Tuscany’s green valleys are filled with abandoned hamlets, echoing with rural village life.
In the Eighties Ferruccio Ferragamo, of the Florentine fashion dynasty, rented a neglected estate as a holiday home and fell in love with the old stones and crumbling history. In 1993 he bought and restored the place.
Tuscany’s Valdarno valley between Florence and Arezzo is an agricultural area of oak forests, gentle hills and steep ravines. Less fêted than prime Chianti but with excellent road access thanks to the motorway linking Rome and Pisa, it has a calm, rural beauty.
This valley is home to Il Borro, the beautiful, 2,700-acre Ferragamo estate, an hour from Florence airport. Records date the property back to the 13th century with previous owners including the Medici family and Dukes of Savoy.
Now part of the Relais & Châteaux boutique hotel brand with 68 rooms and suites, Il Borro is the perfect retreat for anyone seeking rural peace and comfort.
Il Borro: a 2,700-acre Tuscan estate run by the Ferragamo family (Francesca Pagliai)
Run along passionately organic lines, it draws on its farm for fresh produce.
There’s a family atmosphere, with friendly staff from local villages. There’s a pool and spa, hiking, e-biking, cookery classes and golf.
The restored historic medieval village is a warren of cobbled paths and tall houses, while the main manor house, destroyed by German bombs, is back to its former glory.
Ferruccio’s eldest son, Salvatore, is chief executive and in charge of producing delicious white, red and rosé wines — 200,000 bottles a year.
Daughter Vittoria looks after the organic garden and 44 horses at the equestrian centre.
“Il Borro is our family home and passion as well as our business,” explains Salvatore. “My father’s plan to create a working farm and hotel is ongoing. We make olive oil, honey, grow vegetables and this autumn we have 300 sheep arriving to make pecorino and ricotta cheese.”
Ferruccio opened another family property to the public two years ago. Viesca, 30 minutes from Florence, was the private summer home of the brand’s founder, Salvatore Ferragamo (1898-1960) and his wife Wanda.
Viesca, simple and charming, has a main hotel with 14 rooms and also seven fully staffed villas.
These handsome, contemporary-design homes can be rented privately and sleep between six and 18 guests. There is a swimming pool, tennis courts and a courtyard restaurant using Il Borro’s organic produce.
Both Il Borro and Viesca offer socially distanced breaks, well placed for day trips to Siena and Florence, or for relaxing in Tuscany’s ever-green countryside.
Buy into a glorious Florentine revival
Standing in the shadow of Florence’s magnificent Duomo, Palazzo Portinari Salviati, dating in parts to the 13th century, is being restored as luxurious, contemporary homes.
The palazzo is located in an immensely historic part of this compact city and was once home to Beatrice Portinari — the muse of poet Dante — and later to Lucrezia de’ Medici, grandmother to the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Palazzo Portinari Salviati is being transformed into 18 freehold apartments and 12 Dimora Residences for guests
When finished it will provide 18 freehold apartments for sale and 12 Dimora Residences for guests. Prices start from £595,900 for the one- to four-bedroom homes of 750sq ft to 4,000sq ft.
The penthouse, priced £7,792,000 has two separate terraces with picture-perfect views of Brunelleschi’s magnificent red dome on the Duomo, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
There’s a complete management service, on-site maintenance, excellent security and a rental pool.
The palazzo will have an indoor pool, wellness area and concierge and a public Michelin-quality restaurant. Completion is expected in 2022.