A holiday home in Tuscany summons up images of sangiovese grapes, pasta oozing with fresh tomato sauce covered in vibrant green basil leaves and isolated stone farmhouses among soft rolling hills.
Isolated farmhouses however are not the first choice of today’s second home owners. There is no fun for the home owner or the renter in having to get in the car to go everywhere.
“People often have a romantic idea of living the remote Tuscan idyll but soon realise the advantages of being close to a village with easy access to shops and local restaurants,” says Philip Robinson, owner of Fontelunga Hotel. “Tuscany has plenty of lovely farmhouses in the middle of nowhere but accessibility is key. Being rural yet connected is what works for most owners.”
Robinson and his partner, ex-banker Paolo Kastelec left London seventeen years ago to refurbish and run Fontelunga, their elegant nine-bedroom hotel close to Arezzo and Cortona in Val di Chiana, central Tuscany.
The manor house sits in eight peaceful acres with pool and tennis court and helped by personal service and atmospheric decor has a sparkling TripAdvisor record.
Fontelunga was one of the first members of Design Hotels, a rare meeting of classic and contemporary style in the Tuscan countryside.
The pared-back, stylish interiors are the work of Robinson, a former set designer whose credits include films “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Howards End”. A picture of film stars Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham-Carter affectionately signed to him has pride of place in Fontelunga’s cloakroom.
As well as the hotel, Robinson has renovated several nearby properties and runs two of them as rental villas.
Now after several years in planning, construction is about to start at the couple’s latest project. Giardini di Borgo 69 is a 7-acre site on the outskirts of the thriving village of Pozzo della Chiana offering 12 homes, a restaurant and bar and large swimming pool overlooking an idyllic Tuscan scene of olive groves, avenues of cypress trees and in the distant green hills, the town of Cortona.
The one to three-bedroom cottage-style apartments will be divided between two 300-year old buildings and new construction, featuring traditional Tuscan style loggias, courtyards and hexagonal brickwork.
All homes will have private gardens or roof terraces, parking spaces, fireplaces and storage areas and all will share the oil harvested from the 200 olive trees on site.
Inside Robinson intends to: “create an atmosphere through contemporary style with a Tuscan twist,” something a tour of his hotel and current rental villas show he has fully mastered. Light-flooded, airy rooms will have white washed ceiling beams, terracotta floors and generous dimensions.
Prices at Giardini di Borgo 69, for sale through Savills, range from €275,000 to €680,000 (£234,000-£578,000) for the 764 to 1991 square feet homes, including all kitchens and bathrooms, a rarity for Italian new-builds.
Furniture packages start from €15,000 (£12,700) and annual service charges from €5,000 (£4,200) covering the heated infinity pool, concierge and building insurance. There will be an in-house maintenance and rental management team and owners can sign up for an annual 5 per cent rental guarantee for three years.
The location is pitch perfect. Giardini di Borgo 69 is fifteen minutes from the autostrada, twenty minutes from Lake Trasimeno and forty minutes from Siena, beautiful but pricy Val d’Orcia and Perugia airport. Florence is within one hour and Rome within two.
“All the things that are good in life are good in Italy,” says Robinson enthusiastically about his own adopted homeland. “The food is wonderful, people know how to dress, you can’t get a bad coffee, we drink amazing wines every day, an espresso and a croissant will cost you €2.20 (£1.80) and they still do a proper lunch break sitting down with family and friends. Bureaucracy can be exhausting but the pluses more than make up for that.”