Hotel Villa La Palagina, Tuscany
A rustic, reasonably-priced escape among fields of Chianti
There are almost 9,000 square miles composing the Italian region of Tuscany. Much of the land remains dedicated to what one dreams can be found here: rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves. Perched atop a hill in the heart of Tuscany, only 40 minutes from Florence, Hotel Villa La Palagina provides an eagle-eye view of such landscapes while offering pleasant accommodations and a superb restaurant. It's equal parts a gateway for exploration and a destination one will struggle with leaving. For anyone looking for an authentic Tuscan experience, it's an ideal stop with plenty of history—and it is substantially less expensive than you think.
With any villa worth visiting, the site plays host to an interesting story. The main structure happens to be a restored 16th century villa. It rests upon a spot which once held a nunnery, unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake well before La Palagina was built. For many years, the estate was owned by the noble Ricasoli family of Florence—barons, business folk and winemakers. Today, the villa stakes claim to 110 hectares, and produces 55,000 bottles of Chianti wine and 10,000 bottles of top quality olive oil annually.
There are plenty of notable amenities on site, including two infinity pools with panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside. The restaurant, however, stands out. With a seasonal menu of fresh Italian dishes, which can be enjoyed al fresco, there's no shortage of options. Further, many of the ingredients used are grown on site—and dinner comes complete with the wines and olive oils produced at the villa. During our stay, the restaurant also offered a spectacular vegetarian tasting menu. Every month they offer new tasting menus, many of which are comprised of variations on Mediterranean classics. Further, cooking classes are available with Chef de Cuisine Federico Cardi.
The villa houses 26 rooms, broken into three categories: standard, superior and junior suites. All options are spacious (even the standard room comes with a king-sized bed), cool (quite literally temperature-wise) and offer views of the land. Our superior room featured a highly-desirable balcony with seating. Each is furnished differently, with the influence of found or antique pieces playing a role. The theme tends to be Tuscan rustic, and the term quaint is applicable here though modern conveniences (TV, minibar and Wi-Fi) abound. The grounds also have four apartments and one rental house (a former 18th century farmhouse)—good for larger groups.
Villa La Palagina is located at Via Grevigiana 4, 50063 Figline Valdarno. Rooms can be booked online via email with prices starting at $115 a night for two people, in season. It's also worth mentioning that the musician Sting lives down the road.
Images by David Graver