La Casermetta (140 sq m) is a rare holiday rental find, a free-standing, ancient stone farmhouse hidden in the Chianti Classico hills. Our Italian friends call it a jewel. It nestles above San Polo in Chianti, a town slightly removed from the tourist turmoil, yet with excellent essentials shopping and nearby restaurants, plus good road access to the towns and sights of Tuscany. Restored as a family home with great attention to detail, it is much loved and cared for. The main house features a large live-in country kitchen. A huge oak refectory table and ancient boudoir grand loaded with family photos dominate the dining and living rooms. There are comfortable, quality furnishings and restored Tuscan antiques. La Cantinetta (90 sq m), being in the oldest part of the house, has tremendous character and sense of history. The apartment shares no common doors or walls with the main house, has its own driveway, entrance and dining terrace, plus pretty views across the valley from all windows.
Restored as our family home, the house is furnished and equipped to a very high standard. Farmhouse antiques, treasures from local antique markets, offer generous spaces so guests can unpack, settle in and feel completely at home. Children are welcome. Additional power supply to the entire house, a luxury in the countryside, supports the many appliances. There's good reliable plumbing and strong water pressure. All windows have screens and internal cypress shutters. Efficient central heating keeps the house warm and cosy in the winter months. In summer, La Casermetta's 400 m elevation promotes refreshing breezes, while thick stone walls help keep the interior cool. A booklet of information covers the A to Z of how things work with support phone numbers just in case you need help.
La Casermetta is set in a generous, fenced private garden beyond which rambles a further ten acres of forest. The lawn is often scattered with daisies and fireflies sometimes come out at night. From the marble garden setting there are views of the Arno valley and across to the famous Vallombrosa Monastery, nestled in the magnificent oak and pine woodlands of the central Apennines. Depending on the season, around the house and garden you may find grapes, plums, raspberries, apricots or figs. The squirrels usually get the hazelnuts and almonds.
In a more recent restoration we created a charming, well equipped apartment, La Cantinetta, in the cellars of the main house. It has its own entrance and does not share any common walls or doors with the main house. La Cantinetta can be rented individually, or taken in addition to the main house if you have a large party. It does not share La Casermetta's garden, but has its own private dining terrace which faces both the valley and the cypress lined track that weaves towards Florence. And of course it has free access to the bountiful woodland areas attached to the property. Take a gin and tonic and watch the sun set from the bench overlooking our little olive grove. The apricot tree here bears a surprising amount of fruit, if you can beat the locals. Like the main house, the apartment has its own barbecue, alfresco dining setting, deck-chairs and umbrellas. (Please click on the tab above for availability and further details on La Cantinetta.)
In addition to producing the respected Gallo Nero Chianti Classico wine and the rich, peppery, extra virgin olive oil which is synonymous with Tuscany, San Polo in Chianti is famous for its pursuit of the ancient tradition of iris farming. If you're lucky enough to be there in the spring, the hills around the village will be dotted with fields of blue. At the end of flowering the bulbs are harvested and carefully divided. One half is returned to the earth while the other is trimmed and sun-dried then sold to the French for their perfume industry. An iris festival held each May helps keep this charming tradition alive. The village has two small supermarkets, a butcher and a chemist amongst other basic shops, two restaurants (many more nearby), a post office, a bar/tabacchi where you can buy bus tickets to Florence, a petrol station with after-hours self-service and a bank with ATM. Ten kilometres north towards Florence is Grassina with many shops and boutiques, elegant bars and pasticcerie and services such as laundromat/dry cleaners. The large hospital at Antella is a few minutes out of Grassina. Ten kilometres south is Figline Valdarno which has a lovely piazza (similar to the distinctive one at Greve in Chianti, which is also close) and a huge supermarket selling absolutely everything. (Watch out for Sting at the check-out, his Tuscan hideaway is nearby.)
There are charming walks around La Casermetta, along chestnut shaded tracks, some leading to sudden, surprising views of Florence. Our own land abounds with interesting fauna and vegetation. Stroll, hike or picnic around the area and experience the seasonal offerings of the land. Keen-eyed locals inhabit these woods on weekends and can often be seen clutching trophies – bundles of herbs; asparagus as fine as wheat which make delicious frittata; funghi porcini; chestnuts – all plentiful in these hills.
Ours is a very personal service. If you need advice on your trip we’re happy to help if we can. We provide guests with a comprehensive booklet of extra information, revised and updated each year. It includes day trips with detailed driving directions, restaurant recommendations, local specialty shops, tips on where to get the tastiest food, weekly markets, festivals, even insights on food and customs for the uninitiated and our pick of the best on offer close at hand such as the dazzling designer outlet shopping mall, surprisingly close and very popular, the famous Panzano butcher Dario Cecchini, non-touristy places to shop and sightsee, the antique market circuit and even some suggestions for those travelling further afield, particularly Ravello on the Amalfi coast where we spend a great deal of time and have some useful contacts.