This October, I took a two hour flight from London to Pisa, the city with the infamous 12th century Leaning Tower. I then travelled forward to Chianti, a winemaking region in Tuscany one hour away, where I spent three blissful days eating the most divine local produce and drinking spectacular Chianti wines.
The Tuscan region is shrouded in natural beauty; sweeping landscapes, vineyards as far as the naked eye can see, towns of fortified walls... the list goes on. I have such wonderful memories from previous trips over the years and my recent return was no exception...
Where to Stay
The beautiful Castello Del Nero Hotel & Spa is a 12th century castle located in Chianti. The 50 rooms and suites are all unique and offer the services and comforts of the most luxurious hotels. Located throughout the Castello and farm buildings, each room gives you a sense of the estate's 900-year history. No two are the same, every tile has been preserved and beams laid bare, while guests are swathed in a cloud of soft luxury. I loved walking on the original terracotta tiles in bare feet, despite the slippers being left out each night, it was like taking a step back in time...
The four hiking routes around the 740 acre estate are marked with little arrows sporadically. I combined two of the gentle hiking routes; the area was so stunning that I didn't want to stop exploring. While walking I found some porcupine quills on the path... they are so beautiful, I just had to bring them home with me.
While staying at the Castello, I caught the complimentary shuttle to Siena 30 minutes away. It was wonderful not having to worry about parking. Siena is famous for the Palio di Siena, held on the second of July and the 16th of August each year. This year they were hosting an extraordinary Palio on the 20th of October. I was most fortunate to spend the morning in Siena when they were selecting the horses in the Piazza del Campo. Although I only saw a glimpse through a shop window, the atmosphere was electric. The rivalry between the neighbouring Contradas with their unique and beautifully coloured flags was fascinating to learn about from our local guide.
The Heart and Soul of Tuscany...
One of the greatest highlights from my trip was the incredible local food and wine. After all, the real heart and soul of Tuscany is the cuisine. From the Extra Virgin olive oil harvested from the estate to the wine that was produced from its vines, a great deal of care, time and attention is made to ensure the produce is all sourced locally. The attentive staff were all local to the area having grown up, lived or moved to the region and their love and passion for Tuscan food and wine was honest and plentiful.
I am still dreaming of the lasagne... I noticed 12 layers before losing count - the ragu was simply divine! My dinner in La Torre, the in-house Michelin-starred restaurant was mesmerising and the service impeccable. When I return once again I would like to attend the pasta making course with Chef Giovanni Luca to learn the art of making pasta in its heartland.
Whether you're heading to Tuscany for the first time or returning to the region for another fix, be prepared to indulge while you appreciate the history, beauty, local traditions and landscape... a truly memorable trip!