In a nature reserve on the south-west coast of Tuscany, the Argentario resort aims to bring the best of owning a Tuscan villa with the ease and amenities of taking a holiday, as Sarah Readman discovered.
Amid the olive trees, rolling hills and Chianti vineyards of Tuscany’s Maremma region you’ll find the Monte Argentario nature reserve, a 90-minute drive from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. And within the reserve you’ll find the five-star Argentario Golf Resort & Spa, a hotel which has branched out into selling villas for those who want something a little more long-lasting than a hotel stay. And in this picturesque part of the world, who would blame them?
The resort has started the ball rolling by putting five villas onto the market (more will come up for sale in future years), all with interiors by Milan-based designer Andrea Fogli. Two are huge five-bedroom lodges on hilltops overlooking Orbetello Lagoon, modern in style with double-height ceilings and cinema rooms; two more are three-bedroom cottages in a more rustic style, cosy and intimate, yet still boasting terraces and hot tubs.
The last — Locker Cottage — is a traditional Tuscan-style villa, complete with a grand Turkish bath and an enormous terrace. And we mean enormous: the terrace is over 2,000 sq ft, offering exactly the sort of outdoor living you’d imagine if you were thinking of a Tuscan villa.
Prices start at around £1.6 million if you’re buying outright, but you can rent a villa for anything from a week to six weeks from about £1,650 a night at the moment. That latter figure may, of course, change as and when the villas find permanent owners, but we’d imagine that they would remain for rent at least part of the time.
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The reason for that is because Argentario’s villas very much blur the lines between property and travel. Anyone staying at one of the villas is entitled to use the amenities of the nearby hotel, whether that’s landing at the helipad, having a drink at the bar (complete with ‘pig tables’ and a science lab) or using the golf buggies to whizz from building to building — or, naturally, around the 18 hole course itself.
There’s also a spa — the ‘Epace Wellness Centre’ — while the hotel can also arrange fishing trips and transport to the nearby beaches of the Silver Coast. There are also tennis courts, a football pitch and even a polo field on site.
Villa purchase prices at Argentario start from €1.75 million for a three-bedroom villa; rental prices start from €1800 per night for stays of 7 – 45 nights. Visit www.argentariogolfresortspa.it.
Food and drink
Argentario’s Dama Dama restaurant — named after the fallow deer that can often be spotted around the resort — serves up traditional Tuscan cuisine under the eye of local chef Emiliano Lombardelli. Menus are based on local flavours and colours using produce from the hotel garden and small, carefully selected farms nearby wherever possible. The 10-course tasting menu is not to be missed, especially when parired with the wine flight; personal highlights were the steak tartare with caramelised onion and dusted with truffle, and a caramel chocolate parfait dessert served with creamy gelato.
For more relaxed surroundings there’s the Club House Restaurant overlooking the 18th green of the golf course. The dishes are still Tuscan: grilled octopus salad, spaghetti with garlic prawns and sea bass with calamari, grilled prawns and vegetables, all drizzled in oil produced on the estate were on the menu during our visit — as was a dreamy tiramisu.
Things to do
Port Santo Stefano
The entire area has a notable seafaring tradition thanks to its secluded coves and beaches, and nearby Porto Santo Stefano is a chic, inconspicuous summer hideout for many Italian celebrities. It’s the sort of place where you can get lost in romantic winding streets, nip in and out of family-run shops and stop off at a beautiful cafe and or flower-adorned trattoria.
On the opposite side of the peninsula lays Porto Ercole with a history that dates back to the Phoenicians, the Etruscans and the Romans, as well as being where Caravaggio died in 1610. The fishing trade in the town continues today, and you’re almost guaranteed to find the harbour lined with fishermen landing fish or mending their nets in the afternoon sun — quite a sight in a bay which is also sprinkled with glitzy super-yachts.
Port Ercole is also the launching point for ferries to the nearby islands of Giannutri and Giglio, as well as the place to hire a car or grab a taxi to Orbetello station for a trip to nearby Rome, Pisa or Sienna.
Le Mortelle Antinori winery
Set in the nearby town of Castiglione della Pescaia, the wine tasting at Le Mortelle Antinori winery is a fantastic way to spend a relaxing afternoon. It’s impressively set up too; the winery is on top of a hillside that overlooks the entire estate and was built largely underground to minimize its environmental impact. Extending over an area of 667 acres, the vineyards are planted with grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Vermentino, Ansonica, Viognier and Carménère.