From its privileged position in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, Palazzo Cheto provides the ultimate luxury getaway in one of Italy’s most coveted areas.
It’s early morning in Tuscany, central Italy; the air is fresh, and the world feels newborn. Across a sea of sunflowers, in the distance, the small medieval town of Siena emerges through the morning haze, tiny as a toy town. I am staying at Palazzo Cheto, a luxurious private villa set in the middle of the rolling Tuscan countryside – it is an astonishing place to wake up.
For as long as I can remember, Tuscany has been on my travel bucket list, so, when the opportunity to visit cropped up, I needed little persuasion. Though it feels a world away from London, our journey could not have been easier – a two-hour flight to Pisa, where a private transfer waited to whisk us off on our exquisite Tuscan adventure. The Palazzo is a couple of hours south of Pisa, but the scenery is breath-taking, with winding roads revealing sunkissed historic towns at every turn. I gaze out of the window in wonder, unable to believe my luck.
On arrival at Palazzo Cheto we are wowed by the beautiful sight of the property’s ancient olive groves silhouetted in the slowly fading daylight. The villa, a former 13th century monastery hewn from local stone blends in perfectly with its surroundings; the traditional dwelling sits in a ravishing spot amongst leafy landscaped gardens. Dark copper edged windows and doors are framed by traditional wooden shutters, and whether at the front or the back of house, all promise jaw-dropping views of this bucolic bliss.
The villa’s owner, Ennio Polito is here to greet us, and shows us across a cobbled courtyard and through the thick wooden front doors. Inside, an arched stone corridor lined with paintings and characterful antique furnishings leads to the inner stone courtyard. In the welcoming kitchen we are introduced to the property’s in-house chef Christina and her husband Antonio, who will be looking after us like members of the family during our stay. Eating well is one of the big comforts here, and perhaps one of the surprises, too. No matter how familiar you think you are with authentic Italian food, Christina is sure to serve up some delicious dish you’ve never heard of. A long marble topped island lies at the heart of the kitchen, which is complete with crackling fire, hanging copper pots, and baskets brimming over with foraged mushrooms and other fresh fruits. Continuing our tour of the house we pass through the dining room and into the spacious living room, which is equipped with a large open fireplace, soft slouchy furnishings, and a pool table.
The villa has been extensively and sensitively renovated to provide luxurious accommodation which is spread over two floors and across two buildings. Exposed rustic wooden ceilings contrast with Mediterranean coloured walls, terracotta tiled floors with sleek marble surfaces. From the main living areas through to each of the individually decorated and air-conditioned bedrooms, the aesthetic is homely and welcoming. There’s enough space to sleep 18, with bedrooms located between the two buildings – seven up the twisting stone staircases in the main villa and two in the guest house, which offer the same luxurious accommodation, but with the benefit of a little more seclusion. Just a short walk from the main house, down a winding pathway, this is also where you’ll find the villa’s gym and sauna. The apartment style living space of the guest house opens onto a large, paved terrace that affords unparalleled views of the Tuscan countryside.
Out back, immaculate gardens lead down to a swimming pool that is heated by solar power. There’s arguably no better place to while away a warm summer’s afternoon, snoozing in one of the gently swaying hammocks or bobbing around in the pool, which is perfectly framed by flowers, chattering wildlife, and cypress trees.
The vast garden is worth a visit in its own right; Ennio offers guests tranquil guided nature walks through the wooded estate surrounding the villa, foraging for truffles, and picking porcini mushrooms to be prepared and enjoyed later, farm-to-table style. To complement these, and the other fresh, seasonal ingredients showcased on Christina’s menu, are delicious organic wines, all supplied by local producers. Palazzo Cheto is all about inclusiveness and guests are encouraged to get involved with as much or as little of the estate’s day-to-day running as they wish.
The shaded gazebo in the garden offers al fresco dining with views across acres of greenery. It is the perfect spot to watch the sun go down while sipping on a glass or two of the finest Italian wine. Or to enjoy a pizza al fresco, fresh out of the stone oven, while marvelling at the bright starry skies, unmarred by light pollution.
We soon discover that time spent at Palazzo Cheto offers an opportunity to reconnect with what’s important. To slow down and to enjoy the beauty of nature with the people you love. And because the owners are committed to the villa’s green status, working with what the natural world has given them and supporting local producers, guests can relax in the knowledge that their impact on the planet has been considered.
Service at Palazzo Cheto is relaxed but very friendly, and if you can tear yourself away from your hammock, the on-hand concierge team can help provide and organise everything you could possibly need or want. We spend a joyous afternoon sipping local wine and sampling the best cacio e pepe (Tuscany’s most famous dish) at Osteria il Vinaio in the labyrinthine walled city of Siena; take an early morning hot air balloon trip over the lush Tuscan countryside; participate in a relaxing sunrise yoga session amongst the vines; enjoy wine tasting at Capersa winery in Radda in Chianti; and partake of a private cooking lesson back at the villa. Nothing is too much trouble for the team here – it is truly the perfect get-away-from-it-all holiday.
This nine-bedroom villa sleeps up to 18 people and is available to rent through Tuscany Now & More from £11,637 a week (020 7684 8884; tuscanynowandmore.com)