The building was rescued from ruin by the current owners. Large, open, brick fireplaces, tiled floors and wooden-beamed ceilings have been saved. replica frescoes now adorn the walls and spacious rooms (more than big enough to accommodate the villa’s 16 guests, with a further 10 in the guesthouse) have been furnished with rustic-style furniture and floral-print fabrics, which stop it all feeling too barren. it’s a stylistic triumph. View PDF article Outside, in the immaculately landscaped gardens, a huge travertine swimming pool looks out across undulating Chianti country- side. Thanks to its position at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway, which winds its way down from a hill ridge, the villa is neither too elevated and exposed nor too far down the valley and shaded. The heart of Podere Celli is the pergola and climbing-rose-covered alfresco dining area. At the front of the house, on a paved terrace, it’s where we gathered each morning for breakfast and, at the end of another hard day by the pool, for supper. The most memorable was a traditional Tuscan feast—including stuffed and fried courgette flowers— produced by chef Leonardo. Alternatively, Italian villa specialist Tuscany Now & More can also organise a private chef for the duration of your holiday. Leaving was difficult, but a few of us made the not-so-arduous journey to the nearby village of Barberino Val d’elsa and surrounding vineyards. The promise of wine no doubt helped—most of them happily welcome visitors for tours and tastings. On an unseasonably overcast day, we set out on a guided walk. We followed a section of the Via Francigena—an ancient, pilgrim route that once connected Canterbury to Rome—ending at the medieval hill town of San Gimignano. The town is in exceptional condition—the original 13th-century walls still stand and the 12th-century duomo di San Gimignano, where frescoes by Ghirlandaio illustrate both the old and New Testaments, is well worth a visit. Our guide, Carol, was raised in America, but moved back to her family’s native Italy more than 20 years ago. Her love for the country was infectious and her knowledge invaluable. Halfway through the walk, she surprised us with a pre-arranged picnic, overlooking the vines. Legendary local Andrea had prepared local meats, cheeses and what he declared to be ‘the world’s best ricotta’. it was served in small glasses, drizzled with peppery olive oil. Much like Podere Celli, it surpassed expectations. RP Tuscany Now & More (020–7684 8884; www.tuscanynowandmore.com) offers seven days at Villa Podere Celli from £8,647, based on 16 people sharing, in January/ February 2019 on a self-catering basis (includes a maid). Tuscany Now & More features a range of properties across the region and Italy and can provide chefs, excursions and other services upon request.