Friday, October 03, 2008

Travel Review: La Pievuccia--A Gem in the Tuscan Countryside

Imagine waking to the soft tolling of a church bell, the tuneful prattle of blackbirds, and the fluted chuckling of turtle doves. Imagine stepping out on your shaded front porch and gazing across a vineyard and up olive-clad slopes to a hilltop surmounted by a medieval castle. Imagine dining on specially prepared local recipes made with fresh ingredients and accompanied by glasses of award-winning sangiovese and trebbiano blends: grown, barreled, and bottled on the premises. Imagine sitting on the patio and sipping a heady, after-dinner vinsanto as the day eases gracefully into the cool of evening.

These were just a few of the experiences I enjoyed with my family last summer at La Pievuccia, an agriturismo (“farmhouse resort”) located in the heart of Tuscany’s Val de Chiana. Ricardo Papini, the third-generation proprietor, and Ulrika, his wife and able business partner, made us feel like la famiglia during our stay at this peaceful resort.

La Pievuccia is a certified organic agricultural operation: they guarantee no additives, preservatives, pesticides, or other icky substitutes for reality. In addition to growing its own grapes, La Pievuccia also cultivates and presses its own award-winning extra-virgin olive oil and produces four different types of honey from the hives scattered about the twenty-acre property. Ricardo and his staff provide vineyard and winemaking tours and lectures, cooking classes, and sometimes, rides into the nearest town. About two miles away, Castiglion Fiorentino is a charming medieval hilltop town (with Etruscan origins), conveniently located on the Rome-to-Florence rail line (trains depart from the station for Rome and Florence about every two hours). From Castiglion Fiorentino, you can almost see the hill of Cortona, about five miles away. In fact, the charms of places like Arezzo, Assisi, Montepulciano, Siena, and other unforgettable sites are easily within reach, either by bus or by train.

If you’re contemplating a trip to Italy, or even if you just want to take a five-minute vacation from the privacy of your own computer screen, visit the website: You can also drop Ricardo and Ulrika an email at If you do, please tell them I said, “buon giorno.”