What is an agriturismo? “Agriturismo” is a combination of the Italian words for “agriculture” and “tourism”. Italy’s agriturismo owners provide farmhouse-style accommodation and are legally obliged to offer cuisine prepared from ingredients produced on the farm and in the surrounding province. They were brought into being in 1985 as a means of helping farmers earn extra income. Today there are many varieties, from budget self-contained farm cottages and guesthouses to luxurious castles, restored villas and mansions. What remains consistent is the home-grown food and wine – it’s always seasonal and always local.
What kind of agriturismo is Il Cipresso? The high-end boutique variety, with all the charm you would expect from one in Tuscany. The renovated family villa, which is open for business year round, is mustard yellow with green shutters and a front garden bordered by manicured hedges. It has seven suites featuring antique furniture, en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioning and a complimentary bottle of wine. Some suites also have a patio. On the top floor, underneath the pitched roof, guests can relax among wine barrels. Outdoors, there’s a pool (below) that leads onto natural parkland.
What else? The villa is part of a boutique organic farm, on which you’ll find olive groves, vineyards, gardens and a small apiary that in turn contribute olive oil, Vin Santo and Chianti wine, jams and honey. Guests are encouraged to get involved with whatever takes their fancy, be it a beehive expedition, a cooking class or wine tasting.
What’s nearby? Il Cipresso (“the cypress”, in Italian) is a fiveminute walk from the 1,000-year-old church of San Quirico, in the village of Sassaia di Rigutino. The nearest major city is one of Tuscany’s oldest, Arezzo. Closer is the typically beautiful Etruscan hilltop town of Cortona, which featured in Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir, Under a Tuscan Sun (and later the movie of the same name), where “the piazza is lined with perfectly intact medieval or Renaissance palazzi” and “the sunflower crops radiate gold from the surrounding fields”.
What is there to eat? In the villa courtyard, a stone barn (above) has been converted into a sweet little restaurant with just four or five tables. Garlic and onions hang in bunches from the ceiling and plates decorate the walls. On the counter is pecorino cheese and salami, which charming host Alberto (whose great-grandfather purchased the property in 1918) serves to guests on wooden boards. Other local menu favourites include chard ravioli with peconzola sheep cheese and walnuts, and Chianina (a Tuscan breed of cattle) beef ragu.
What’s the bottom line? Double rooms with breakfast start from €98 (HK$800). For details go to www.ilcipresso.com.