This year in late spring, we made our fifth visit to Podere La Rota and without question, it is the most wonderful place we’ve ever stayed in Italy. The cottage is near the charming little village of Moncioni, nestled in the hills of Chianti. It’s a lovely property with kitchen, dining, and living room downstairs, large bedroom and bath on the upper floor. Vicki always says that the huge bathroom is the best in Italy - a large window over the tub looks out at the beautiful Chianti mountains. All the rooms are spacious and well appointed with comfortable furniture and beautiful art. We do a great deal of cooking and the kitchen is perfect for two people with an excellent gas stove, refrigerator, and plenty of pots, pans, cooking utensils, and a washing machine. There’s also a wine rack in the kitchen and guests can purchase Podere La Rota’s special bottling of organic Chianti at a bargain price to enjoy during their stay.
Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the cottage is the large terrace, which overlooks the olive orchard below and has a mesmerizing view of wooded hills and distant villages. At one end of the terrace a large chestnut tree shades a table and chairs, where we eat most of our meals. There are also lounges, wicker chairs, and a smaller table that is perfect for cocktails or a glass of Chianti. Aside from frequent naps and time on the Internet (the cottage has wireless Internet), the kitchen and the terrace are where we spend most of our time, cooking with local ingredients, reading, writing, painting, and sketching. It is the quintessential place to relax.
Bob and Ally, who own Podere La Rota and live adjacent to the cottage, are model hosts. Every detail is taken care of, from the welcome platter of delicious meats, cheeses, and local tomatoes, to advice on local restaurants, shops, and destinations nearby. Originally from England, they have lived in Italy for more than twenty-five years and their business of renting houses and villas throughout Tuscany and Umbria has given them an intimate knowledge of the region. There are few questions they can’t answer and they go out of their way to be both helpful and unobtrusive.
Podere La Rota serves as an excellent base for exploring the Chianti region and beyond. The major wine towns of the region are all within an hour’s drive, offering wine tasting, excellent restaurants, and beautiful views. Siena can be reached in less than an hour by car and Florence is just a thirty-minute train ride from Montevarchi, fifteen minutes away. Further afield are many must-see Tuscan and Umbrian hill towns - Cortona, Orvieto, Perugia, and Arezzo - all filled with stunning art and beautiful architecture.
We’ve become very fond of nearby Montevarchi, which has some lovely shopping, restaurants, and an year-round enclosed farmers' market which features produce, meat, grains, and other products from nearby farms. A little farther down the road is San Giovanni Val d'Arno, a lovely little town with a great Saturday market and an excellent art museum, the Museo della Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, which has a stunning Annunciation painted by Fra Angelico in 1435.
The cottage is an easy drive or train ride from Rome. For most of our visits we have spent a few days in the Eternal City then picked up our rental car at the main train station and made the three-hour drive to Moncioni, stopping for lunch at one of the many hill towns that dot the landscape adjacent to the A1 expressway. Last year, however, we flew directly into Florence where we spent the night before picking up our rental car. Once we reach Montevarchi, we usually stop at the Ipercoop for provisions before driving up the mountain to the cottage. It’s a huge store by Italian standards, filled with food, wine, and household items. As always, upon reaching the top of the drive leading down to the cottage, we smile and realize we’ve returned home to a small piece of heaven.
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