Every year we plan a long child-free weekend away with our dear friends and really live it up for a few days. We’re all foodies so places to eat are always part of the planning, as well as sight seeing and time to relax in beautiful surroundings.
We spent 3 days in magical Tuscany and it was simply divine, from the hotel to the restaurants to the places we visited, including the must-do winery tour. Most came from recommendations so I thought I’d share the love incase this part of the world is on your bucket list; this is less about interior decor and more about exterior beauty and exquisitely presented (as well as yummy) cuisine.
We flew into Pisa mid morning and picked up a hire car then took the National Road (SS 222) through Ponte a Ema, Strada in Chianti and down to Greve in Chianti. At Rignana we drove down a dirt track to eat lunch on the terrace at La Cantinetta Di Rignana. This small family-run restaurant with the most beautiful outlook over the Tuscan hills was the perfect place to stop to soak in the countryside, relaxed way of life and authentic Italian cuisine.
Other restaurants recommended were:
From there to we drove to our hotel, Castel Monastero, set in a restored mediaeval hamlet close to Siena. With indoor and outdoor pools, spa facilities, meditation and yoga, tennis courts, two restaurants and incredible scenery, this hotel is the perfect choice if relaxation as well as sight seeing is on your agenda. It’s also a wedding venue if you’re looking for a Tuscan venue which has a church in its grounds. Florence airport is actually closer to this hotel and is 100km away (170km from Pisa).
We stayed in one of the stand-alone farmhouses behind the spa building as opposed to being in the main castle, which had a shared lobby area for our two rooms and a seating area outside. This wasn’t requested so I think our reputation preceded us, ha ha! It worked out perfectly because while us girls got ready of an evening the boys could sit outside with a bottle of wine. The rooms were rustic and comfortable, with beautiful views over the countryside and back up to the castle, which looked stunning lit up at nighttime.
For dinner we stayed at the hotel and ate outside in the piazza at Gordon Ramsay’s Contrada restaurant, fusing modern, traditional and innovative Tuscan cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The amuse bouche and chocolate pudding were particularly delicious and a feast for the eyes too.
We had a driver for the day so we could all enjoy a winery tour and used Gabriel Simion Autonoleggio.
Our first stop was Montalcino, a town set up on a hill offering stunning views, particularly from the castle. Famous for its Brunello di Montalcino wine, there is actually a wine shop located in the castle itself.
It’s the perfect place to amble down through the streets to the piazza, visit the museum or church, stop for a coffee and browse in the boutiques along the way. There are picture perfect scenes at every turn and stunning views over the olive orchards and vineyards.
Lunch was a short drive away at Il Leccio in Sant’Angello in Colle in a quaint little piazza overlooking the vineyards and serving the most beautiful starter I’ve ever had! This place is so tucked away I’m not sure you’d ever stumble across it, so this recommendation was really appreciated.
From there we visited Poggio Antico for a guided cellar tour and wine tasting. There is also a restaurant on the same site if you wanted to combine your visit.
A few hours by the pool snoozing and swimming off lunch and wine tasting was the perfect end to a busy day.
We had dinner at La Cantina based in the hotel. The surroundings were lovely, but the service was disappointing and the food not really that memorable. I doubt any of us would choose to return there in all honesty.
Us girls relaxed at the pool during the day and enjoyed some spa treatments while the boys went exploring, it has to be done right?!
Our last dinner was about a 50 minute drive away at the truly incredible La Bottega del 30 in the Siena countryside which has held its Michelin Star for 20 years, and it’s no wonder. It was one of those truly magical experiences that we’ll always remember. The owner gave us such a warm welcome to this cosy and unpretentious venue and the attention to detail across the ‘Italian with a French twist’ menu has to be fully appreciated. We simply ate what was brought to us and it was spectacular.
Eggplant and Tomato Gazpacho:
Big Raviolo made with fresh hand-made Pasta filled with Spinach, Ricotta Cheese and Egg Yolk, with Truffle Sauce:
Chocolate Cake, Pistachio Iced Mousse with sablé Cashew-nuts, Salted Caramel Sauce and Blond Chocolate Pop:
The breathtaking sunset in the most picturesque setting was the icing on the cake for this restaurant and for our mini Tuscan adventure.
If you have a similar trip on your bucket list I hope our itinerary and recommendations help you to plan yours.
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