I sat alone in a white wicker chair in the backyard of an ancient abbey overlooking the Tuscan hillside. There wasn’t a soul around. I swallowed. The kind of repetitive swallow that indicates a looming sore throat. Is it really sore? Will it get worse? I swallowed. Here I was on my third day of a dream holiday in Italy, sitting in the backyard of the monastery at Torre di Badia, and I was sick! How?
I sipped on my lemon tea lovingly left out for me by Francesca, the manager of the Torre di Badia B&B, and allowed the warm tea to soothe away the impending virus, as did the splendid view of the Antinori Vineyards. I will say that this was my absolute favourite day spent in the Tuscan countryside. And my reasons for that blatant favouritism are many.
Badia a Passignano is a little hamlet about 30 kms south of Florence, Italy. It is perfectly placed between Florence and Sienna, and offers a central point to explore the Chianti countryside, towns, and wineries for a few days. This tiny town offers some wonderous experiences, spectacular views, delicious culinary feasts, and a lovely bed and breakfast set on a quiet main road right across from the ancient church.
Where to Stay
Staying at Torre di Badia B&B was an absolute highlight of our time here. Imagine spending the night in a medieval tower that was once occupied by Benedictine monks. The history alone is astounding, and then you get to experience lux modern day amenities working in harmony with ancient stone walls and wood beams that belong to a structure almost 1000 years old.
Torre di Badia B & B has 5 rooms that are all beautifully decorated, each with its own flavour and name. I stayed in the Ghirlandaio suite. Named after the Florentine artist, the room offers an iron princess bed draped in sheer white linen. Pale blue and white toile pillows match the curtains that give way to views across the countryside. I certainly felt like royalty and often winked at Ghirlandaio’s picture on the wall or blew him a kiss as I left the room. He was always there waiting upon my return.
The suite offers all the typical accoutrements necessary for a splendidly comfortable stay. There is nothing that has been forgotten. The huge bathroom, equipped with a large washing basin, bathtub and glass shower is a place you can easily spend time pampering yourself. Modern tiling and fixtures mix well with extremely high, wood beamed ceilings giving the space an open, airy, yet comfortable feel.
Francesca’s décor throughout the place is spectacularly feminine without being over-the-top frou frou. Every space offers some delight. The rustic essence of the Italian countryside compliments crisp linens and fresh white walls, juxtaposing ancient stones that were placed by the hands of people who lived a very long time ago. Somehow Francesca has maintained the history of this incredible place, while bringing to life luxurious comforts, and modern-day conveniences like wifi.
Between the Ghirlandaio Suite and The Catherine of Sienna Suite is a lovely living room with an honesty bar, and a fireplace. The sound of the abbey bells dance down the chimney, making my heart skip a beat. Yes, I’m really in a tiny village in Tuscany, my brain squeals with delight.
Down the stairs is the main entrance area, and to the right is the dining room where breakfast is served each morning. Francesca’s baking, homemade yogurt and farm fresh eggs are a delight to awaken to. There’s even a juicer with fresh fruits and veggies.
The delicious carrot and ginger smoothie was good ammunition to help quell the virus that was trying hard to get the better of me. What stuck with me is how pretty this space is with its pristine white tablecloths and delicate china tea cups. Look out of the window and you’ll see the Antinori Chianti Classico vineyards as they climb the Tuscan hills.
Where to Eat
I didn’t time it, but less than a two minute walk from Torre di Badia B&B are a set of lovely Italian restaurants. Two that I would highly recommend are Bar Divino and Ristoro L’Antica Scuderia. They each have their own unique feel, style, and menus.
At both restaurants the view is spectacular. A similar view as at the B&B, just a bit further down. And the food and wine match the setting. Their menus differ, but both offer inspiring fare and fabulous wines. I’ll let you drool over the following images.
We were lucky to have found Bar Divino and the Torre di Badia B&B by booking a portion of our trip with KM Zero Tours, a tour company that specializes in unique tours around Chianti and the province of Tuscany.
We spent the evening eating, drinking wine and getting to know Arianna and Alessio who started KM Zero Tours a few years ago, giving tourists a truly personalized experience and a different approach to appreciating this beautiful area. Touring the Tuscan countryside with Arianna and Alessio felt like you were hanging out with good friends. Their level of service and attention to detail were truly outstanding.
We also had fun getting to know Andrea, the owner of Bar Divino. He had given up a former work life to open his dream restaurant that offers fresh delicious food and a dream-worthy view. The place is something out of a movie, with a casual quintessentially Italian atmosphere. By the time the sun had set behind the hill, the restaurant had filled up. Laughter and the musical language of Italy filled the night air.
The next morning as we waited for our pickup from KM Zero Tours to go tour the countryside, Andrea drove down the main street heading to his restaurant. We waved and yelled out our Ciaos as if we’d been friends for a lifetime. Such is the feeling of this beautiful little town of Badia a Passignano.
Things to Do
Exploring the abbey and church was an interesting way for me to spend the late morning on the day I had decided to stay behind at the B & B. The visiting schedule as well as the rules on visitors to enter the church seems to be a mystery, but I walked around the grounds and took many pictures. Probably too many, my apologies. You’ll find more on Instagram.
Sitting on the stone bench in the abbey’s courtyard was a peaceful experience as I let my thoughts drift and looked out over the Tuscan hills in the distance. I remain in awe of the cypress trees that line the entrance to the courtyard, their large trunks hinting at their age, making one feel as insignificant as a dot on the face of the earth.
Cross the road, a few feet and you are in the town square. There are two benches, and the ubiquitous mammoth town recycling bins. I wished that I could somehow bring back the empty olive oil jugs discarded so nonchalantly. Imagine them cleaned out and filled with flowers or with a lit candle.
The road beside the town square curves off into the countryside towards other towns, and I saw a group of cyclists heading off on a wild ride. What fun!
Back across the main road, walk a few more metres and you are onto a dirt road among the vineyards with a villa or two in the distance. If you turn left down this dirt road you’ll be back behind the Torre di Badia, and you may see Nonna driving down the road to drop her teenaged grandson to work at one of the restaurants. A wave and a ciao means you have embedded yourself in the workings of this spectacular little town.
Nature flourishes here with vineyards, wild apricot trees and rose bushes. The grass is patchy, but the vineyards are a lush green and the Sangiovese grapevines grow with promises of delicious Chianti Classico wines. There are mild distant sounds, and rarely a person in sight. The air is light, and the afternoon sun is warm on my face. I stand still to take it all in, inhaling this delightful reality that once was a mere dream.
A full day’s itinerary had been planned, but I decided to forego it all in lieu of taking care of myself with a cup of tea, a basket of nuts, and some me time under the Tuscan sun, savouring the beauty of Badia.
It was this day spent roaming around Badia a Passignano #Tuscany that I realized, sometimes sore throats can be blessings in disguise, that disappointments can turn into dreams, and life can have fullness without a full schedule.Tweet
It was time for some truly slow travel, and it allowed me to really absorb the essence of the place. Take the opportunity to eat, stay, and dream for at least one day here. You won’t regret it. In your haste to get to know the rest of Tuscany, you don’t want to miss out on the spectacular little town of Badia a Passignano, or on Ghirlandaio. He’s waiting!
If you haven’t had enough pictures, check out my pics on Instagram and connect with me there.