Friday, 1 July 2011

A Little Piece of Tuscan Paradise (Certaldo, Italy)

On the outskirts of the town of Certaldo (a 45min train trip outside of Florence) lies Fattoria Bassetto, my home for three nights. Once a Benedictine monastery, it is now owned by a Contessa and has been converted into a guesthouse and hostel.


The villa at Fattoria Bassetto

Amazingly, the hostel has no locks (except on the bathroom door) and valuables are left on one’s bed or charging up on an unattended power point, something that in any other hostel would be the height of foolishness. Natalie, one of our hosts, advised that there has not been a single issue of theft in the time that the Bassetto has been open.

In my four days at Bassetto, I knew every single guest by name and had probably shared a drink or meal with them as well. The out-of-the-way location and relaxed atmosphere is highly conducive to making new friends. Usually in a hostel, you may make friends with a couple of people sharing a room, but never the entire guest contingent.

I decided to use Bassetto as my base whilst visiting the area with plans to visit Siena, Florence and San Gimignano. However, as I and my fellow guests quickly discovered, day trip plans were postponed and postponed and eventually discarded in favour of lazy days in the hammocks, slow walks into Certaldo for gelato, visits to the local market to buy the provisions for a shared barbeque or dinner in the evening, or hours in the pool playing newly invented ball games.

Evenings were spent with the fellow guests sitting in the candlelight drinking bottles of wine, enjoying a shared meal, talking, laughing and even singing (accompanied by the guitar and vocal stylings of fellow guest Rachel). During my stay, the guests were Australian, Canadian, British, American and one Chilean. Throughout our time together, we swapped slang and local lingo; I now know what it means when a male “meerkats” in Chile and that “scooch” has an entirely different definition in the UK.

Part of the group after our barbeque

On one day, I took a walk around Certaldo and Certaldo Alto, an old castle that overlooks the town. The hills around Certaldo are lined with vineyards and olive groves and the driveway leading up to Bassetto is filled with fireflies in the evening and their dazzling display of twinkling lights.

The view from Certaldo Alto at sunset

It was such a pleasure to get away from the crowds and well-worn tourist path for a few days. There are no “tourist restaurants”, the menus are in Italian, and the prices in the stores are not inflated. For a few days, we all felt that we were living the Tuscan lifestyle and were completely relaxed. No alarm clocks were set, no museum opening times to meet. The charm of Bassetto is that it is off the beaten path and not too well known. However, with the boom in websites such as www.hostelworld.com that list Bassetto with a sky-high 94% approval rating, it won’t be long before the best keep secret in Tuscany gets out.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you found heaven! Loving your blog, can't wait to hear where you end up next x

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