As first timers in Italy we wanted to fit in as much as possible and also get a truly authentic Italian experience. After pitching up outside an Italian café in Clapham with our Lonely Planet guide and highlighter at the ready, we caught the attention of a lovely Italian waitress who decided to share Italy’s best-kept secret with us… Elba! Elba is an Island just off the coast of Tuscany where the natives flock to in the summer months to avoid the tourist filled streets of the mainland. One quick Google image search and we knew this was the place for us.
After flying in to Rome we drove along the coast and caught a ferry from Piombino. We were blown away as we approached what looked like an island straight out of a Bond film, with its dense green forests and white sandy beaches. We stayed at Tenuta Delle Ripalte and were overwhelmed by the views and tranquillity. Our room was super cosy with a sea view and a self-catering kitchen. This was put to very good use once we discovered the on sight deli selling the freshest local produce. I’m still dreaming of their Burrata and prosciutto! Days were spent soaking up the rays on the untouched private beaches and exploring all of the hiking trails and vineyards on offer. By night we would venture down to the pine forest on the beach for barbequed prawns and Aperol Spritz
After 5 nights of island life we moved on to Radda in Chianti. The Italian countryside is like nothing I’ve experienced and matched with local Tuscan cheese and wine it was the perfect balance to our beach days in Elba. The local towns are drenched in history and served up some of the best food we have ever eaten. A particular favourite was La Botte di Bacco in Radda where the extensive wine menu is matched to your choice of meat and the homemade pasta is presented to your table by the chef himself. We stayed at the CDH Hotel Radda, which boasted some of the best hotel views in the region. The star gazing platform was a lovely touch and the spa is the perfect antidote to end a day of sightseeing
Two towns nearby that are definitely worth a visit are Sienna and Florence. Both steeped in tales from times passed, it’s a nice way to break up the trip with an overnight stay at each of these locations. We did Air B&B’s but there’s also a fantastic range of boutique hotels on offer. Keep an eye on Voyage Prive if you’re booking ahead. For any gelato lovers like myself Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimigani is well worth a visit. Winner of various Gelato Championships it’s the best you’ll find in the North of Italy and it really does live up to the hype. The town is also postcard perfect with plenty of art galleries and boutiques to loose yourself in. And finally I’ve saved the best for last. For the ultimate fashion fix drop in to Prada’s mother ship discount outlet Space. With show pieces starting from 50 Euros it sent me into a sartorial meltdown. My list of reasons to return to Tuscany are as long as my arm, but with Miu Miu jewel encrusted sandals at Topshop prices, the “Space Outlet” goes straight to the top!