Tuscany, oh Tuscany.
It is easy to wax lyrical about this beautiful part of Central Italy, so I will.
Governed by it’s capital, Florence, Tuscany is also home to the famous cities of Pisa, Siena, and the island of Elba, where Napoleon served his 300 day exile in 1814/15.
The rolling hills of Tuscany, especially in the early morning mist created by the sunrise, or at dusk in the rosy glow of sunset, are just magical, and are just some of the reasons why this area is such a tourist magnet. It is no wonder that the grapes do so well in the Chianti region of this rustic and fertile landscape.
Not that this area is all gentle. The rugged Apennine Mountains run up the length of the country, and offer a scenic contrast for visitors. They can be seen in the distance, providing a dramatic backdrop to the gentler hills.
Most people, when arriving, will travel to either Florence or Pisa airports and it takes around an hour to reach the central area of Tuscany from each, along quiet roads.
My party and I stayed on the outskirts of the wonderful hill-town of San Gimigano.
The town lords it over the surrounding countryside, being visible from every direction, like the centre-piece on a cake. All around the town are vineyards and olive groves.
Every child would recognise it from fairy tales and every adult from their dreams.
The town is completely contained within 13th century city walls and is dominated by stone towers within the perimeter.
The streets are paved and narrow, so very few vehicles are allowed into the town, to preserve it’s medieval features. It is a pedestrian heaven, although there are car parks outside the city walls to accommodate visitors.
Just a mile (or 1.5km for our European cousins) away from the town, is the newly built Relais La Cappuccina, a four star hotel, which is where we opted to stay.
It sits on an adjacent hilltop across the shallow valley.
There are 70 rooms here, including 10 suites with a mezzanine and private terrace.
The hotel itself is only three storeys in height and so does not dominate the surroundings.
There is a wonderful and large outdoor swimming pool which overlooks San Gimignano.
The hotel’s restaurant has picture windows which open out onto the poolside terrace.
A spa with a small but gorgeous indoor pool and sauna complete the facilities.
The atmosphere is so peaceful and restful here. Even the large gravel car park, which is out of sight from the pool and the hotel, has a grove of olive trees.
The rooftop terrace is huge, with views to the town and surrounding countryside.
Relaxing here with a bottle of wine in the evening is not to be missed, just mind the occasional nip of mozzies!
Our room was a deluxe version and benefitted from all important air-conditioning, as temperatures here can reach quite high levels in the height of summer.
The room was spacious and simply styled in that casual Italian way.
It had tiled floors, simple furniture and decorations, all of which were recent.
The television set was a little dated, but as all programmes were in Italian and the local area so magnetic, we didn’t use it anyway. The beds were large and comfortable.
Note that there are no tea or coffee making facilities in the rooms.
The bathroom was fully tiled, had a large, self-contained shower cubicle and complimentary toiletries. The towels were large, fresh and fluffy.
This is a very popular place for weddings and for conferences of up to 300 delegates.
Free wi-fi is standard, both in the rooms and in public areas.
There is a complimentary breakfast buffet each morning (or included in the price as a pragmatic Yorkshireman like myself would say) and this was one of the best continental style buffets I have encountered on my travels. Everything one would expect and more, as well as a hot option of bacon and scrambled egg.
The food and drink were unlimited and fresh.
So good was this feast that we looked forward to the occasion daily.
We took the option of eating in the restaurant in the evening on a couple of occasions and were not disappointed with the quality, quantity or value for money. I recommend it highly.
The pappardelle pasta with wild boar sauce was a particular favourite of mine.
All the staff were friendly, welcoming and English speaking.
And in case you have to ask, yes, this IS my cup of coffee.
You can see more at www.lacappuccina.com, Although this site is in Italian, it is easily translatable online and other booking sites offer condensed details in English.
This hotel is very popular and advance booking is recommended for peak times, although in early September, when we visited, it was relatively quiet and uncrowded.
Note that the city has imposed a regional tourist tax of 2.5 Euros per head, per day, for all guests to the region over 12yrs of age, payable at Reception before leaving the hotel. It is a small price to pay.
(For further details of the town, see my earlier review of San Gimignano).