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Lucire: Volante




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Lucire: Volante

From top View of Firenze from Piazza Michelagnolo. Kitchen detail at Platinhome Piazza La Repubblica. Outdoor shower and terrace at Platinhome Piazza La Repubblica. Main square, San Gimignano.

Living Toscana’s best

Stanley Moss samples the best of Toscana, sampling luxury properties and dining in Firenze, Volterra and San Gimignano
photographed by Paula Sweet


I’ve just returned from a trip to Toscana to check out a new lodging trend: luxury apartments operating like five-star hotels. We’re talking about more of a living-in-your-own-place experience rather than the usual sleeping-in-a-box one. Two properties in downtown Firenze were of particular intrigue, Platinhome’s dual locations on via Ricasoli and at Piazza La Repubblica. The words surprising, exclusive, stylish and comprehensive immediately come to mind. The average stay for these places is three nights, but some corporate clients make deals for three to six months and I can see why. Expert concierges and housekeeping services round out the offering. Prices can range upwards from €400 per night, depending on size, season and location. Better deals often come available at the last minute on the internet.

Platinhome’s via Ricasoli address sits literally 30 seconds from Academia, where the famous sculpture of David resides. Fortunately the crowds who occupy that intersection do so during the day. At night, the neighbourhood is safe and quiet. It’s about two minutes from the Duomo, no more than five minutes on foot to the centre of the action. Impeccably furnished flats with modern kitchens, Philippe Starck bathroom fittings and huge tile Jacuzzis that contain chromatherapy lights, these desirable airy apartments feel more like pieds-à-terre with daily maid service, cosmetics and plush robes thrown in. Your greatest challenge may be writing a shopping list and porting in groceries, which the property will take care of for a €10 fee. What a different feeling coming home to a furnished place after a long day, plopping down on the couch, putting up a pot of water for tea, dreaming of a hot bath with the underwater sounds system playing Vivaldi!

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Cozy at Platinhome via Ricasoli.

Breakfast at Platinhome via Ricasoli.

Staircase at Platinhome via Ricasoli.

Detail from Platinhome via Ricasoli.

Chromatherapy Jacuzzi at Platinhome Ricasoli.


Platinhome’s Piazza La Repubblica apartments, operated under the same service standards, are altogether another luxury sensation, one you might label “rooftops of Florence”. Smaller than the other location, these light-filled aeries, planned by a yacht designer, overlook Brunelleschi’s dome, which appears up close and extremely personal. They would be ideally occupied by visiting executives or the luxury business traveller. Outfitted with extreme economy and care, every apartment has a library of art books, high-tech fireplace, telescope and terrace with outdoor shower. But the views and the remarkable central location won’t be ignored: call these lodgings exceptional in every sense.

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Telescope and high-tech fireplace at Platinhome Piazza La Repubblica.

At Antico Noè, with the bistecca alla Fiorentina smothered in roasted artichokes.


Along the culinary highway in Firenze I enjoyed a great dinner at Antico Noè, at Volta di San Piero, 6-red, 50122 Firenze. What a feast: classic bistecca alla Fiorentina smothered in roasted artichokes, washed down with a bottle of Chianti Classico. It definitely looks like a down-and-dirty osteria, funky and rough-hewn, but wait until the meat arrives. Our table went all the way to the bone, finishing the meal with a classic vin santo and cantucci combo. The next day, following an afternoon ramble over to the Oltrarno and a hike up to the Piazza Michaelangelo, I stumbled upon an excellent ristorante gastronomica called Zeb at via San Miniato, 2 rossa. It resembles an ultra-modern sushi bar, but look closely and you discover that Giuseppina Navari and son Alberto operate a lunch and dinner business worthy of a studious visit. Local delicacies with original preparations made daily, and the walls lined with regional wines, many bio, at what appear to be excellent prices. Perfect for a drop-in meal after the walk, and you are advised to save room for dessert, also stellar. Surprised to learn this outstanding bistro conducts enlightened cooking classes.

Later I ventured into the middle of deepest Toscana to a rather remote location, still less than 2 hours from downtown Firenze, near the historic hilltop cities of Volterra (12 km) and San Gimignano (25 km). Off-season, abundant rain had rendered the rolling hills of the countryside a velvety green, with ancient cypress trees jutting into the air on the horizons. In the distance, mediæval fortifications presided from promontories, against a background of dramatic cloudscapes. You need a car to get around out there, but you land in a place quite accessible to every great enticement of the region: dining, agro tourism, cultural events, thermal baths, history.

Borgo Vicarello di Volterra occupies a compound of heritage structures, a former monastery now regenerated into 50 luxury apartments. Restored under the intense supervision of the national landmarks’ office, the result is a meticulously finished echo of classicism. I had the freedom to wander the empty footprint while the property was being readied for the 2013 season about to begin, affording a chance to dream about how guests will use it in the coming months. Similar to the concept of the Florentine properties visited earlier, these apartments are ideal bases for tourists on an extended stay. Meetings, events and retreats for groups up to 75 could also be accommodated. In addition to the services and amenities of the big city properties, the facility has an on-site restaurant and a fully-realized spa operated in partnership with the Russian beauty treatment brand Comfort Zone. You could do a lot worse. For a location of this dimension, a maximum occupancy would be virtually invisible under the Tuscan sun, with ample poolside, terraces and private corners for sunbathing. Gated, with on-site parking, quiet, breathtaking views on 360 degrees, and a second swimming pool planned. Only the nagging issue of groceries will resurface: the mini bar won’t be enough, isolation being a keyword here. A fast breeze-through at the local Co-op en route will stock your kitchen with the requisite drinks and munchies, while every other need of life is already met. There’s the possibility of gathering local delicacies on your day tripping to the nearby cities, an alternate solution for creative foraging. •


What to savour?
• Pecorino: the local sheep cheese available in a variety of ages, hence consistency and flavours;
• olive oil: Tuscans are justly proud of their local output, all of which is top-drawer, often peppery, distinctive and artisanal, with many bio options;
• wild boar (cinghiale), transformed into a variety of sausages and served with local pastas;
vin santo and cantucci: a cookie and sweet wine dessert combination typical of the region;
• Pici pasta: exclusive to the area, and something Italians from other cities take home when they visit;
• Vernaccia: the famed wine of San Gimignano.


What to drag home?
• Olive wood carving: some beautiful choices in objects for the kitchen;
• table linens and tea towels: make sure you get locally-produced jacquard weaves;
• alabaster: carvings done on-site are the last of a disappearing craft;
• ceramics: decorative glazed patterns which have been made in the locality since Roman times.


What to visit?
• Had a great time wandering around Volterra, famous for Neolithic, Etruscan and Roman ruins. Historic copper, salt and alum mines supported mediæval economies there. On via Don Minzoni across from the Etruscan Museum, sipped local Chianti at the notorious La Vena di Vino bar, whose rafters are garlanded with, ummm, a world-class collection of brassieres. Then supped at a fun local restaurant called Osteria La Pace, where the irreverent and accommodating owner took our dinner order seated at our table.
• Spent a day in San Gimignano, the picture-perfect hilltop town of towers, in perfect repair with the best strolling after hours once the tour buses have cleared out. Not much to buy there, but drank a lot of good coffee.

Both cities well worth a visit.


Borgo Vicarello di Volterra in Toscana.

Chianti at La Vena di Vino in Volterra.

Typical antipasto at Osteria La Pace in Volterra.

San Gimignano.




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Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.