No land is as rich with the sweet fruits of its labour than Tuscany, where tradition is woven into the very fabric of its landscapes, its history and its food. The endless hillsides which once lay the foundations of the Italian Renaissance is peppered with timeless medieval towns; olive groves and green vineyards span along the coastal south where no view is as soul-soaring as that from Villa Ciclopica, one of the most sophisticated villas available to rent on the Tuscan Coast.
Carved within the rugged hilltops above the port of Cala Galera, the landscape unfolds from Ciclopica’s wraparound terrace. Below the elegant row of cypress trees, the green terrain and white sands of della Feniglia divide the peninsula which sweeps into the Tyrrhenian Sea. If you’re lusting for a slice of Tuscany sheltered from the buzz of Florence and Pisa whilst remaining in easy reach of these historic cities, the charming towns of Orbetello and Porto Ercole convene below the valley to reveal a Tuscany that tourism forgot.
Located 400m above sea level, the original 150-year-old building was once made up of a small farmhouse. Renovated and extended 30 years ago, the villa blends luxury views and comfort whilst maintaining that original farmhouse charm; wooden beams frame the high ceilings and foliage climbs the terracotta exterior.
The rooms themselves comprise of light, whitewashed walls and painted shutters; books line the walls of the living room, where plush sofas are arranged around a wood burning fire perfect for milder nights and midsummer storms. And for days dedicated to relaxation, local masseuses can be requested to the villa for guests seeking an extra sense of calm.
True to the nature of Tuscan’s themselves whose very existence is defined by the taste and quality of their produce, multiple dining spots allow guests to discuss and consume the very best local food and wine; the concierge staff are dedicated to crafting authentic, home cooked Italian meals using produce picked from the villa’s own vegetable garden.
From artichoke lasagna to hearty stews, every 3-course meal is catered to the explicit dietary requirements of each guest; dairy free and vegan dishes were curated with skill and ease without comprising the rich flavours of the Mediterranean diet.
Breakfast is served on the terrace each morning against the backdrop of sprawling sea views. Espressos are in plentiful supply alongside fresh pineapple and tarts heaped with jam made from the seasonal fruits which bloom on the property. True to the Italian way, cooking classes with a local chef can be arranged from the villa’s own kitchen. Whether it’s pasta making or seafood you’re after, guests can try their hand at authentic Italian cooking before feasting on their handiwork by the poolside.
The private grounds also give way to a working vineyard which produces organic Vermentino and San Giovese grapes pressed by local winemakers, carafes of which flow freely on the dinner table each evening.
If you can pull yourself from Villa Ciclopica’s seductive grip, head to the Petra winery, where the process of nurturing and decanting fine wine has been transformed into both a science and an art form. A 90-minute car ride from the villa can be easily organised with the staff and is well worth the journey. Founded in 1997 (when the first bottle of Petra was corked) by wine maker Francesca Moretti, cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes are grown, with a small part dedicated to Sangiovese. For Petra’s most famous blend – cabernet sauvignon and merlot are aged in separate oak barrels for 18 months, then poured together and aged for an additional 18 months.
A tour of Petra begins in a striking contemporary structure designed in 2003 by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Built to complement the rural landscape and surrounding countryside, the award winning structure work’s in harmony with the organic product. A tour of the modern pressing process is followed by a walk through the cellars, where the minerals of the region – rich in iron and salt, gives Petra’s wine a unique balsamic aroma. Back above ground, small private dining areas overlooking the vineyards are reserved for guests, where 4 courses of cured meats, artichoke penne and roasted pork are served amidst tastings of a selection of their finest wines.
Just a 15-minute car journey through the winding woodland which spans below the villa, the nearby town of Orbetello sits on a snaking peninsula which branches into a vast blue lagoon. Spend a lazy afternoon wandering the cobbled streets, ordering gelato and browsing the town’s string of boutique shops.
Even closer to home, the seaside town of Porto Ercole frequents art history books as the place of death of Baroque painter Caravaggio, who passed through the town in 1610. Stop for dinner at Gambero Rosso, the most esteemed seafood restaurant in the area, for a very Italian dining experience. Sit on the terrace overlooking the natural harbour which sits beneath a backdrop of rugged green hills atop the ruins of Forti di san rocco.
As part of a longer love affair with Tuscany or as an isolated trip, a stay in Villa Ciclopica offers both the luxurious and delicious elements of an Italian getaway. Second only to the fine wine, it’s all about the food and the views after all.
Tuscany Now & More (tuscanynowandmore.com, 0207 684 8884) offers seven nights at Villa Ciclopica from £7,669 per week based on 12 people sharing on a self-catering basis. Tuscany Now & More features a range of properties across the region and Italy and can provide private chefs, excursions and other services upon request through expert partners The Art of Leisure (www.taols.it).