Italy is one of my favourite destinations. Before this trip to Tuscany, I had been to Rome and Turin, and there are so many places still on my list. This time around, we went to the Florence region and stayed in a villa recommended to us by James’s boss, in a village called – deep breath – San Casciano in Val di Pesa. San Casciano is (in theory) conveniently located a half hour’s drive out of Florence, and felt to me like the epitome of Tuscany. Rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards, little churches with tall, thin bell towers, and an abundance of gelaterias, cafes and pizzerias with relaxed outdoor seating areas.
We stayed at Il Visciolo, a farmhouse-style villa that manages to feel rustic and traditional, while still having all the mod-cons we needed (so, wifi, lights and a fridge then, haha, but also automatic sun awnings and solar outdoor lighting, which were really nice to have).
The whole building pictured above is the rental property, and it would comfortably sleep four. As well as the master bedroom, there’s another double bed on a mezzanine level in the study, which sounds like it might be warm, but I think it would be ok. The window is covered over by a brickwork lattice (you can see it in the external photo above) which keeps the room cool and allows you to see out without letting anyone see in – the bathroom is the same. The thick walls and tiled floors also keep the house nice and cool. In any case, the amount of space was a luxury for just the two of us, and we spent a lot of time relaxing and reading, and enjoying the peace and quiet and beautiful views:
The owners are extremely helpful for anything you might need, and welcomed us with some fruit, bruscetta served with their own home-grown olive oil, and a bottle of Chianti. We had some additional friendly visitors in the form of their cats, and a praying mantis who came to hang out one evening!
Unfortunately, Mr Mantis wasn’t the only insect to visit us, and I took a severe reaction to mosquito bites – scroll quickly past if you’re squeamish! Even more unfortunately, since James didn’t seem to have been bitten at all, we assumed that I was allergic to the washing powder used on the bedsheets, and didn’t use the mosquito net provided. Rookie mistake. This was the most dramatic allergic reaction I’ve ever had though, so I definitely learned my lesson and will be well-armed with anti-histamine tablets in future!
Our first night in San Casciano coincided with the village’s Saint Day celebrations, with a market on Piazza della Repubblica, fireworks launched in the valley below and visible from the piazza’s terrace, and live music in Piazza Cavour. As an almost-Bonfire-Night baby (I was born 4th Nov), I’ve always adored fireworks, so it was a lovely way to start the trip, especially if we pretended they were celebrating our arrival 😉
Otherwise, our time in the village was spent sampling the local cuisine – tough job, but someone’s got to do it 😉 We started off at Pizzeria La Carbonaia, where I had the Carbonaia pizza (above), topped with sausage meat and, at a guess, about ten cloves’ worth of garlic. It was so delicious that we bookended our trip with dinner there on the first and last nights of our trip, and I had the same pizza the second time too! We also sampled, at Nello, the local speciality of a 1kg T-bone steak – so, half a cow, basically – at a casual €45/kg, which is the minimum portion size. We expected to have major meat sweats and aching jaws and stomachs after sharing one, but actually it was beautifully tender and melt-in-the-mouth, and we managed it fine between two with some fried potatoes on the side. If you’re travelling in a larger group though, I’d definitely recommend one between three or four of you! We also went for lunch at Cinque di Vino (fancier and a little theatrical!) and dinner at the more down-to-earth Trattoria Cantinetta del Nonno, where we had simple but tasty pasta starters and meaty mains. All washed down with local Chianti wine, served in adorable little glass jugs.
Back soon with photos of Florence 🙂
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