Disclaimer: Thank you Barbialla Nuova for hosting us as your guests. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
FIRST OFF, WHY SHOULD YOU VISIT TUSCANY?
Tuscany is a land replete with history, somehow managing to escape the shifting sands of time: its beauty has no bounds, conveying a quiet charm reminiscent of centuries past. Known as the “Garden of Italy,” this enchanting domain possesses a colorful landscape of rolling green hills, rustic villages, olive groves, medieval castles and flourishing vineyards. The Tuscan countryside captures the beauty and diversity of Italy in its entirety thanks to its immense variety. From rocky coastlines to white sanded beaches, tree covered foothills to flowery fields, and enchanting Renaissance cities - Tuscany encompasses all of the unique qualities its home country has to offer, and provides a little something for everyone.
The artistry and historical heritage of this place is unparalleled to anything we’ve seen before. The land is sprinkled with ancient Etruscan settlements, centuries old churches, cozy hamlets, cathedrals and domed towers. Officially recognized as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Tuscany was once home to brilliant minds like Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci as well as notable artists like Botticelli, Puccini, and Michelangelo. The Renaissance, also termed as the “Cultural Revolution” gave rise to a multitude of masterpieces that would redefine architecture, art and literature forever.
As mentioned earlier, the Renaissance sparked an artistic revolution that shaped an inflection point in art history. Large quantities of famous works and architectural wonders are now scattered throughout the Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa, where guests can visit a plethora of art galleries, monuments, basilicas and cathedrals - all within a day! Each town holds its own unique historical charm. As you stroll the narrow cobblestone streets, an intricate maze of alleys and walkways, you can’t help but feel in complete and utter awe as you are led to leaning towers in open fields or bustling street squares filled with laughter. From fountains to fattorias, churches to cathedrals, each of these cities take those who visit back through time to experience the origins of long standing traditions while also recognizing the modern impact of cultures from centuries before us.
WHERE TO STAY IN TUSCANY?
To enjoy Tuscany to its fullest, you need to spend some time immersed there. A day trip from a nearby city will leave you gaping at the landscapes and gasping at the quality of the wines but will not allow you to savor the nature of this place. Barbialla Nuova is an eco friendly organic farm and 1200 acre forested estate nestled deep in the heart of this region. Here guests can enjoy an idyllic farm stay in self-catered apartments (meaning no hotel service is provided) but not to worry, each farmhouse has been masterfully renovated to meet your every need and desire while on vacation. Fully equipped with modernized kitchens (including high end cookware), upscale bathrooms, and contemporary bedrooms with a simplistic yet chic decor, you can’t help but feel at home.
We had the pleasure of staying in the Brentina House, originally a casa colonica, this farmhouse was converted into four separate apartments, each conveying their own unique style, yet still managing to preserve the original design and appeal. Our particular apartment was spacious yet cozy, a place for us to sit back and relax as we enjoyed the stunning vistas, appreciating the rolling hills of lush greenery and dense forests below. In the warmer summer months, guests can lounge poolside, play a friendly game of ping pong, or even host an outdoor bbq amidst the scenic landscapes of the Tuscan countryside.
Barbialla Nuova offers guests a once in a lifetime experience - here visitors can explore acres of unspoiled nature, captivating hillsides dotted with cypress trees, gardens of green and breathtaking panoramas. But what Barbialla Nuova does uniquely - something that surpasses all other Tuscan accommodations - is to invite visitors to experience a fully functional farm - including its animals, wildlife, and picturesque grounds.
Half of the property is dedicated to cultivated fields and grazing for the various livestock living on the farm. Among its many residents you’ll find cows, bulls, chickens, pigs and even bees, but our personal favorites were the nine friendly cats that freely roamed the property. I mean I do call my husband the “cat whisperer” so let’s just say he was feline good!
The other half of the property is protected wooded valleys and thick oak forests. These places provide the perfect refuge for deer, wild boar, and other woodland animals including various species of indigenous trees. Nestled in the thickest depths of these wooded valleys are where you can also find calanchi - towering walls of clay and sand, containing various shell fossils from the sea that are over 3 million years old.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, these secluded valley floors have now become a sanctuary to white truffle forests. These precious truffles, specifically the ‘tartufo bianco’ are some of the rarest truffles in the entire world. Resembling small potatoes, these treasured mushrooms have a strong aroma with a pure and earthy taste, making them one of the most prized truffles found to date. During the Autumn months (October - December), guests are even invited to partake in a guided truffle hunt to test their hand at truffle excavations, followed by an array of tastings from local organic farms hosted in the onsite farm shop. Buon Appetito!
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Barbialla Nuova’s location can’t be beat and serves as a perfect starting point for day trips to the historical cities mentioned above (Florence, Siena and Pisa). However, if you prefer a more localized day of discovery, you can explore the nearby medieval towns, harmonious villages, and wineries. If you are short on time, we highly recommend a quick visit to San Gimignano - a 13th century hill town enclosed by stone walls with a large square lined with medieval houses and towers. San Gimignano is one of the most iconic and recognizable destinations in Tuscany and once you’ve visited it’s easy to see why.
Tuscany is rich with opportunities for exploration, but to be honest, we spent the majority of our time onsite at the farm, piqued by the freedom to explore the entire estate at our leisure. Barbialla Nuova is one of the very few farms in the region to have its own hiking network of trails. Here guests can enjoy over 18 km of well built footpaths that weave you through scenic landscapes of flora and fauna native to the area.
Each guest is given a trail map upon check in. The trails are categorized by color - ranging in various degrees of difficulty and length. Paths are marked with colored wooden signs - corresponding to the trail map provided. We opted to try the purple, orange and red paths during our stay to explore the immense variety of landscapes Barbialla had to offer.
The purple path was called the “Lake Walk.” This trail was easier in comparison to the others, only 1.75 km in length, but equally satisfying. We were led through flowery fields and rolling green pastures to an open area through the brush where a sizable lake stood. Its edges were lined with mulberry trees, dog rose, and blackberry bushes with a small dock wading in the shallows! With the sun shimmering across the water’s surface, its reflection warming our faces, we decided to post up for a picnic, basking in the calm the lake provided. It was a picture perfect place for us to unwind and take in this idyllic location.
The orange path, known as the “Il Poggio-Caparello Walk” was slightly more difficult than our purple predecessor. This trail was 4.75 km in length, and termed more difficult, but we never pass up an opportunity for a good challenge, so off we went! This particular trail snaked us through ancient forests and chamomile blooms, over hilltops and past ruins. The orange path really gave us a sense of the forested estate grounds in all their glory, leaving us out of breath but freshly inspired.
The last path we investigated was the red path, known as the “Caparello Alto Walk.” This path was only 3 km in length, but so rewarding. As you climb a steep hill and crest the ridge, nearing the peak, you are greeted by the Caparello Alto ruin. We were stunned by the scene before us. Here lay dormant Tuscan ruins steeped in history, hidden by time and high grasses, perched on a peaceful hill overlooking the villages of Sughera and Montaione below. In this moment, time stood still as we embraced this captivating place.
If hiking doesn’t suit your fancy - not to worry. Barbialla Nuova also offers their guests an opportunity to enjoy mountain biking or even fishing in the local pond onsite. With a little something for everyone - visitors will soon discover firsthand that they have an entire estate to explore at their leisure and are invited to experience ancient traditions of centuries past as they please. Barbialla Nuova has mastered the art of preserving tradition while encouraging tasteful innovation - continually providing their patrons with a creatively pleasant, relaxing and restful stay.