Every inch the archetype of the Italian country villa, Podere Celli is a wonderful place for a large group to share each other's company. Rosie Paterson paid a visit.
Think of a classic Tuscan villa and the chances are that Podere Celli — a beautifully restored old stone farmhouse 30 minutes from Florence — is the sort of place you’re thinking of. Large, open, brick fireplaces, tiled floors and wooden-beamed ceilings are everywhere you look, while replica frescoes adorn the walls and spacious rooms.
In true Italian style it’s big enough to accommodate a huge extended family: the main villa can cater to 16 guests, with a further 10 in the guesthouse. The present owners saved the place from ruin, and have furnished it with rustic-style furniture and floral-print fabrics, which stop it all feeling too barren. It’s entirely charming.
Outside, in the immaculately landscaped gardens, a huge travertine swimming pool looks out across undulating Chianti countryside. Thanks to its position at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway, which winds its way down from a hill ridge, the villa is neither too elevated and exposed nor too far down the valley and shaded.
The heart of Podere Celli is the pergola and climbing-rose-covered alfresco dining area. At the front of the house, on a paved terrace, it’s where we gathered each morning for breakfast and, at the end of another hard day by the pool, for supper.
The most memorable was a traditional Tuscan feast — including stuffed and fried courgette flowers — produced by a chef named Leonardo who came in. Italian villa specialist Tuscany Now & More, who handle this property, can organise a private chef for the duration of your holiday, while a daily maid is all part of the service.
Tuscany Now & More offers seven days at Villa Podere Celli starting from £8,647, based on 16 people sharing — see www.tuscanynowandmore.com for further details and other villas.
Things to do
Leaving was difficult, but a few of us made the not-so-arduous journey to the nearby village of Barberino Val d’Elsa and surrounding vineyards. The promise of wine no doubt helped — most of them happily welcome visitors for tours and tastings.
On an unseasonably overcast day, we set out on a guided walk. We followed a section of the Via Francigena — an ancient, pilgrim route that once connected Canterbury to Rome — ending at the medieval hill town of San Gimignano. The town is in exceptional condition — the original 13th-century walls still stand and the 12th-century Duomo di San Gimignano, where frescoes by Ghirlandaio illustrate both the Old and New Testaments, is well worth a visit.
View this post on Instagram
Our guide for the walk, Carol, was raised in America, but moved back to her family’s native Italy more than 20 years ago. Her love for the country was infectious and her knowledge invaluable. Halfway through the walk, she surprised us with a pre-arranged picnic overlooking the vines. Legendary local Andrea had prepared local meats, cheeses and what he declared to be ‘the world’s best ricotta’. It was served in small glasses, drizzled with peppery olive oil. Much like Podere Celli, it surpassed expectations.