Addicted to Caprese
No Man is an Island, so travel with friends.
I have travelled to Italy many times; often for work, generally alone, usually frenetic, always wonderful. This time I booked a converted farmhouse about 10 minutes from San Gimignano with half a dozen girlfriends, all who have known each other over 20 years. Flying with Qatar Airways into Venice, we picked up a rather large van (girls need luggage space after all!) and hit the road.
The steep unsealed road down to the villa turned out to be the Via Francigena, a pilgrim path that starts in Canterbury in the UK and runs all the way through to Rome. We arrived as the sun began to set, illuminating rows of cypress spiking the horizon, huge rolls of hay drying in the fields, and even a couple of red deer peeking out of the forest in the distance.
The ancient stone farmhouse has high ceilings, heavy shuttered windows that can be unfurled to catch the morning or afternoon sun, doors that open every which way into a private garden fragrant with lavender and fresh herbs, deep, comfortable sofas, bedrooms and bathrooms galore, a pizza oven, modern spacious kitchen with cool terracotta floor tiles and a wonderful glistening pool. Resident geckos scamper up the external walls and baskets of geraniums cascade over every possible surface.
The pre-arranged food package of bread and cheese for our arrival turned out to be a huge hamper containing a mountain of Caprese Salad (the fat slices of buffalo mozzarella and fresh tomato topped with fresh basil, olive oil and a sprinkling of salt became a daily addiction), Osso Buco, tender and delicious with accompanying couscous, bottles of sparkling rose and trays of tiramisu. What a perfect introduction to Tuscan life.
Each day was spent exploring the countryside, investigating glorious supermarkets bursting with fresh produce (and gin), meeting friendly locals and laying about by the pool. We would split up, or not, to visit Pisa, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano or the medieval centre of our closest town, Certaldo. The shoppers shopped, the foodies cooked, the arty ones visited museums and galleries while I would contentedly find a café to drink latte machiatto and watch the world go by. One evening a chef arrived to cook a delicious meal for us – his delightful wife and sous chef utterly obsessed with the Lord of the Rings so thrilled to chat to a group of affable Kiwis.
The week was over all too soon as we split up for more adventures in Rome, Como and Venice – stories for another time. When I told my male friends six women were hitting Italy for two weeks, the resounding response was ‘Will Italy ever be the same again?’ Of course it will, but will we?
Villa in Sorrento – This gorgeous villa set on a hillside, offers magnificent views of the gulfs of Napoli and Salerno. Perfectly positioned to allow you to explore the wonders of Italy. 6 bedrooms, sleeps 11. Click here
By Kate Gohar