top left: Piazza del Campo, Siena; Florence; Lighthouse, Livorno;
Ripoli is rural, but not isolated – a quiet hamlet, not a field.
Just across the road there’s Villa Arianna (www.villarianna.it),
a B & B which offers hearty Tuscan cuisine in its huge garden,
with copious quantities of good local wine. A 10-minute walk down
the road on the other side, there's Cevoli, the medieval village you
can see from the bathroom window. Here you can find a couple of bars,
where you can get excellent coffee, pastries or the tipple of your
choice and a shop stocking local Tuscan specialities and freshly baked
bread to eat with your coffee by the pool. And in a few minutes in
the car, you can get to the beautiful hilltop town of Lari, or to
Casciana Terme, a small town with a picture-postcard pretty square
and a thermal spa, famous since the 12th-century for its healing powers.
Often dwarfed by Florence and Siena, Pisa (32km away) is truly lovely.
It was good enough for Byron and Shelley, who both lived there, and
its Piazza dei Miracoli, with its cathedral, baptistery and infamous
leaning tower is, indeed, miraculous. And you couldn’t possibly
not go to Florence (72km), Lucca (50km), Volterra (35km) or Siena
(70km). Unless, that is, you had a severe allergy to culture, beauty
More sporty types can play golf (at the Cosmopolitan Golf & Country
, or the spectacular Castelfafi golf course, www.castelfalfi.it),
or ride horses
Less sporty types could opt for a spot of
wine-tasting, the famous passeggiata or a gentle amble with
And, of course, there’s the food. Pretty much everywhere.