The cool fresh air, the sunflowers in various stages of yellow and the Tuscan hills. Yes. This is a promise because I am here in the garden of Fattoria I Ricci with its comfy lounge chairs and the occasional ripple of the pool water and the silence of nature that only being truly in the middle of the countryside can bring...cicadas, birds, the passing buzzzzz of a bee making its way home.
As I entered into the driveway and was greeted by Caterina, one of the owners, we agreed to start our talk outside. And though my attention was immediately drawn to the panoramic terrace that I recognized from the photos she very gently directed me towards the cooler area near the pool. As I looked back to thank her I was hit by the full frontal of the magnificent villa that she calls home; the very same villa that literally has your back while lazing poolside.
The landscape is your constant companion here at Fattoria i Ricci, even from the pool seperated from the "poggio di la'" (the hill over there....) by the shade trees and a protective hedge, you can see slivers of the marvelous scenery. The sunflowers, the bell tower of the nearby church and the gental slope of the very same hills that lend themselves to herding cows and the network of dairies which give this area the nickname via del latte or the “milky way.”
A Review of Fattoria I Ricci
We loved: the well maintained garden and outdoor areas
Ideal for: perfect for couples, small families and even a destination wedding/event near Florence
The Scenery is a Distraction
A distraction of the best kind when you are in Tuscany. So having said this, I tried to distract myself from the enticing waters of the pool as I waited for Caterina to give a final farewell to her weekly guests. Looking around the garden, the villa and its pristine gardens and lawn I was lulled into a delicious Tuscan daydream with subtle splashes of color on the pale gray stone that is abundant in this part of Tuscany. In this setting, the wooden cottage tucked in under a few huge trees, struck me as rather odd. Basically because it is rather peculiar to find a wooden structure of this type in Tuscany.
A Childhood Memory
I curiously asked about its position so close to the main villa and was even more surprised to discover that this was one of the rentals at Fattoria i Ricci. Caterina, the daughter of the owner and your hostess during your holidays, explained that this romantic little dollhouse for 2 or 3 persons, was once probably a makeshift shelter for the staff at the villa after the area was hit by an earthquake in 1919. Caterina fondly remembers turning it into her life size dollhouse during her childhood and says that it is now probably the most requested rental on the property.
I took note of the air conditioning, saying it was a wise move, but Caterina explained "actually it is more for the heat in the winter than cool in the summer because this here is protected by large trees & the cottage has a tendency to remain cool and refreshing all summer long with very little extra help." As of March 2016, all the apartments have individual air conditioning, just another plus for your comfort while at Fattoria i Ricci.
Before entering into the main farmhouse where the other three rental apartments were positioned we stopped and admired the view from both of the panoramic terraces. The first terrace you see has the farmhouse to its back and is organized with comfy lawn furniture and an inviting BBQ which will have your mouth watering thinking about the Tuscan delights that it will provide at one of the home made meals.
Access to the second area of absolute relax, is down a small path to the stables underneath where a covered patio was constructed using the old stalls as the base. The bright red doors and the wicker furniture will beckon you to grab a good book -your camera or maybe just a glass of something refreshing and tasty while contemplating the soft hills and fields.
Romance is in the Air
The first stop in the farmhouse had me humming with excitement, it was an authentic oil press with the stone wheels and the tiled containers. Even more exciting was when Caterina explained that this is where her grandparents met...I had assumed that one was the owner of the villa and the other worked the land, a romance between the classes - but actually her grandparents both worked the land around the villa and used the press for their harvest and it was here that they met and fell in love.
The bachelor owner of the villa became fast friends with their little daughter who would visit him frequently for tea parties - a special relationship grew between the two families and when Caterina's grandfather returned from the city and the bachelor owner was ready to move to a bigger and more pestigious home ... it just seemed like the right thing to do, buy the house where all three had many memories.
This room has been transformed into a spa complete with Jacuzzi hydrotherapy whirlpool, massage area, Finnish Sauna, Turkish bath with color therapy, sensorial shower with aromatherapy, and a delectable corner for a refreshing herbal tea. The perfect romantic idea: reserve this space just for you and enjoy some delicious moments of relaxation. It is possible to request a massage or other special treatments. Or you can plan a weekend for just the girls or an afternoon with just the guys: a private party at the spa for up to 10 or 12 persons. I suggest you combine it with a couple of nights in one of the apartments - or a delicious, home cooked meal at the on-site restaurant. (Reservations required)
In any case, it is a wonderful romantic fairytale setting highlight the hand carved stone mill and typical Tuscan traditions.
Fattoria I Ricci in a Glance:
Type: self catering apartments, rooms & 1 independent villa
Location: Vicchio, 5 km (10 min by car)
Distance: Florence (70 min) & Barberino di Mugello (50 min)
Transport: a car is necessary
Type of board: meals upon request
It was a Dream that She Grew Into
Caterina explained that, this was her home so she never really thought of it as a place where others would come and stay - in fact, she was interested in medicine and studied to be a pharmacists. Why the dramatic change in career? She wanted to help people, be with close to them and in the end she said it just didn't feel like being cooped up in an office all day was helping her do just that. I asked her if she was satisfied with the change,
”Well, my father definitely wasn't happy about the career change but yes I love it. Sometimes I just can’t seem to turn off the ideas - I feel like I am always inventing something new for the garden, the bedrooms, the dinner menu or the breakfast buffet" … and she offered a sweet smile..."and then my husband will stop me and tell me to calm down!”
Running something like this with the passsion that she has, can very easily eat up your day and energy. That’s why they like to keep Fattoria i Ricci small and informal.
Authentic Tuscan Hospitality
When Caterina took over the agriturismo that her parents had started, she explained, there was no need to go looking for furniture or restructure anything. Her mother had started the restoration of the farmhouse. And with the tour I took of all the apartments, the luminous rooms, their proportions, the careful organization of space in the bedrooms, living room and kitchens: it felt perfect.
Interesting was the fact that the main villa had everything they needed to decorate the house. "That’s the way they used to sell the houses: with everything included...and some of the furniture is particularly precious like the windowed hutch as you walk into the dining area." I remembered noticing the colorful glass inlay and Caterina filled me in on the details of its particular production. Except for the piano and the dining room tables made from wood they recupped from the restructuring of the house - almost all the furniture came from the treasure trove of an attic in the villa.
Highlights of my Visit:
Highlight: the panoramic terraces are many, comfortable and inviting for a quiet moment with just you and Tuscany
Surprise:the twisty road to Fattoria I Ricci is lined with fields of sunflowers in various stages of yellow
Favorite: the closeup view of an authentic olive oil press and the romantic role it played Caterina’s family
I asked her what was one of the first things she did when she came into to take over the agritursmo from her parents- “No. White. Walls.” The first thing she did was add color - and lots of it. Nothing too flashy, just the simple Tusan pastels that go perfect with everything.
Aand in her spare time (hmmm - and there is not too much of that between her spritely daughter, husband, who lends a hand when he can and the dinners which she offers) she likes to play with the decor: adding stencils, searching out the right little accents in rugs, vases, plates and more.
A Taste of Mugello
The extra special touch that she added was offering true Tuscan meals cooked with local ingredients. For those who prefer to experiment with the season fresh vegetables, cheese, pastas and more they have a fully equipped kitchen in their apartment. But for those days where you want to be a bit spoiled with a brilliant sunset, the perfume of homemade pasta and sauces and maybe a some of the best wine in the area - then reserve you place at dinner and Caterina and her kitchen staff will WOW you with their recipes at Fattoria i Ricci.
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