Surrounded by Chianti’s rolling hills, the Tuscan farmhouse Il Cortile Pratolino offers a laid-back atmosphere in which to wine, dine and unwind
With its patchwork of undulating velvet hills boasting myriad olive groves and vineyards, Tuscany has long been a destination for solitude-searching Brits dreaming of transforming a rundown casa into a rustic retreat.
And so it is as Director arrives under the throbbing late-afternoon sun to Il Cortile Pratolino, a recently restored 18th-century stone farmhouse set within 400 acres of private land on the slopes of Monti del Chianti, 75 kilometres south of Florence.
With luggage excitedly and unceremoniously dumped – Il Cortile Pratolino’s eight bedrooms can house 15 guests – we feast on a welcoming alfresco platter of burrata cheese, sliced prosciutto and melon, fresh salmon and handmade ravioli, mopped up with lip-smacking, yeast-heavy bread kneaded from a century-old recipe.
Though wonderfully full, we can’t turn down the opportunity the next day of a cookery lesson and lunch menu sourced from the abundant food market in nearby Montevarchi (a medieval walled town buzzing with family-run restaurants and espresso bars). We are rewarded with panzanella (a traditional Tuscan salad of soaked crispy bread chunks, tomatoes, and cheese dressed with courgette flowers), fresh seasonal black truffles and sugary apricot compote.
Later, our sun loungers afford a panoramic vista of Chianti, which gave its name to the rustic red wine, once the mainstay of 1980s business lunches. Thanks to strict regulation and promotion, this local nectar is enjoying a resurgence among wine lovers – and not just with hip city joints hankering for traditional fiasco bottles wrapped in straw baskets.
If you can pull yourself away from the infinity pool, a visit to the Castello di Fonterutoli winery, an hour’s drive east, is a must; it’s been run by the Mazzei family since 1435. Be sure to treat yourself to a bottle of chianti classico with its 80 per cent sangiovese grape. Whether you can resist opening this full-bodied beauty before you leave your Tuscan hideaway is, of course, highly debatable. We certainly couldn’t.
More information on Il Cortile Pratolino
Rental from £2,588 to £4,696 per week for a party of 10. Maximum occupancy, 15 guests