JC Stays: Villa Di Bagnolo, Tuscany

A tempting Tuscan escape to mark 500 years since da Vinci's death


Florence’s most famous son, Leonardo da Vinci, didn’t actually die in the Tuscan city, but rather in the Loire Valley, where he was holed up with his patron, King Francois I. But that’s no reason for his home town not to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death.

And half a millennium on from his death on 2 May 1519, Florence is, in fact, in full-on celebratory mode – with exhibitions and events staged for the months ahead.

But if staying amidst the hustle and bustle of the 10.2 million tourists who visit Florence each year (and no doubt this number will increase in 2019), you can take respite just outside the city, in the glorious Chianti countryside, by staying at Villa di Bagnolo.

The seven-bedroom manor house is one of the properties belonging to Tuscany Now & More’s authentic regional portfolio, and is set in a private wine estate, Colombaia, which dates back to 1700.

Sat among 54 acres of olive groves and vineyards, the restored villa blends a period feel with plenty of luxury touches. As a nod to its history, it is filled with antique furniture, including a gleaming 19th century pianoforte.

Rooms are lit by vintage Venetian chandeliers and the original stone fireplaces are large enough to stand in.

There are also plenty of modern-day luxuries, too. Most rooms have en suite marble bathrooms with power showers or jacuzzi-baths, linens are beautifully made on regal-style beds and the games room is stocked with so much to entertain you that even teenagers will put down their phones.

Large enough for an extended family or a group of friends, the house is vast – so there’s no chance of getting on top of each other – with three separate lounge areas, a dining room, reading corners and a sunny breakfast room.

Best of all is its setting. This is a place to come for the ultimate Tuscan summer. Sit on one of the terraces and soak up the scent of rosemary, lemon thyme and bergamot from the herb garden.

Come sunset, head to the villa’s ‘secret’ tower, an aperol spritz in hand, and on the rooftop, watch the golden rays glint off Florence’s Duomo. There’s a swimming pool to cool off in, tennis courts where you can hit a few balls and an al fresco pizza oven for relaxed Italian-style dining.

Tuscany Now & More’s USP is its concierge service, offering unique local experiences – so you can build in family cookery classes and wine tasting, for example, or have a chef cook a bespoke menu for you with local produce.

Villa di Bagnolo has its own wine cellars too, where you can try out the estate’s own Sangiovese, Colorino and Chianti wines as well as the artisan olive oils (made from four different varieties of olive).

And as part of its offering this year, it is marking the Leonardo anniversary with a ‘Follow in the Footsteps’ tour of Florence and beyond. It kicks off in the most obvious starting point at the Uffizi, with a personal tour of Leonardo’s works – including the Baptism of Christ (finished in 1475), a painting that was a collaboration between Leonardo and his teacher Andrea del Verrocchio, and the Adoration of the Magi, which has been in the Ufffizi since 1670, and was recently restored.

The tour also takes in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall – which is, it has to be said, more spectacular than most municipal offices. Here, you can see the ‘lost’ fresco of Battaglia di Anghiari.

Beyond the city, you can visit the Museo Leonardiano in Vinci and three miles away, in Anchiano, you can also see the farmhouse where Leonardo was born.

There’s also an option to trek up Monte Ceceri, near Fiesole, where Leonardo and his assistant Tommaso Masini tested his flying machines in 1506. 500 years on, it is still inspiring.


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