It would be hard to visit Tuscany and not stumble upon a Medici family heirloom along the way, but few are lucky enough to settle temporarily in one of the dynasty’s former estates.
Tenuta di Artimino offers visitors this opportunity. Perched on a hill overlooking the nearby village of Artimino, Villa La Ferdinanda is set in the middle of the estate’s grounds with views of the olive groves and vineyards that characterize the Tuscan landscape. The former hunting lodge was built as a country getaway away from the hustle and bustle of Florence – just 20km away – for Ferdinando I de Medici, in 1596.
A hotel has existed in the former stable and servants’ quarters of the Villa for some time, but earlier this year it became part of the growing Meliá Collections group – a group that champions “an independent spirit and an unmistakable sense of place”. It would be hard to question this philosophy when you arrive at Tenuta di Artimino.
Why stay here?
A short drive from Florence brings guests to the tree-lined driveway of Villa La Ferdinanda. Located in a Unesco World Heritage Site, the hotel is tucked away to the side and directly opposite the former hunting lodge, but behind typical Italian gardens, to provide privacy and stunning views for guests .
If the scene wasn’t quite set at this point, the colonnaded walkways lining the periphery of the two-story hotel and the impressive arched doorways that adorn the entrance to each room will confirm that Tenuta di Artimino is a place quite remarkable. The building’s original features take center stage, with wood-beamed ceilings and huge stone fireplaces masterfully complemented by comfortable furnishings, beds worthy of Tuscan nobility and spacious, modern bathrooms. .
The hotel’s remoteness may not inspire digital nomads, but some will be very grateful. With little birdsong to disturb your day, guests can truly relax and disconnect from modern life. Many members of the hotel team have also worked there for several years, which gives the whole business a very welcoming atmosphere.
Eat and drink
Many non-natives are quite confident in their knowledge of Italian cuisine — but guests are likely to learn something new under the guidance of executive chef Michela Bottasso. Little did I know, for example, that onion soup was actually not a French creation and was in fact brought to France by Catherine de’ Medici in the 16th century. The same goes for the classic culinary combination of duck and orange, a dish that originated in the court of Florence before finding new followers in the France of King Henry II.
A French guest may choose to dispute the Italian roots of these particular dishes, but after several plates of Bottasso’s food, it would be ill-advised to upset this chef. Using local ingredients, Biagio Pignatta’s kitchen serves recipes inspired by tradition. Simplicity here doesn’t mean an uninspiring or unambitious menu – rather it lets the recipes speak for themselves with boldness.
Guests can opt for the typical primi, secondi and dolci options at the hotel restaurant, but I would recommend opting for the “gourmet experience” – three courses and wine pairings followed by a dessert wine and almond biscuits, a local speciality.
What to do
If you can, be sure to book a guided tour of the former Medici residence and jewel of the Tenuta di Artimino, Villa La Ferdinanda itself. It is full of unexpected splendours, including an original rotisserie appliance installed in the kitchen by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. As a private residence, viewings should be arranged well in advance — or visitors can seek out open houses. The Villa can also be booked for private events and weddings.
The hotel’s pool is a secluded spot for soaking up the Tuscan sun in the warmer months — though staff have been known to open it on occasion in winter, too, at the behest of slightly braver swimmers. For those wishing to explore the vineyard, there are options to book a tour of the estate’s cellar, arrange a tasting with a sommelier, or enjoy a picnic in the vineyards.
Anyone looking to take their culinary rehabilitation to the next level can also book a cooking class at the hotel to hone the more technical skills involved in preparing the country’s most beloved staples. Alternatively, the village of Artimino is a short walk from the estate and has several small restaurants, a gelato stop, and an Etruscan museum for those looking to delve even deeper into the area’s history.
The next chapter
As this hotel’s global network grows through its Meliá membership, so does its local footprint. In the local village, Il Borgo will soon open – a new resort with dozens of additional rooms and suites for guests, including a swimming pool, outdoor terraces and more luxurious accommodation enjoyed by the nearest neighbors of the town. Villa La Ferdinanda.
Rooms start from £250 a night; melia.com