Popes & Roses: A day out in Tuscany

It was a wonderfully overcast Sunday morning, the kind that almost insists you stay in bed that little extra, take a bit more time sipping on your morning coffee and contemplating the meaning of life…or at least what you’ll be having for lunch.

Clearly we weren’t the only ones focusing on such important questions (lunch, that is), since as the hour hand slowly started nearing vertical, the air of the neighbourhood began filling with the delicious aromas of traditional, slow-cooking Tuscan lunch recipes.

For our own Sunday fare, we were looking forward to a simple lunch at our friend’s home – and luckily for us (although even luckily for her and her family!), their home was a stunning, historic Tuscan villa nestled in the beautiful rolling hillside just a short distance from Florence.

After a lovely drive from the centre of Florence out to the Tuscan countryside surrounds, it wasn’t long before we turned off the winding country road and onto what was little more than a car-width gravel path that soon formed the villa’s impressive driveway.

A little way along the tree-lined drive and we were there – at the front door the historical Tuscan villa home of our good friend and host.

We were given a private tour by our friend’s brother, who oversees the running of the estate and knows all the ins and outs of this marvellous place, from the stories behind the frescoes on the impressive banquet hall (‘Look how the eyes follow you no matter where you are in the room!’) to details on the very few ways in which the villa has changed throughout the centuries (‘There used to be a Da Vinci on this wall here!’).

Our friend then guided us through the private rooms of the villa, showing us hidden doors, unique items collected by the family throughout the centuries, and telling us stories behind the portraits that lined the walls, as she led us up and up to the attic level, the views from the windows getting more and more splendid as we went.

And now it was time to go to one of the villa kitchens, a small cooking area probably once used as a servant’s quarters, where we were treated to simple Tuscan fare caringly prepared by our friend. Pasta was cooked until perfectly al dente, and then coated with a delicious home-made pummarola (tomato sauce). A chunk of parmesan cheese was passed around the table for each of us to freshly grate atop of the pasta, then wine glasses were chinked, and sincere and enthusiastic buon appetito’s were uttered.

After the delicious plate of pasta, we enjoyed a crisp salad, drizzled with the estate’s own extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.

For dessert, a selection of fresh-picked fruit right out of the garden was presented.

In Tuscany, even if you have had a prepared dessert like Tiramisù for instance, it is still quite typical to end a meal in Tuscany with whole fresh fruit.

But the fresh fruit was not the sweetest part of our Tuscan villa visit by any means.

After lunch, we were taken outside to see the grounds of the villa.

The skies overhead looked rather medieval owing to the fill of great grey clouds above, perfectly highlighting the immense history of the estate and the family that built it.

The owners of this Villa come from no ordinary family, but one of Italy’s most historic. Boasting (or rather, humbly containing as their case may be) a Pope and even a Saint amongst their lot, they have been an integral part of Italy’s history.

Now though our focus was on the rose garden we were being shown through by our friend who loving cares for the dozens of rose varieties. As she talked to us about the different types of roses, and the other plants growing here, she very generously went through and selected a large bunch of beautiful blooms for us to take home!

And by now, it was late afternoon and time for us to head back to our own more humble abode in Florence’s city stunning city centre – luckily for us.


If you would like to visit Tuscan villa estates owned by historic Tuscan families, we have the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. You can also walk through the Tuscan countryside and visit a famous Tuscan villa on the Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Expand your Tuscan horizons on the small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, including lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate.

If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to RomeVenice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.

To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, RomeVeniceCinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.

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