You have to hand it to the Italians; they do know how to show off a bit. What with all the art and music, fast cars and football, it’s not exactly the province of the shy and retiring. From the sultry machismo of Naples to Milan’s chic to the sheer sense of history emanating from Rome, everything they do is carried off with a certain amount of brio.
Outside of the cities, the countryside is endowed with an equal, if understated, bravura. Here this panache is manifested in the beautiful landscapes and wonderful food and wines of the area – a circumstance exemplified nowhere better than in Tuscany.
Our week promised a mixture of walking, cultural visits, wine and food, with plenty of time for relaxation as well – perfect, really, for a post-operative Missyg and her over-worked husband. We needed a break, and who could resist such a winning combination?
Arrival day had gone well enough, with all flights and transfers running smoothly and to time. The only real surprise had been when we stepped out of the terminal at Pisa airport: Tuscany in a heat wave being quite a bit hotter than the UK in a poor summer.
This trip was billed as a small group holiday, and we were indeed a small group: just six of us – Karen, Camilla, Julia, Saidah, Missyg and me – plus group leader Anthony, a guide with considerable travel experience. So there was plenty of room in the minibus for us and all of our luggage for the two hour transfer to our hotel.
Away from the coastal plain the roads in Tuscany are less than straight, and we slowly wound our way through shallow valleys and round low summits as we made our way inland. It was only as we crested a range of low hills that we had our first glimpse of the hill town of San Gimignano - 'the Manhattan of Tuscany'.
Our base for the week – the Fattoria Voltrona – is a renovated Tuscan farmhouse some three miles outside of San Gimignano, offering slightly boutique-y Agritourism accommodation. Set in extensive grounds with panoramic views, the farm produces it’s own wine and olive oil, and specialises in home cooked, authentic Tuscan food prepared from locally sourced products. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
We settled in briefly before going for a swim in the outdoor pool prior to dinner, when the group began to get to know one another. A quantity of Chianti was consumed.