Staff Review

On the road in Tuscany and Umbria


26 Jul 2016

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

Just before the last heatwave hit the UK, a colleague and I headed off to explore the verdant Tuscan Countryside. We flew out to Pisa in the morning and had breakfast at the airport. British Airways regularly have special offers on Club Class flights, especially when travelling over the weekend (when business travellers are fewer) and this makes a wonderful way to start the holiday. You can have breakfast in the lounge with a newspaper while waiting for your flight. We are also able to combine classes and are always happy to offer one way Club and one way in Economy.

We arrived into Pisa and collected our hire car from Avis, before setting off on our journey to see the hotels we already work with, and also to research new hotels - we are always looking to make sure that we offer the very best selection of properties. Our first “hotel” the Asilo Masi is just outside Pisa, and is a great location to break up a journey into the Tuscan countryside. Behind the door, opposite the village’s church, lies a private residence and you really do feel like you are staying in a someone’s house (a very luxurious house nonetheless). Nearly all of the rooms have antique furnishings and four-poster beds and there is a lovely garden to relax in. The staff are extremely friendly and the owner can be seen regularly during the summer months. It is also a great base for the annual Andrea Bocelli concert in Lajatico. It is only 15km away.

We then drove down the coast to Piombino where we boarded the ferry to the Island of Elba. To explore the island you really need a car as there is so much to see here. It was here that Napoleon was sent in exile for about a year, and you can visit his home in the centre of the island. Kirker always pre-book the ferries as there are limited spaces available for cars, and they do book up quite far in advance, especially during the summer. We saw two hotels on the island. We stayed the night in a 4* hotel right on the beach - the Villa Ottone. The property is made up of three buildings and I would highly recommend staying in the original villa. Many of the rooms there have original frescoes and have wonderful sea views back towards the town of Portoferraio. There is also a very intimate bar with the most impressive original wooden bar and frescoed ceiling and in the evening you can relax on the terrace with live piano music serenading you in the background.

This was my second time in Tuscany and last time was in May instead of July. Although I can highly recommend travelling to the area in the earlier mid-season as many hotels have excellent offers, the area is very different in the summer months and we did had spectacular weather for the whole week. I really do love Tuscany and I can think of nothing better than enjoying a local wine in a garden with spectacular views over the rolling countryside and vineyards as far as the eye can see. All of the hotels and different regions have something different to offer. For example, Chianti - the region surrounding medieval Siena is full of some of the most famous vineyards in the world, and there are pretty medieval towns such as San Gimignano and Volterra - to name just a few. We stayed in one of our most popular hotels in this region: the Hotel Relais la Suvera. This is like staying in a museum (the private museum of the hotel is actually protected by UNESCO) and the main papal villa is adorned with antiques dating back to the 18th century. We stayed in the fattoria, the former farmhouse, and the rooms in the outbuildings are very tastefully decorated as well. We even had the pleasure to meet the Marquis and Princess Eleonora. It is not every day that you can say that!

You do really need a car to make the most of what the area has to offer but if you are averse to driving on the “wrong” side of the road, then look no further than the Hotel Le Fontanelle. It is a very relaxed 5* deluxe hotel with first class service. The views from the swimming pool are fantastic and there are only 25 rooms so you can always find a quiet corner to relax in. There is no need for a car here as they offer a complimentary shuttle to the centre of Siena in the morning which returns in the afternoon - so you can explore the winding medieval streets and the Piazza del Campo where the Palio horse takes place twice a year. There are also buses from Siena which go out into the countryside or to some of the smaller villages. The property also has a large indoor pool so it is a great place for the spring and autumn when the weather in the late afternoon might not lend itself for al fresco swimming.

We also crossed over the border into Umbria as well. The main town of the region is Assisi, and we had a flying visit there but I would highly recommend stopping for a few nights to split up a longer holiday - perhaps starting in the Chianti region and then finishing in Rome. The Basilica di San Francisco is spectacular and dominates the whole skyline as you drive up to the town. The Hotel Nun Assisi Relais is located just on the edge of the medieval centre and was a former monastery, hence the name. It is a contemporary property but many of the original features have been retained. The most impressive part of the hotel is the subterranean spa, built around Roman and Etruscan ruins.

If you would like to visit Umbria and Assisi but stay in the countryside, then I would highly recommend Il Falconiere. The owners have a really hands on approach to the running of this hotel. All of the food is homemade and has now been awarded a Michelin star. If you would like to don your chef’s hat, the hotel even has a very professional cookery school run by the lovely Sylvia, the owner. You will come home entertaining your friends and family with true Italian mama cooking. When we were there, there were two guests who were preparing stuffed courgette flowers and their results would not have looked out of place in the restaurant itself.

Tuscany is an area of Italy that everyone should visit at least once in their life. And if you have been before, then its hard to resist the temptation of sitting in a garden with a local Tuscan wine looking out towards the rolling hills lined with vineyards. It is a great stand-alone destination or works well when combined with Florence or Rome.We offer such a wide range of properties from luxurious rural retreats to converted medieval villages and from grand castles to characterful private homes. I would recommend giving us a call to discuss the hotels first hand because there really is something for all tastes.

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.


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