The big trip

Tenuta di Artimino review: a Tuscan retreat fit for a Medici

Situated on an Italian estate, this Meliá Collection Hotel has a unique history

It’d be hard to visit Tuscany and not bump into some legacy of the Medici family along the way, but few are lucky enough to take up temporary residency in one of the dynasty’s former properties.

Tenuta di Artimino offers visitors just that opportunity. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the nearby Artimino village, Villa La Ferdinanda is situated in the middle of the estate’s grounds with views over the olive groves and vineyards that characterise the Tuscan landscape. The former hunting lodge was built as a countryside getaway from the 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 Meliá Collections’ rapidly expanding group – one which champions “an independent spirit and unmistakable sense of place”. It would be hard to question that ethos when one arrives at Tenuta di Artimino. 

Why stay here?

A short drive from Florence brings guests to Villa La Ferdinanda’s tree-lined driveway. Situated within a Unesco World Heritage site, the hotel is tucked to the side and just in front of the former hunting lodge, but behind typical Italian gardens, to provide privacy and unspoilt views for guests. 

A suite at Il Borgo

A suite at Il Borgo

Tenuta di Artimino

If the scene wasn’t quite set by this point, the colonnade walkways lining the periphery of the two-floor hotel and impressive arched doorways that grace the entrance to each room will confirm that Tenuta di Artimino is somewhere quite remarkable. The building’s original features take centre stage, with wooden-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 for that. With little but birdsong to disturb one’s day, guests can truly unwind and unplug from modern life. Many of the team at the hotel have also worked there for a number of years, giving the entire enterprise a very welcoming atmosphere. 

Eating and drinking 

Many non-natives are pretty 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 instance, that onion soup was in fact not a creation of the French, and that it was, in fact, transported to France by Catherine de Medici in the 16th-century. So too was the classic culinary combination of duck and orange, a dish originating in the Florence court before it found new fans in King Henry II’s France.

Duck with orange is dished up at Biagio Pignatta

Duck with orange is dished up at Biagio Pignatta

Tenuta di Artimino

A French guest may choose to contest the Italian roots of those particular dishes, but after several plates of Bottasso’s food, they would be ill-advised to upset this chef. Using locally-sourced ingredients, Biagio Pignatta’s kitchen serves recipes inspired by tradition. Here, simplicity does not correlate to an unexciting or unambitious menu – it instead lets the recipes speak boldly for themselves. 

Guests can go for the typical options of primi, secondi and dolci at the hotel restaurant, but I’d recommend opting for the “Gourmet Experience” – three courses and wine pairings followed by dessert wine and almond biscuits, a local delicacy.

What to do 

If you can, be sure to book on to a guided tour of the former Medici residence and jewel of Tenuta di Artimino, Villa La Ferdinanda itself. It’s filled with unexpected splendours – including an original rotisserie device installed in the kitchen by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. As a private residence, tours need to be organised well in advance – or visitors can look out for open days. The Villa can also be booked for private events and weddings. 

Artimino village

Artimino village

Tenuta di Artimino

The hotel pool is a secluded spot to enjoy the Tuscan sunshine in the warmer months – although the staff have been known to open it on occasion in winter too, at the request of slightly braver swimmers. For those looking to explore the vineyard, there are options to book a visit to the estate’s winery, arrange a tasting with a sommelier or enjoy a picnic among the vines. 

Anyone looking to take their culinary re-education to the next level can also book a cooking course at the hotel to finesse the more technical skills involved in preparing the nation’s best-loved staples. Otherwise, Artimino village is a short walk from the estate and has several small eateries, a gelato stop, and an Etruscan museum for those looking to dive even further into the region’s history. 

The next chapter

As this hotel’s global network grows through its Meliá membership, so too does its local footprint. In the local village, Il Borgo will open soon – a new complex with dozens more rooms and suites for guests to stay, including a pool, outdoor terraces and more of the luxurious accommodation that Villa La Ferdinanda’s closest neighbours enjoy. 

Rooms start from £250 a night; melia.com

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