town still connected to Europe, Art Deco architecture, and temple antiquity in Southern India.
- A Sense of Place – Dreamy aquamarine sea and stunning safari with the Makuleke people
- A Sense of Place – A trio of lovely ladies in Hyderabad
- A Sense of Place – Entamanu, the wishing tree and walking with the Hadza tribe.
- We get you to places that others don’t… St Helena, Gt Zimbabwe ruins and Papua new Guinea
- A Sense of Place – Walking in the hippie hills of the Himalayas
- A Sense of Place – The Okavango: the river that never finds the sea
- A Sense of Place – The Great Rift Valley, Laikipia, Samburu warriors and Maasai Olympics.
- A Sense of Place – Escape the world in the Namib Desert
- Africa is a massive continent: a collection of 55 countries
- A Sense of Place – Zambezi Watery Wilderness
- A Sense of Place – Burma: the road beyond Mandalay
- Lake Malawi – Would you rather pay for the advertising or the experience?
- From shoe-shine boy to tourist guide in Ethiopia
- A Sense of Place – Ladakh, the Himalayas
- Dhow sailing, Lions are back in Malawi, Self-drive in Namibia
- Sacred rivers and forts, India
- Piranhas, sting rays, caimans – and still people go into the River Negro!
- Kerala, Southern India – God’s own country
- South Africa: Crucible of the rainbow nation
- Madagascar: croissants and lemurs
- Argentina vs Africa on wildlife drama
- Uganda – Gorillas and Gardens
- Mozambique & Kenya: immigration official on holiday
- Mozambique: Gorongosa and reconciliation in the bush
- Zimbabwe is ready for Tourists again
- Serengeti ecosystem and unbeatable savannah
- Lamu: crab complaining
- Kenya: circumcision
- Zambia: Ellie rescue
- Africans: always smiling
- French sketch
- Kenya: the best hosts
- First visit to Africa 1986
- Namibia, Namib Rand, Skeleton Coast and the ultimate flying safari
- A few gems off the beaten track: Fanjove Island, Tanzania; The Singular Hotel, Patagonia and Isla Palenque, Panama.
- Elephant relocation, quad bike expedition and new Sossusvlei reserve
- Templed out in Tamil Nadu and elephant refuge in Jaipur
- Kenyan sanctuary and family run camp in Zambia
- Australia: Arkaba, Tasmania and Lord Howe Island
- Australia: in the outback and off the beaten track
- India: heavenly Himalayan hideaways, Botswana: fun safari for children and Argentina: hidden homestay in a mountain desert
- Limpopo retreat, Serengeti spectacle and adventure on the Zambezi
- Value for money in Kenya and the trail less travelled in Peru
- Lions in danger, free nights and a new coastal gem
- G and T on demand, hidden beach, micro-light and sleeping on a dam
- Off the beaten track