The skyline of the walled, medieval town of San Gimignano is marked by historic towers. // © 2014 Ward Nipper
Feature image (above): A scooter tour is a great way to explore hillside towns around Florence. // © 2014 Ward Nipper
If you have clients headed to Italy, encourage them to go beyond the more traditional tourist towns and explore some of the small hill towns outside of Florence. It’s an ideal way to see the countryside, get to know some locals and take home some exceptional photos.
Clients can establish a home base in the area by renting a villa from a reputable company such as Parker Villas. The advantages to renting a villa are many, including more space and the ability to cook meals. Villas are also located in the heart of the area, so clients can avoid driving to visit the hill towns from Florence, where parking can be difficult and a small hotel room may cost as much per night as a whole house or apartment located just outside the city.
For example, Zafferano, a three bedroom and three bath apartment in one of San Gimignano’s famous towers, has a roof deck with panoramic views providing the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of Prosecco wine, look out over the hills and plan the next day’s itineraries.
Speaking of itineraries, clients may want to walk through some of the lesser known hill towns in the area such as Semifonte and Petrognano, where Americans are scarce, the architecture is fascinating and the views are unmatched.
At a nearby organic farm L’Oleandolo, Anna Bruti and her husband, Roberto, welcome guests for meals and multi-day cooking classes. Meals are based around the olives, heirloom fruits and other produce grown on their farm (largely derived from favorites of Anna’s grandmother). Clients should arrive hungry, as servings are more than generous — think four large courses — and start at about $50 per person.
When your clients want to explore, suggest that they drive the scenic route to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore monastery and visit the abbey in San Galgano, a perfect afternoon excursion from San Gimignano. Another excursion option is to take a day-long Vespa ride with Tuscany Vespa Tours. The tour leaves from Florence and ventures out in the Chianti region for a wine tasting and a visit to a 17th century villa.
Lucca and Radda, medieval walled towns in the Chianti area, are also worth a look. For a true luxury experience near these historic destinations, book your clients into Villa la Serena, another Parker Villas property with seven bedrooms, artisan glass fixtures, a pool and an outdoor kitchen.
At the property, guests can arrange a private cooking class with an Italian chef. They will feast on menu items like homemade Bolognese, zucchini fritters, chicken cacciatore and much more. It’s a particularly satisfying experience after a day of exploring some of Italy’s scenic hill towns.