Multi-millionaire financier and Italophile Man Palms and his spouse, Julia, purchased the deserted Villa Saletta property over 20 years in the past and have been bringing it again to life, reviving the wine and olive oil traditions and renovating villas for high-end vacation lets.
Half an hour’s drive east of Pisa, the three rural retreats have their very own secluded terraces and swimming swimming pools the place you may fortunately whereas away summer season days. However for the extra energetic there are mountain climbing and biking within the hills, truffle-hunting within the woodlands, winery and vineyard excursions and the olive harvest in autumn.
Artwork lovers are spoilt for alternative with hilltop hamlets and historic Tuscan cities, resembling San Gimignano, Volterra and Lucca, all inside straightforward attain.
Preserving beamed ceilings and terracotta flooring, and furnished with heat wooden antiques and stylish materials, the villas are a mixture of Tuscan rusticity and English country-house type. Loos include rain showers and/or giant tubs and modern modern fittings.
The 2 bigger villas have seven rooms accommodating 14, and are perfect for household gatherings (youngsters are welcome) or home events. Villa Valle has a splendid giant kitchen, an enviable grasp visitor room and a transformed hayloft with separate lodging whereas the smaller former looking lodge ‘Casanare’, hidden amongst sun-dappled woodland, makes a romantic retreat within the woods.
My favorite villa is ‘Fagnana’, with its spacious terrace wanting throughout in the direction of distant hills, an alluring pool and sitting room with deep-seated sofas and a crackling fireplace. Company are welcomed with a hamper of residence produce together with Villa Saletta’s award-winning wines, olive oil and honey. There are recent provisions to tide you over, a tiny field of artisan candies beside your mattress and a lavish, beautifully-illustrated e book on the story of the property.
An Illustrious Previous
The identify of Villa Saletta’s most unique wine, 980 AD, refers back to the first written file of the property, with a reference to its wine manufacturing. Historical aristocratic clans who lived right here included the Riccardi household from Florence who have been bankers to the Home of Medici. Within the 16th and 17th centuries, they remodeled the area right into a flourishing and worthwhile working property, the place nobles and employees lived facet by facet within the medieval borgo (village).
The village at this time is an enthralling however pale cluster of buildings, with peeling pink, crimson and ochre facades. Distinguished are the clock tower, church, Riccardi chapel, a loggia with wonderful views and a frescoed Palazzo the place the Riccardis lived and entertained in type. Each constructing within the borgo is now deserted – aside from one home the place a girl lives together with her cats.
It was in 2000 that Man and Julia Palms purchased Villa Saletta and noticed the potential to rekindle the custom of an agriculturally various, sympathetically-managed and self-sufficient property. Their plans for the borgo are ‘an expensive hospitality expertise, with authenticity and historical past at its coronary heart.’
Wine making and Wine-tasting
Since 2016 the pinnacle winemaker has been the affable David Landini, who has been experimenting with completely different blends of grapes, in collaboration with Bordeaux-based advisers, and overseeing the development of a sensible new cantina.
Landini was blown away by Hand’s private cellar at his UK residence, and agreed to change into concerned within the thrilling new imaginative and prescient for Villa Saletta’s vineyards. Alongside the basic Tuscan number of Sangiovese, he has established a spread of grape varieties, together with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, all completely suited to the terroir.
Landini exhibits us across the trendy cantina, explaining the meticulous hand-selection of grapes, the fermentation in chrome steel tanks, the ageing processes in French (and a few Slovenian) oak barrels.
Then comes the much-anticipated wine tasting. We go from the refreshing, Provencal-like Spumante Rosé, by way of prime quality Chiantis, to the deep spicy Chiave di Saletta 2018 and at last the property’s flagship wine: Giulia 19, named after Giulia Riccardi who conveniently has the identical identify as Man Palms’ spouse, Julia. We toast to each.
On this gastronomic area, there are many first-class native cooks who may be employed to prepare dinner a top-quality Tuscan lunch or dinner in your villa. These pushing out the boat may elect a special chef every night of the week.
Certainly one of our cooks got here from the Papaveri e Papere restaurant within the close by city of San Miniato, well-known for white truffles and the most important truffle pageant within the area.
There have been extra truffles on the very convivial Osteria del Sole, an inn in close by Capannoli the place beef reigns supreme. The tender succulent steaks went down nicely with a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, the youthful sibling of the extra well-known Brunello di Montalcino, each coming from the timeless Tuscan hilltop city.
Again within the villa, it was time for our cookery class, underneath the supervision of pleasant Erika Elia. We sat across the eating room desk kneading pasta dough, then moulding it into the form of snakes and snipping off tiny bits to create orecchiette (little ears).
Our chef was very forgiving of my sticky dough and misshapen pasta, including it to the pot with different extra completely normal ‘ears’. After preparations all afternoon, we lastly tucked into the fruits of our labour: a three-course meal of Puglian pasta, Tuscan rooster cacciatore and Venetian tiramisù.
One of the best got here final. The hills round Villa Saletta are one of many uncommon areas of the world with a wealthy provide of black and white truffles (tartufi), the white being essentially the most extremely prized. These fungal tubers develop from spores residing on the roots of oak, hazelnut, poplar and willow timber in sure soils and circumstances.
Truffle hunters wouldn’t get far with out their devoted canines who’re skilled for at the least 4 years to smell them out. The favorite breed is the Lagotto Romagnolo, or ‘water canine’, a curly-haired, poodle-like canine which originated within the Po Delta and was used as a gundog, significantly for water-retrieving’.
No truffle expertise could be full and not using a style of the valuable fungi, so we sit down for lunch at Tartufi Savini and tuck into crostini with truffle-flavoured toppings, tagliatino pasta with beneficiant shavings of white truffle, eggs with extra truffle shavings and for dessert, a truffle chocolate gelato!
As we have been tucking into truffle heaven, Andrea, a long-established truffle hunter appeared, camouflaged in his fatigues and brandishing a basket of the white, mud-covered beauties. The basket is to be despatched submit haste to Qatar, bought for a tune at €12,000. The mud goes too, for as soon as cleaned, two days of truffle life are misplaced.
The Savini household have been within the truffle enterprise for 4 generations and at this time they ship them all around the world from their HQ in Montanelli, near Villa Saletta. The Savini Tartufi outlet is a gourmand’s delight, filled with 80 truffle-infused merchandise. It’s additionally filled with truffle information and figures – such because the gargantuan white truffle of 1.5 kg which was found within the close by hills in 2007 and fetched a file US$330,000, which was donated to charity.
Sated with truffles, we’re taken deep into the Saletta woods on a foraging journey by Andrea and his loveable canine, Giotto. There have been no ensures of discovering any of the ‘white diamonds’, however after a couple of false begins, Giotto appeared very excited by the scent underneath a lofty oak tree and commenced to dig ferociously. Earlier than he had the prospect to wreck the tuber, Andrea lured him away together with his favorite canine biscuits and completed the job together with his vanghetto tartufi, a particular sharp instrument which cuts by way of the clay.
Andrea tells us the infant truffle is price round €200. By this stage, Giotto is just serious about one other biscuit and a romp within the woods.
We head again to Fagnana, sink into sofas and dream of proudly owning a slice of Tuscany, with vines, olive timber and a wooden of white truffles.
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Nearest airports: Pisa and Florence
How a lot: Casolare (three rooms) from €three,500-€6,700 per week, Fagnana and Valle (7 rooms) €6,500-€16,000 per week, relying on the season. Minimal keep of seven nights in excessive and peak season, four nights in low to mid-season.
Extra information: Villa Saletta