Sandy Cadiz-Smith visits Tuscany’s beautiful Palazzo Cheto
The Tuscan countryside subtly seduces at every step. The gently rolling hills, silvery olive groves, glossy emerald vineyards, medieval hilltop villages, and avenues of statuesque cypress trees create the complete picture of Tuscan splendour. A breathtakingly beautiful land that feels comfortingly familiar as the location of many a film set. Tuscany’s beautiful Palazzo Cheto is the perfect bucolic setting for indulging in la dolce vita to the fullest.
Palazzo Cheto is just over an hour’s drive from Florence airport and 20 minutes from the gorgeous ancient town of Siena. The final approach through a tree-lined avenue led to a magnificent villa on a hilltop. Originally a 13th-century monastery, Palazzo Cheto has been superbly and sympathetically renovated and has nine individually decorated bedrooms, plenty of living space inside and out, and breathtaking views at every turn.
Our cares soon melted away at Palazzo Cheto. We awoke to a cacophony of birdsong and the sight of the mist swirling through the hills in ghostly gossamer clouds. A sumptuous breakfast was served in the large dining room (the villa comes with a chef), where we planned our dream-like days. We lounged beside the large swimming pool with plenty of dips for cooling, went for energising walks in the nearby forests, and lazed in the sunshine in many of the spaces around the vast landscaped gardens. We devoured plates of delicious local dishes created by our skilled private chef using seasonal local ingredients. Lunch was served in the shade of the gazebo with breathtaking views towards Siena. We sipped our apertivo beside the pool taking in the sunset views and savoured al fresco dinners and local wine in the inner courtyard with its twinkling fairy lights.
Speaking of wine, when we could tear ourselves away from our palatial Tuscan paradise for a moment, we enjoyed wine-tasting at nearby Estate Montechiaro in the most picturesque of settings surrounded by vines and olive trees. We also visited the charming ancient town of Siena. It’s built over three hills with the majestic Il Campo at its heart – the square famous for the Palio horse race, contested by representatives of the city’s historic contrade (districts) every summer. Siena is a real feast for the senses with its diverse architecture, incredible artworks, cobbled streets lined with artisanal boutiques, aromatic pastry shops, and tempting restaurants serving tasty local dishes. We explored the streets on foot to absorb the art and culture before soaking up the friendly Tuscan ambiance over a fabulous lunch at Osteria Il Vinaio. A veritable feast of antipasti in many forms, homemade pasta with sublime sauces, and more of that local wine.
There are other exciting ways to experience glorious Tuscany, as we discovered when we took to the skies. We awoke early to meander through the winding lanes to our hot air balloon waiting in a nearby dewy field with its multi-coloured balloon ready for inflation. We bravely clambered into the basket and, with a woosh of flames, magically ascended high into a world of perfect stillness and gasp-inducing views that seemed to go on forever. On landing, we were greeted in a field surrounded by olive trees with chilled Bellinis and a spread of local delicacies from pastries to prosciutto. The perfect ending to an exceptional experience.
No matter what your perspective, whether it’s exploring the beautiful landscape, enjoying the warm welcome across a delicacy-laden table, or flying high hot-air balloon style, Tuscany certainly delivers in its inimitable style. Living la dolce vita indeed.