Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a hillside in Tuscany, surrounded by the beauty of nature, a feeling of serenity, and a gorgeous terra cotta tinted villa. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? This was my reality as I arrived at Montestigliano, an eighteenth-century family-run luxury farm estate which has been renovated with sophistication and elegance while maintaining its authenticity.
Much more than I could have anticipated, this unique place is truly a little slice of heaven. My view of the expansive rolling Chianti hills of green reached as far as Siena, twelve kilometers away. It was almost mesmerizing.
The Donati family operates this working farm in Tuscany, which has been in their family for three generations. Spread across 2500 acres, Montestigliano offers guest accommodations in eleven stone, rustic, restored luxury villas, which house between three and fourteen persons each, and can accommodate a total of 63 guests.
In addition, Villa Pipistrelli, a larger seventeenth-century villa a bit father up the hill houses up to fourteen persons and is especially suited for wedding parties and their guests.
My home for three days and nights was in Casa Luisa, named after Luisa Donati, one of the five owners of the estate.
Cypress trees lined the road and flowerpots of red and white geraniums in terra cotta pots welcomed me as I walked to my new living quarters just on the other side of the central piazza of this hamlet.
Casa Luisa is a beautifully appointed apartment with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, a large living room, dining room, outdoor covered terrace, and fully-equipped kitchen with up-to-date modern conveniences. And a room with a view.
I could stay here forever, I thought.
After I got settled, a delicious Tuscan dinner was served that evening on the loggia where I could appreciate the beautiful wooded view through the open arches.
A stay at Montestigliano can be a private affair if one is looking for solitude, perhaps to write, or paint, or meditate. If you’re looking for more, the Donati family has also arranged numerous excursions and activities as options for anyone expressing a desire to explore the surrounding countryside and experience authentic Tuscan artisans at work.
During a guided walk and tour of the olive tree grove on the property, I met Massimo Donati, brother of Luisa, and one of the five owners. Massimo is the farmer in the family, and was happy to demonstrate the art of harvesting olives with a tool called a comb.
The work is done by hand with the exception of this tool. The Donati family produces their own olive oil, appropriately named Montestigliano, and an olive oil tasting was another experience provided for me.
A tour of the vegetable garden verified the reality of Montestigliano as a working farm. The friendly strolling black and white cat, Monroe, and the donkey, also provided a dose of farm life reality.
I loved the sense of peacefulness I felt as I explored the property and wandered around alone, smelling the fresh flowers in full bloom, and enjoying the photo opportunities around every bend.
Outdoor dinners in the main piazza were a favorite experience for me as other guests staying in the hamlet also participated.
Damiano Donati, Luisa’s other brother and another owner, oversaw the authentic Tuscan experience of fresh and healthy Tuscan cuisine.
Carrot soup, freshly made pecorino cheese, boccino, pappa pomodoro soup, chickpea and baccala, bruschetta, pesto gnochetti, and nutella pizza on pizza night were a few of the memorable foods I experienced. Wine was abundant, of course. And of course, the meals always ended with homemade limoncello.
An outdoor wine tasting with Alessandro preceded dinner one evening as he explained the history of wine making in Tuscany, a real educational experience. I learned that Tuscany now produces its own semi-sparkling wines, known as frizzante,
And early one morning a 2-hour hike through the woods with Caterina, a local naturistic guide, provided plenty of exercise, maybe more than I expected, but it felt good afterward.
One afternoon I made time to swim laps in the pool overlooking the Tuscan countryside. The peacefulness I felt here was priceless. And to have a taste of the city for an hour or so, a short ride to Siena late one afternoon, provided a change of pace.
Luisa Donati and her partner Piero Asso, could not have been more gracious hosts as I immersed myself in the dream of living in a Tuscan villa.
A huge mille grazie, Luisa and Piero.
Click here for more information on booking an authentic Tuscan holiday at Montestigliano.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Montestigliano and the opinions, words and photos are my own.
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