Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and the capital of the Tuscany region – and one weekend just isn’t enough to experience this world of its own
As a torrent of sweat poured down my forehead, I couldn’t help but think of Alan Partridge’s encounter with a scolding apple pastry (‘It’s hotter than the sun!’). I am at the Florence wedding of a good friend, in my groomsman’s suit, in 40 degrees and in the full glare of that pesky sun. Hot doesn’t do it justice.
For 48 hours solid, the weather in the Tuscany capital was sensational, without a cloud in the sky. Out of the suit, I lapped every little bit of it up as my wife and I enjoyed culture, celebrations and cuisine, packing as much as we could into a short period of time. We came in via Pisa airport and were whisked straight off, courtesy of Tuscany Now, to Florence itself, a beautiful, historic city with lots of stories to tell. The best way to hear those, without a doubt, was on a half day cultural guided tour by Barchetto, a distinctive Florentine boat similar to a gondola. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the Arno River, from WWII attacks to famous film stars plying their trade, and to have monuments and places of interest pointed out to us in the walk that followed.
An hour’s drive later and we were at our home for the next two days, La Tegolaia near to the village of Pelago. Now, thanks to the aforementioned wedding, this was the weekend we had to visit and Tuscany Now could only put us up in a seven bedroom villa with sweeping views of vineyards and rolling hills (we grudgingly accepted, of course). A 12th century villa, La Tegolaia has an old world charm with endless doors leading to yet another room (our first night, ridiculously, almost saw us get lost). As well as the seven bedrooms, there are eight bathrooms, a separate pool house, dining room, sitting room, kitchenette and al fresco dining areas, which in itself leads to a world of cypress and olive trees, deckchairs, swimming pool and more. It’s fair to say we were entertained.
Although self-catering – we were rather proud of our toast and jam on the first morning – Tiziano, the ‘caretaker’, was there for the majority of time at La Tegolaia. I write ‘caretaker’ because he whipped up the most astonishing meal on our first night: spaghetti vongole to start, a wonderfully fresh sea bream to follow, before finishing with a never-ending chocolate mousse (although we did our best to finish it). The morning after the wedding, Tiziano banished any thoughts of a fry up with a brunch crammed full of fresh vegetables and fish, just what the doctored ordered.
Amusingly, Tiziano spoke very little English (the owners are stationed next door, who do speak English), which was the cue for some rather random conversations between him and yours truly. Whatever the subject, we got there in the end, but my wife mentioned that it reminded her of a scene straight out of Alan Partridge. Comedy gold, perhaps, but as Norwich’s finest would also say about the delights of Tuscany: ‘Back of the net.’
Words: Mark Kebble
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