This article first appeared in the October 2012 issue
of the award-winning subscription travel newsletter Dream of Italy
By Walter Sanders
I finish my meal of prosciutto, salami, pecorino, pane e olio. I grab a notebook and pour another glass of Chianti Classico to bring outdoors. It’s a sunny September afternoon and I choose a spot under a wisteria-covered pergola.
I have Villa Pipistrelli all to myself because I have arrived earlier than the other journalists in my group. Perfection. I become aware of the quiet. No man-made sounds. The silence heightens all my senses. Even the occasional dove calls her mate in sotto voce.
I began to write…focused by the silence.
A bee buzzes by. The sound is almost shocking, electric. I have to stop and write about that glorious interruption.
I linger and watch the valley change muted colors as the sun sets.
I marvel at the surroundings: such places exist only in movies, romantic novels, in dream states after a pleasing Italian dinner.
But Villa Pipistrelli—the country house where I am—does exist. In the days to come, I will learn how intense and liberating Tuscan country life can be.
Only a short time earlier in Fiesole, I hopped into my friend Giovanni Melani’s Volvo. He’s offered to drop me off in the village of Montestigliano on his way home to Grosseto. We headed south past Certosa, San Gimignano, and then, south of Siena, the sultry female voice of the GPS purred “Gira a destra a 200 metri.”
No signage indicated a lodging establishment. We crossed a river and continued to climb the hill. Then we entered what looked like a farm village. We drove past a broad courtyard flanked on the north by a large villa, and on the south by an immense work building.
“Stop, Giovanni,” I said. “There’s a sign for an office, and the door is open.”
We jumped out and strode across the courtyard, then stopped in our tracks. The courtyard was a vast terrace overlooking a broad valley. Siena sparkled some 15 kilometers away. The only sound was the wind and Giovanni saying “Bellisimo.”
In the office, I met British-born Francesco, the on-site, go-to guy for the Donati family’s Tuscan properties. Francesco explained that we were in the Montestigliano property–a seventeenth-century farming hamlet that is still an operating farm as well as a hotel. “But now, off to Villa Pipistrelli!”
We drove more than a mile over a gravel road lined by cypress, oak and sycamore trees deep into forested territory. We reached a clearing high over a rolling valley and I saw two stone buildings that appeared to be hundreds of years old.
We entered the courtyard of the larger building through a carved stone arch. Francesco unlocked the door and we passed through at least three centuries, and a cozy foyer, into a large, modern kitchen. Lots of work space, a six-burner gas cooktop with oven, deep sinks, dishwasher and a massive stainless steel refrigerator beckoned guests to cook up their own Tuscan feasts.
Francesco took me on a quick tour of the five bedrooms with en suite baths, a fusion of traditional Tuscan colors and motifs with decorative upgrades that gave each unit a unique feeling. A couple of communal areas give guests space for lounging and reading. I’d love to be at Villa Pipistrelli during the winter to take advantage of the fireplaces.
Double doors open on to the Zen deck with western views overlooking the infinity pool and the distant hills. I cannot imagine a more ideal setting to toast a Tuscan sunset. The grounds are dotted with courtyards, lush gardens, and wisteria-and-trumpet-vine-covered pergolas that invite you to play and dine under the sun, shade or stars. Every component embraces the Pipistrelli philosophy of serene engagement with nature.
To be continued in our next post:
Golf at Royal Golf La Bagnaia