Between the exuberant vini rossi, the unsurpassable art, the hill towns that look like oil paintings and the wild coastal plains, Tuscany is a staggeringly well-preserved living history. Florence maintains a noble air with its artistic treasures, the Uffizi, the Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria, while each summer Siena carries on centuries of tradition with its Palio horse race in its main square. There’s Pisa with its leaning tower and San Gimignano with its lofty ones. Lucca within walls and Pienza, the ideal Renaissance town laid out in perfect symmetry.
But Tuscany is also Carrara and the spiry Apuan Alps, whose quarries provided the marble for Michelangelo’s statues. Viareggio with its sandy beaches and Art Nouveau hotels. The Casentino’s forests and monasteries, where St. Francis of Assisi once preached. Livorno with its canals and cacciucco, its distinctive fish soup. Bolgheri with its cypress-lined avenues and Super Tuscan wines, Tignanello, Sassicaia and Ornellaia. The Maremma and its National Park, where the butteri, Tuscan cowboys, wrangle their herds in a wild, lonely landscape. Monte Argentario with its rocky coves and Mediterranean maquis. The Archipelago of Elba, Giglio, Montecristo; Sarteano with its Etruscan tombs and Saturnia with its sulfur springs. There’s more, of course. Suffice it to say, Florence was the capital of all of Italy from 1865 to 1870, and Tuscany to this day feels like a nation within a nation.
You may not be able to see all of Tuscany in one try, but you start by basing yourself out of one of these well-located Tuscan homes—available only to PRIOR members.
Whether you’re staying in a city center, on the coast, or in the countryside, we can arrange horseback riding excursions around Sarteano, stopping at a cheese farm specializing in Pecorino, or organize a dinner at Castello di Argiano in Montalcino with the winemaker owners, one an architect and the other an astronomer.
Near the medieval hilltop village of Colle di Val d’Elsa, this villa is an easy drive from some of Tuscany’s most notable cities and towns, including Siena (25 minutes), Florence (50 minutes), and Pisa and Lucca (1.5 hours). The aristocratic owners of this 13-bedroom estate renovated the property last year while ensuring their family retreat still exudes its old-world charm (brocaded wallpaper; marble busts; gilt mirrors and antique wood furnishings passed down through generations).
The bedrooms, each with its own distinct personality, are filled with painted or wood-beam ceilings, wrought-iron bed frames, centuries-old antique maps or oil paintings. In the game room, with its red-felt billiards table, antique taxidermy boars and other fauna from the region sit under an arched stone ceiling.
Florentine Family Villa
One of the best parts about this Renaissance-era villa on a hill just 15 minutes outside of Florence and down the road from where Machiavelli penned The Prince in the 16th century is the unobstructed view it gives of Brunelleschi’s famous dome and Giotto’s campanile. A generations-old countryside escape for an aristocratic Florentine family, the eight-bedroom villa feels thoroughly Tuscan, thanks to the terracotta-tiled interiors and arched doorways.
Winding staircases with wrought-iron balustrades lead to bedrooms with four-poster beds dressed in bright blues, mint greens, and burnt reds and decorated with antique lithographs and antique wooden desks. On the sprawling grounds, where on a clear day you can see all the way to the Tyrrhenian Sea, there’s a tree-shaded swimming pool and bocce court surrounded by olive groves and vineyards and a dining gazebo flanked by a vegetable garden.
This mid-18th-century villa sits on the sea between Talamone Bay and the Giannella coast, just a short drive from Montalcino, Saturnia and Porto Ercole, home to the famed Hotel Pellicano. The interiors incorporate classic Tuscan materials, while channeling a more relaxed and airy mood than you’ll find in the region’s interior: white furnishings and four-poster beds in the 11 bedrooms sit on terracotta floors, gauze curtains shade floor-to-ceiling windows, and sun-dappled daybeds face the Tuscan Archipelago.
Breakfast happens in a small courtyard shaded by an orange tree; just before dusk, you can wait for the sun to set on Talamone port with a glass of wine, either by the pool or on the property’s private rocky beach.
Private aristocratic estates in Tuscany can feel fabulously palatial, but those seeking more low-key living will feel at ease in this cozy, six-bedroom retreat dating to the 18th century in Sarteano, a medieval town 1.5 hours from Florence and two hours from Rome.
The former sharecropper’s farmhouse with its rough-hewn stone walls, exposed wood-beam ceilings and terracotta-tiled floors has two large sitting rooms with log-burning fireplaces and six bedrooms with wrought iron beds and wooden shutters that let in large amounts of Tuscany’s honeyed light. Each night, the villa’s chef will prepare dinner with the help of an onsite vegetable garden, though the invitingly large kitchen might inspire guests to jump in and cook themselves.
A Designer’s Apartment
This five-bedroom apartment, set within the terraced fourth floor of a private, family-owned palazzo, couldn’t be better situated: it’s just a couple of minutes by foot from the Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio, while the Duomo is just 1,600 feet away.
Designed by owner and Rome-based interior designer Ilaria Miani, the apartment is reached via a 17th-century colonnaded entry hall by vaulted staircase or elevator. In the large light-filled living room with a grand fireplace, a contemporary painting hangs on rough-hewn stone walls. Miani designed each bedroom with its own personality: in one, dramatic black and white textiles dominate, while in another, red-themed art gives off a playful bohemian vibe.
PRIOR’s Bespoke team can design a trip for your group based at any one of these houses, safely helping you explore the surroundings when you are ready to travel again. Inquire at email@example.com.
At Home in Tuscany