A truly beautiful place
La Prodaia has to be one of the loveliest places we’ve ever stayed at. We have been to Italy a number of times before but never Tuscany until this May. I suggested to my wife that we should try an Agriturismo, as they are very popular in Italy and offer a variety of things on a self-catering basis. Previously we had stayed at some beautiful hotels on half-board but were generally limited without having a car or making extensive use of the local public transport services. So we decided that a car would be essential.
Our original plan was to explore more of Italy, taking a month to do it and to take our own car. However various things happened that prevented us from doing this on this trip. So we booked a flight and hired a car at Pisa. We chose to drive only so far on the motorways and then to take a state road via Poggibonsi (the SR2). The drive took us around 2h 30mins (strangely the return journey took half the time) as we didn’t need to rush and at the same time, we were absorbing our new surroundings, admiring the changing landscape that we were passing through. Initially the area around Pisa is fairly flat but it wasn’t long before our little Punto hire car was starting to struggle with the hilly roads. The final part of our drive down to Siena was back on a faster road (Fi-Si) that runs between Florence (Firenze) and Siena.
We came off at Siena West (Ouest) and then followed the signs to Costafabbri which was easier than we had thought and then it started to became even hillier and we found ourselves experiencing some twisty roads that were full of surprises. Some of the bends don’t look too sharp as you approach but then you realise they are! I certainly made heavy use of the gearbox but it was fun! Soon I started driving like an Italian!
We found La Prodaia really easily, there were a number of turnings to negotiate, some really tight, roads rising sharply and then plunging as quickly again. The directions were spot-on. We gingerly drove down the drive to the farm and spotted a lady waving at us. She turned out to be Elena Rosati and gave us a warm welcome, directing us to a parking place a little further down the lane. Giancarlo Rosati was pruning some olives, gave us a broad smile, putting down his tools, brushed off his hands and welcomed us too. We were pretty weary from our travels (our flight was delayed and a general nightmare), so were very pleased to have made it there safely and that the place was utterly beautiful. “Great choice Mr Lewis, it’s stunning”, my wife exclaimed.
I had done a lot of research beforehand, plenty of chin rubbing, head scratching browsing through http://www.argriturismo.com trying to work out where to stay. We had never set foot on Tuscan soil before, it was an unknown to us and nobody we know had been there in recent years. I had chosen Siena as a good base since it’s central and from there we could explore quite a lot of places without having to spend too many hours in the car if we could help it. I found La Prodaia and the website really sold the place to me, nice photos, great information about it’s locale and more importantly quality photos about what you get for your money, how the rooms are laid out and what they look like. Very few other places presented this kind of information, one of my big bugbears when it comes to finding holiday homes and something I’d love to focus my business on one of these days!! So that was that I made some enquiries and the Rosati family responded that very same evening. Booked!
The photograph at the top of this article is a great illustration of how La Prodaia is laid out. The big building in the background is a monastery and as far as I understand it, the farmhouse buildings either belong to it or used to. In either case the building styles are identical, using local materials for their brickwork. A new building was being constructed whilst we were there and isn’t far off being completed at the time of writing. It will be a new apartment and we were given a sneak preview by the owners. Giancarlo pointing out the incredible view from the bedroom of the landscape beyond it, “Great for photography”, he said. We will be going back and trying out the new apartment!
The farmhouse is surrounded by farmland comprising of olive groves, vineyards, fruit trees (cherry, fig and lemon) and some arable crops. Throughout the farmland there are a network of footpaths that lead into woodland at the foot of the hill, so there is plenty to explore at any time of the day.
The Rosati family
We liked them from the first moment we met them and they were excellent hosts throughout our two week stay with them. Giancarlo (sorry for getting your name mixed up with Matteo your son!) is passionate about his work as a farmer and owner of the Agriturismo business that they’ve been developing since 2003. He told us all about some terrible problems that they had with their olive plantation, a series of harsh winters had devastated the trees, many of them having to be cut back in order to encourage them to recover, a process that can take many years. Farmers though are amongst the World’s greatest businessmen, they adapt, they find other ways of keeping the business going despite the hardships they face. It would seem that many parts of Europe are now experiencing harsher winters and it does snow in Tuscany.
Giancarlo and Elena are both above all else very passionate about where they live. They love Tuscany and Italy as a whole but especially La Prodaia. It is very close to the large city of Siena but at the same time seems like a million miles from it. It is only 3km away and you can see it from the gardens of La Prodaia, the bells ringing out from the beautiful Duomo can clearly be heard across the valley that separates the farm from the city. Siena is a short 5 minute drive from there, a journey we made a lot during our stay, as Siena has a lot to offer. We felt as if we had only scratched the surface, possibly missing big chunks of the city entirely.
Giancarlo and Elena took a great interest in my photography and as it happens, I later took some new photos of the grounds for him which involved step ladders and some early starts!
Olive Oil & Wine
I must tell you about their olive oil and wine products. Well the wine went down very well, we were given a bottle upon arrival and no sooner had we unpacked, we uncorked! Giolito is an organic red wine with a full bodied flavour made from the grapes harvested from the vineyard on-site, although I think the wine itself is made elsewhere by Giancarlo’s son Matteo. Very much a family affair! Having had a couple of glasses of wine we then put the olive oil to goo use too and it has a very full flavoured taste, quite unlike some of the oils we buy here in the UK…
…and they do travel well, the photograph above was taken in our kitchen at home! We have been using the oil as you can see but note the wine bottle is empty, we drank that a week ago!
Make your booking and go there!
To find out more about La Prodaia or better still, make a booking, go to http://laprodaia.com I can guarantee that you’ll enjoy it!
Coming up on the blog
I have some other photos to share and some other tales to tell, so keep an eye out.