Tuscany – or Toscana – is one of Italy’s most loved, recognized and romanticized regions. Ever since the film Under the Tuscan Sun gave audiences a taste of the Tuscan lifestyle, people hear Tuscany and think: warmth, beauty, tranquility.
The thing about Tuscany, like most of Italy, is that it lives up to the hype. As you drive through her beautiful landscape, you’re greeted by fields of sunflowers, their petals following the path of the afternoon sun, vineyards sprawling over the rolling hills, and tall cypress trees swaying in the soft breeze.
Villas dot the landscape perfectly, sitting nestled in between hills, beside grape vines, and on the tops of peaks, all charming you with their unique, old beauty. History is rich in these hills.
I recently had the pleasure of travelling to the Tuscan province of Arezzo, where I worked as an English teacher at a summer camp.
I wasn’t expecting much in terms of accommodations, since the word “camp” usually implies rustic comfort, if such a thing exists. But, oh, was I wrong.
I should have known that in Italy, summer camp is done a bit differently – as in hotel-style.
We stayed at Villa Schiatti, a hotel in between the towns of Castiglion Fiorentino and Cortona. The 19th century structure has been fully renovated and has all the fixings of a modern hotel, but it still retains its historic charm.
Villa Schiatti fed us well – with different delicious Italian and Tuscan dishes every day for lunch and dinner. In addition to the delicious food, the hotel also offered comfortable rooms, a gorgeous pool, magnificent views and means to plenty of outdoorsy activities like archery, mountain biking and horseback riding.
View from the Pool
Despite all the beauty, history and amenities at Villa Schiatti, it would be just another gorgeous hideaway in the heart of the Tuscan hills if it weren’t for the generosity of the staff that work there.
From the maintenance workers to the cooks, the waiters to the concierge, all employees of the hotel are thoughtful and accommodating, and are a testament to the kindness and hard work of Angelo and his wife Giulia, who have owned the hotel since 2007.
Even with over 50 demanding, loud children to deal with day in and day out, the staff remained patient and caring.
They even went out of their way to make special meals for those children who were fussy eaters, and arranged special disco, karaoke and pool party nights, which the kids absolutely loved.
In Italian, Angelo means angel, and by the end of my two week visit to Villa Schiatti, with all of us dealing with the kids who were by then growing tired and cranky, I knew Angelo had definitely been named appropriately.
During my stay at the Villa, I also met a very interesting cast of characters who live on the grounds and are worthy of Disney movie counterparts. They included: a depressed dancing parrot, a scared of its shadow guard dog and a needy people-loving cat.
The Depressed Parrot
For those who saw and loved the movie Under the Tuscan Sun – it was filmed only 15 minutes away from Villa Schiatti, in Cortona, a charming Etruscan town that is definitely worth a visit.
View from the town of Cortona