Following a year of intensive wedding planning, and the happy chaos and fun of the big day itself, spent with 100 friends and family at a north-London pub, I found myself hankering after a period of total peace and relaxation. Thankfully, I discovered just that at Tenuta di Artimino, a 30-minute drive from Florence, where I, my new husband Harry, and our three-year-old daughter Summer spent three restorative nights on our honeymoon.
The estate is home to 70 hectares of vineyards and the majestic Villa La Ferdinanda, constructed in 1596 by the Grand Duke Ferdinando de’Medici as a hunting lodge, and now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Guests can stay in the main hotel, a two-storey colonnaded building to one side of the villa that was formerly the servants’ quarters, or in larger residences scattered across the adjoining village of Artimino. We had chosen one of the latter: a vast one-bedroom apartment with a four-poster bed, a kitchen, and a terracotta-tiled balcony overlooking the villa and surrounding hills. After settling in, we immediately headed to the swimming pool, which occupies a secluded position in the hotel’s gardens and is framed by pink hydrangeas, red rhododendrons and olive-trees. We often had it to ourselves—a dream, given my daughter’s inclination to stay there most of the day—and during her afternoon naps, we lay happily on daybeds drinking Aperol spritzes to toast a week of marriage. In the evenings, against a backdrop of vineyards and the region’s famous orange and pink sunsets, we dined on Fiorentina steak and fresh pasta with wild boar ragù while the staff kept our daughter happy with endless helpings of spaghetti and olive oil. The restaurant’s speciality is duck alla Caterina de’Medici (prepared with orange), a modern take on the dish served at her wedding to the Duke of Orléans, the second son of King Francis I of France (and later King of France himself), in the 16th century.
On our first morning, all three of us headed back to the restaurant to meet the hotel’s executive chef Michela Bottasso for a cookery course. We were instructed in the delicate art of pasta-making, and set about producing farfalle and spaghetti, followed by the regional speciality of cantucci laced with orange zest, which we ate with gusto at the shady poolside bar. Another culinary highlight was a glorious picnic at a rustic wooden table set up in an olive grove in the hotel’s grounds, shaded from the Tuscan afternoon sun by a canopy. There, we grazed on Italian hams, crumbling Parmesan, fennel salad, focaccia and ruby-red strawberries.
The following afternoon, I indulged in a rebalancing massage and a visit to the sauna at the hotel spa (situated in its own building in Artimino), where the speciality is ‘wine therapy’: bathing in mineral salts containing grape polyphenols while sipping one of the estate’s vintages. I decided to go for a more traditional approach on this occasion, but indulged my inner oenophile on our last day with a wine-tasting experience in the Salone del Delfino, situated in the basement of the villa. The hotel’s sommelier taught us about five different Tenuta di Artimino wines (the Grumarello 2016 and Poggilarca 2018 were the standouts).
Afterwards, we were given a tour of the rest of the main Medici property, known locally as the ‘villa of the hundred chimneys’, due to the entire roof being covered in stacks of varying sizes. Many of the rooms are adorned with beautiful frescoes and tapestries, and in the fireplace of the kitchen is a girarrosto (a spit-roasting tool), which replicates a design by Leonardo da Vinci. Later that evening, as we left the villa, a wedding was being set up; the gardens were a flurry of activity as staff arranged banqueting tables in front of the building. As we returned to our rooms, we picked up ice-cream from Gelateria la Torre Artimino in the village, before sitting on our balcony to enjoy the bridal party’s firework display. It was the perfect opportunity to look back on our own wedding—still so vivid in our minds—and ahead to our bright future.
This piece originally appeared in Bazaar UK.