Swaying there in the olive groves, the Tuscan sun is beating down on us. A juicy, just-picked fig is melting in my mouth. It’s not your average Friday afternoon. Mrs Smith puts her hands in mine and we consider how long we could get away with staying at Villa Fontelunga before work notes our absence…
We’ve been beaming non-stop since we arrived. Our first sight of this bright sienna-coloured padronale near Cortona inspired our highest-watt smiles, and a smidgen of smugness. Traditional ivy-festooned blue-shuttered villa on the outside, modern interior design magazine on the inside, this boutique B&B makes houses on those flashy property TV shows seem positively dull. Greeted as though we’re old friends of the owners Simon, Philip and Paolo, we soon have a welcoming glass of local red wine in our hands.
Philip whisked us on a personal tour of the property; Fontelunga unfolded as somewhere wonderfully elegant and undeniably Italian. Between massive terracotta plant pots on the gravelled courtyard are old-fashioned tables and chairs. From here, there are views across a faultlessly landscaped garden to valleys that an artist could make thousands from.
A hidden nook is full of Tuscan elements combined with an exclusive LA rooftop feel. If there’s a spot better suited to lounging in the shade, I’d like to know of it. OK, perhaps where I then saw a swing for two… Further snooping reveals a tennis court, and now there’s fresh-fig-eating. A quick game of hiding behind olive trees later (it’s never not funny to jump out and shout ‘Boo!’ at Mrs Smith), we seek out our suite. After grabbing another fruit from the tree and a glass of Chianti from the honesty bar.
A converted dovecote houses our junior suite, and glass bricks transform nest holes into windows that throw magical shapes into our cosy double-sinked, deep-tubbed blue and white bathroom. White-washed walls and farmhousey flooring frame charming lived-in touches from one-time film-set designer Philip. Above the bed hang tiny glass orbs, lighting up the room as they catch the sun. Our bed peers through French doors onto our private terrace, steps from the pool, hills beyond. Taking advantage of free WiFi, we hop onto Spotify and load up some suitable music (think II Trovatore or the Intermezzo Cavalleria Rusticana. Not ringing any bells? Try imagining a slickly shot ad for olive oil or pasta sauce).
Newly revived, we’re back in the main villa following the lead of the cute resident Scottie dogs. This involves flopping on the comfy Barber Osgerby sofa, in an exposed-brickwork sitting room, where design flourishes and coffee-table books remind us we’re in Tuscany. (Meanwhile Mrs Smith sniffs out a few trashy mags hidden in the corner, perfect for poolside reading.)
Soon enough, Philip appears and asks our desires for dinner; quick as a flash he’s made reservations at Osteria del Teatro, a favourite of Anthony Hopkins. We jump in the car and head over the hills to Cortona, just one of the staggeringly beautiful mediaeval town an olive stone’s spit away. Duck breast and courgette-flower gnocchi devoured in a 16th-century dining room, we return home, close our shutters and lower the shades…
Morning arrives and sightseeing calls. We’re barely an hour from Florence and Siena, and even closer to Arezzo, so after a quick dip in the pool, some fruit and fresh pastries and another cup of world-class coffee on our terrace, we head to this most Italian of towns. Arezzo is where Oscar-winning Life is Beautiful was shot. ‘It is beautiful, pigeons fly, women fall from the sky – I’m moving here,’ says its hero Guido. If only we could too. (Although, disappointingly, it doesn’t actually rain Mrs Smiths. Not on the day we visit, anyway.)
After a day pretending to be movie stars – eating gelati, attempting the world’s hammiest Italian accents – it’s wonderful to retreat to rustic Villa Fontelunga. On Tuesday and Friday nights they host a four-course supper, and tonight it’s just us and some Australians. As Mrs Smith can attest, I get bored with stuffy hotel restaurants and this communal set-up is the ideal antidote. Less maître d’, more Come Dine With Me. Minus the badly made meals and ridiculing voiceover, obviously. We drink and make merry, adding our new friends on Facebook (gotta love that WiFi), eating humble, home-cooked food prepared with fresh ingredients.
Post-prosecco and canapés (oh, those zucchini fries!), we settle onto a long table in the open-plan kitchen for a parade of delights. Ravioli, local pork and veg, then a rich chocolate torte. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a dinner party this much – Mrs Smith and I almost forget that this is a hotel. Never has the cliché ‘home from home’ been a more accurate description – it’s like staying with distant relatives. Savvy ones armed with every secret on where to eat to parking your car without paying.
Too quickly our Tuscan adventure is over, and Mrs Smith’s suitcase is closed for the final time. Or maybe not? A final insider tip from our NBFs is that en route to the airport there are fashion outlets for Prada, Gucci, D&G and Armani. The only time I’ve seen Mrs Smith happier than when she finds a skull-patterned Alexander McQueen scarf at 70 per cent off was when she first set eyes on Villa Fontelunga.
Case crammed with designer steals, we head home, fantasising about being back in that king-size bed overlooking olive groves and Val di Chiana vineyards. Jolting me from that daydream is the harsh beep of an airport metal detector. I delve into my pockets to find the keys to our suite. Now really, wouldn’t it be rude not to return them in person?
Anonymously reviewed by Chris Cox (Mind meddler)
Reviews of Fontelunga Hotel and Villas from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
It's very peaceful and the property is very tastefully decorated. Service was very nice: just enough so you still got your space.
The food at the villa was just average.
Peter, BlackSmith stayed on 28 Apr 2013
The relaxing environment and the location with easy access to all the hill towns. We'd have happily relaxed by the pool for the entire visit but a few cloudy and cool days sent us out on the tourist trail to the hill towns, which we are glad we didn't miss. They are lovely.
Would probably suggest they don't charge for CD and DVD rental from the library, other hotels don't. We didn't want to but the fact they charged seemed odd.
Joanna, BlackSmith stayed on 11 Sep 2012
We loved the personal service; the pre-arrival email, the welcome drink, the suggested day trips and great restaurant recommendations. The location is a great base for touring the local area to visit vineyards and picturesque hilltop villages but also just as good for lazy days around the pool. Oh and the food - amazing pasta and more cooked by their local chef - we had lunch and two dinners at the villa and the food was superb every time. The hosted dinner party was a great evening and we all applauded the chef when she came out to say goodnight.
I've been thinking about this one for ages and I honestly can't think of a single thing.
Caroline, BlackSmith stayed on 9 Sep 2012 No
Our stay at Fontelunga was one of the highlights of our five-week trip through Italy and Greece. It is a truly special place where you are made to feel welcome as soon as you walk through the gate. The property itself is beautiful and the hosts and all of the staff are absolutely wonderful. Meals at Fontelunga are fabulous – all made with fresh local produce, and the Tuscan wines are of course excellent. Hire a car so you can see lots of places like Lucignano, Cortona and Montepulciano. All very beautiful. Staff at Fontelunga can make reservations for local restaurants for you. We tried Il Goccino and La Lodola – both were excellent. We only stayed three nights but wished it could have been longer. A week would have been great and we hope to return. We can't sing Fontelunga's praises loud enough. We would have no hesitation in recommending it to everyone.
Karen, SilverSmith stayed on 21 Jun 2012
Phillip and Paulo are truly wonderful hosts who put loving care and attention into every detail of your stay. Our room had wonderful views of the gardens and Tuscany beyond. We chose to have dinner at the Villa on both nights and enjoyed delicious gourmet meals. Of course I had to have second helpings so I could share them with the sweet puppies, Charlie, Lola and Lucy. Fontelunga is such a delightful place, I can't say enough about how much I loved just being there. It was so refreshing to be hosted in a way that was wonderfully luxurious yet not uncomfortably overdone. We caught ourselves feeling as though we were with old friends, which from what I can see most guests to this wonderful location quickly become. Can’t wait to return.
Miriam, SilverSmith stayed on 6 Jun 2012
A wonderful hotel, with exceptional hosts, plus Lola, Lucy Liu and Charlie. The room was lovely, with a large bathroom and fantastic views, and I very much enjoyed the dinner parties that Paolo and Philip held for guests. The hotel is situated in a beautiful part of the world and I can't wait to return.
Carole, BlackSmith stayed on 8 May 2012