Villa Fontelunga, Tuscany
Edmundo waits patiently with our driver Marco at Fiumicino Airport for Juanita and me after our twenty-three hours flying from Sydney.
After another three hours driving north, we finally arrive at Villa Fontelunga, abloom with spring flowers. We are welcomed with the first of what is to be many glasses of Prosecco, and we pause to take in the beautiful views out over the manicured lawns and olive groves to the Val Di Chiana.
We are so far from reality, but already ensconced with that heightened anticipation of the friendly staff treating us royally for a few days.
Cold cuts and salads are set out for our lunch as none of us has any intention to leave the villa. We do go ‘to town’ in the evening to try the local Chianina beef (used for Fiorentina T-bone steaks).
In the morning, I’m up early enough to see Paolo turning out a freshly baked cake for the breakfast buffet. A cappuccino and cake out in the morning sunshine is a great way to start the day (and the holiday).
Our first excursion is into Pienza, a town that is a UNESCO declared World Heritage Site. More recently, the entire valley, the Val d’Orcia, was included on the list of UNESCO’s World Cultural Landscapes.
Thanks to Paolo at the Villa, we have a wonderful local lady drive us there and instructions for where to enjoy a simple lunch outdoors. The rest of the time we wander.
Pienza is the home of pecorino cheese. The cheese aroma wafts from so many of the shops as we walk down the main street. According to some farmers, the secret to their product is the unique combination of Sardinian sheep and Tuscan grass.
Arezzo is a rural centre of Etruscan origin, just half an hour’s drive from our Villa, (or an hour south east of Florence).
Arezzo is a little gem, thanks mainly to the legacy left by its two most gifted sons: the stunning frescos by Piero della Francesca in the Church of San Francesco, and the main square Piazza Grande with the elegant loggia designed by Vasari (the same Vasari who planned the Uffizi in Florence.)
Unfortunately we arrive in the heat of the mid-day sun just as everything is closing. We are doubly disappointed to learn that the next available time for viewing of Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle ‘Legends of the True Cross’ in the Basilica of San Francesco is not until 6pm.
We did visit the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve, very impressive from the outside, but with an interior so dark, before traipsing up the hill to visit the Cathedral. Back to the Piazza of San Francesco for yet another Campari, and lunch out under a large umbrella.
Driving along regional roads on our way from Arezzo to Siena, wildflowers line the verges. Don’t you love the Spring season?
Rolling green hills sweep away on all sides.
Expanses of rich earth of ‘terra di Siena bruciata’ colour await the planting of sunflowers to turn heads (theirs and ours) later in the summer.
Hilltop towns with towers standing for centuries seemingly never tire of looking out and across to the surrounding mountains watching for any interlopers like us entering their verdant domain.
Cypress randomly dot the expanses of green, waiting for sunrise and sunset to make perfect picture postcard views of what we lovingly recognise as the typical Tuscan countryside. (In between, successive days of blue skies add to our enjoyment.)
Again, crowds have arrive in Siena before us, and after ‘doing battle’, we agree to find the restaurant Osteria di Logge, recommended by Paolo back at Villa Fontelunga, and rest the weary bones. And eat some rabbit!