“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
The Tuscan sunlight is unlike any other, effortlessly transporting you to a place where reality looks and feels like the most surreal dream. The early morning brings a magical, light fog that rolls over the vineyard-dotted hills in what feels like slow motion. The flare of the sun casts an extraordinary glow to everything it touches. Tuscany’s beauty has been endlessly explored, the seemingly infinite epicurean delights and surreal natural landscape surely have a lot to do with it. But it is the intangible warmth and the feeling of being “at home” in this foreign place that has even the most well-travelled amongst us returning time and time again to this beloved part of the world.
Just far enough from any main road, lies a centuries old restored farmhouse that goes by the name of MonteRotondo, sitting on its idyllic perch amongst the fruit trees, vineyards and steps away from the esteemed former castle turned five star hotel, Casali di Casole. MonteRotondo farmhouse emanates charm and with thoughtfully restored original details like wood-beamed and vaulted ceilings, stone walls and hand-plastered finishes, you would think you had been transported back in time if it weren’t for the seamlessly integrated and luxuriously modern updates like the deep soaking bathtub with a view of the hills or the Ingo Maurer Birds Chandelier in the stonewalled entrance.
The MonteRotondo farmhouse is just one of hundreds of gems made available by Exclusive Resorts to its members. As an elite private vacation club, the mission is to create authentic, bespoke experiences for those who wish to lose themselves to the discovery of world travel with the comfort and knowledge of a world class experience. Helping one define their own travel traditions and creating a home away from home. A dedicated, personal Vacation Ambassador is the key to building a one-of-a-kind travel profile and making each experience as personally catered and special as possible. They learn your likes, dislikes, preferences, dream trips and even personal details like whether you’re celebrating a special occasion. And to ensure everything is orchestrated without a hitch, there is a dedicated concierge team at every destination.
Upon our arrival at MonteRotondo, the fridge was stocked with favourite indulgences of local wines, meats and cheeses, fresh berries, chocolate biscuits and local olive oils. Our personal ambassador Mary-Therese, quickly noted that I was looking for a culturally immersive experience steeped in old world tradition, sustainable practices and purpose driven shopping. She in turn curated a personalized itinerary filled with visits to centuries old artisan workshops, enlightening personal tours of cultural hubs like Sienna and Florence, and deliciously lingering meals at Michelin star restaurants touting organic farm and vineyard to table fare. All we had to do was show up and be present.
When we weren’t eating and discovering our way through nearby towns, the hours were consumed wandering the nearly 4200 acres of untouched natural landscape surrounding the farmhouse property, reading a book fireside or storytelling over authentic meals created by our personal at-home chef. You really can choose to lose yourself in the magical solitude of this wonderful place or you can tap in to modern amenities like Casali di Casole’s spa. The beauty is it can be whatever you desire it to be.
It is the intangible warmth and the feeling of being “at home” in this foreign place, that has even the most well-travelled amongst us returning time and time again, to this beloved part of the world.
At-home chefs can be arranged to leave your time free to explore and relax. Local and fresh ingredients often sourced from nearby farms are used to make as informal or as lavish a meal as you like. The pantry and fridge are stocked with your favorite indulgences including locally made but world renowned wines and olive oils. Personal pizza making lessons and the outdoor wood burning, brick oven are a hit with both children and those young at heart.
The well-traveled road to discovery…..
TUSCAN TOWNS | The surrounding towns of Florence, San Gimignano and Sienna provide boundless sights, smells and sounds to be discovered and rediscovered. Even the most experienced traveler will be taken with the centuries old architecture, intoxicating food and natural beauty of the area. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a confident driver to navigate the wonderfully winding hilltop roads.
Duomos and churches are infinite sources of inspiration and information. Painted frescos and marble mosaics tell the story of generations past. The black and white marble of Sienna’s duomo are symbolic colors of the towns historic founders.
ANTINORI CLASSIC WINES | Antinori Estates, originating with the Antinori family who happen to pre-date the famed Medicis, has been making wine for twenty-six generations. Housed in a monastery built pre-1100, complete with ancient abbey cellars and monks who still roam and care for the organic garden. Here you will find Michelin starred restaurant, Osteria de Passignano, founded by Marcello Crini, a connoisseur and enthusiast of the traditional Tuscan wine and food culture. The Antinori Estates ethos champions equal respect for tradition and the environment.
GUCCI GARDEN | Gucci Garden is the combination of Museo Gucci (museum), Osteria Gucci (restaurant), and the Bazaar (shop). With an altruistic spirit, fifty percent of admission costs are donated to restoration projects around Florence. The Osteria was opened by chef Massimo Bottura, owner of Osteria Francesca and an old friend of Gucci CEO Marco Bizzari. Bizzari also runs a network of unrelated charity-focused Refetorrios (soup kitchens) which are chef-driven and fueled by what would otherwise be food waste. In a nod to Italian tradition, The Osteria exclusively uses Richard Ginori china. Gucci as a corporation upholds strict sustainability standards in accordance with its parent company, Kering. Gucci has also assumed the costs for the restoration of the historic Boboli gardens, located directly behind the historic building that houses Gucci Gardens, the Palazzo della Mercanzia.
RICHARD GINORI | Time-honoured practices are the foundation of centuries old china company Richard Ginori. With its rich history, Ginori china has upheld its cultural significance since 1735. Ginori, with the collaboration of iconoclastic designers such as architect Gio Ponte, has reinvented its signature pieces while maintaining its aesthetic integrity, and as is such the most highly acclaimed Italian factory producing porcelain dinnerware. In 2013, Richard Ginori was purchased by Gucci. Their porcelain is crafted using handmade wooden tools in their original factory in Doccia, near Florence. The company also offers clients the option to create bespoke and customized pieces.
Ginori’s hand painted, vaulted ceiling in its Florence flagship further informs the companies commitment to artistic craftsmanship.
DITTA CARLO CECCHI DE GIULIANO RICCHI | Tucked away in a hidden courtyard not far from Florence’s famed Ponte Vecchio bridge, you will find the workshop of Giuliano Ricchi. Ricchi upholds the craftsmanship of traditional gold and silversmiths, in the style of his teacher, master Carlo Cecchi, the original owner of the studio. Ricchi is one of the few Italian smiths who still follow the teachings of Benvenuto Cellini, a bronze and gold Renaissance master sculptor. Ricchi has been creating each piece from beginning to end for the last fifty years. Logo martix plates (original carving that will be used to pattern) that were made for fashion houses such as Dior and Gucci still reside in the workshop, along with the original tools and equipment. Ricchi provides all metalwork pieces for historic Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
NERDI ORAFI FIRENZE | Originally commissioned by the Medici family, Nerdi Orafi, housed in a former monastery in Firenze, upholds to the traditions of Florentine jewelers and goldsmiths. Now, the traditionalist, woman-run workshop who partners with Advancing Women Artists, is producing original commissioned designs and restores already existing pieces to “their former glory.”