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Il Monte – Living a Dream in Tuscany:
Some months ago I was invited to an Italian cookery event lead by Chef Anna Binni. For me, it brought back some memories of a recent trip to the Chianti area of Tuscany and at the invitation of TuscanyNow I wrote a blog post about what made Tuscany special for me. And, to my great delight, I won a trip to the region from TuscanyNow, to find out more, to explore and to write and share some of the great things you can experience as a food and culture lover at this time of the year. Over the last week among other things, I’ve seen traditional and modern olive oil pressing, ricotta and pecorino cheese making and artisan pasta making, I’ve visited a great vineyard, I’ve been to the white truffle festival at San Miniato, I’ve eaten Cacciocco in Livorno and I’ve learnt how to make Ribollita from Anna herself. I’ve also seen some great art, fabulous architecture and amazing landscapes, the first of which has to be the view from Il Monte, Anna’s family home, where we stayed for the trip.
It was a truly remarkable experience. We arrived on a warm, sunny afternoon in November, to our temporary home which must be one of the loveliest places I’ve ever stayed.
The house is set on a hill overlooking Florence, with terraces, swimming pool (no, we didn’t even try!) and olive groves. Although it is available as a holiday rental, it has been furnished as a family home and is immaculately clean and well maintained. There are housekeepers who will cook and clean for you on request and in November, the villa was warm and comfortable, even when the weather changed!
In the kitchen I was charmed to find an old oven in the kitchen (not working!), sitting alongside two gas cookers!
The bedrooms are spacious and all ensuite, with shutters opening out to views over the hills. My room (not the master suite), was charming with a comfortable double bed, antique furniture and a pretty white and blue bathroom.
Il Monte feels like a proper home – with comfy sofas, book lined walls, old prints and the occasional family photograph. The sort of place I’d love to have grown up in and somewhere you can relax and unwind with a glass of wine after a day exploring the countryside and towns.
But, this is really just an introduction to the posts I will be writing over the next few weeks about the trip and my experiences. I’d like to share with you some of the great things that you can do in Tuscany at this time of year. It might not be warm enough to swim, but the streets, museums and galleries are quieter so you’ll see more of the art and architecture. And, though you might not get a suntan, you can find out more about some of the artisan foods that make Italy so famous. From truffles to olives, from vin santo to ricotta.
With many thanks to Tuscany Now and Anna – Il Monte far exceeded my expectations and was a magical place to stay. And a special mention for Michela Riccarelli who helped us discover some hidden gems in and around Pistoia and whose services as a guide I would highly recommend (I will cover our very special day with her later!)