Life is what you make of it...People, Places and Things. If you have a passion for food, olive oil or truffles, cooking, rustic old world charm, panoramic landscapes, and picturesque sunsets...then, Villa Campestri should not be missed.
My stay here was part of my first trip to Italy and by far the most memorable part of my trip. Read all of the reviews and you will have many reasons to visit and stay at Villa Campestri (VC). The reviews are spot on...the physical beauty of the Tuscan countryside, old world charm of the Villa's interior and exterior, warm and gracious staff. We knew our time was limited and would decide on Truffle Hunting or a Cooking Classes later but for sure wanted the Olive Oil Tasting Class.
As I wrote, the reviews are spot on which is the reason we booked VC; the location, the staff, the food and a very high rating by TA! We knew the rooms were sans AC. Didn't remember the walk down to the pool as much as how refreshing it was, what a breathtaking view, especially at sunset, and watching the swallows 'swoop' down for a drink.
Our stay at VC was excellent on it's own but it exceed our expectations because of Gemma Pasquali, daughter of Paolo Pasquali, the owner of VC and creator of the Oleoteca and OliveToLive. Gemma's passion and knowledge of the Olive Oil Industry is impressive and infectious. The family is mentioned in the book Extra Virginity and is very well respected in the industry. Accommodating our party of four at an early time in the morning for the Olive Oil Tasting (all other time slots were sold out! same for the Cooking Classes and Truffle hunting so book them early!) we strolled through the Olive fields with Gemma learning more about olive oil than one thought there was to know! The depth of knowledge was remarkable, the information thought provoking but her passion and commitment are genuine and heartfelt. It is apparent in every aspect of VC.
Standing under a tree, learning about the color, shape and taste of the olive leaves, Gemma introduced us to Luigi, the Head Chef, as he walked by us in the field, dressed in his white chef's jacket, hunting for fresh herbs and berries for today's lunch and dinner. Luigi's no different than Gemma when it comes to passion about their craft and sharing it with others. Honestly I couldn't tell you what was warmer...the July heat, or Gemma, Luigi and the staff at VC.
We continue on, down into the Oleoteca where Gemma educates us about the history of Olive Oil trade, the current state of affairs and teaches us the technique of strippaggio, how to taste an Olive Oil and what true Extra Virgin Olive Oil means and taste like. (No more store bought EVO for this family!)Seriously, the way I think of not just olive oil but nutrition on the whole, it has changed my perspective and healthier eating habits. The time we spent with Gemma was more than a class, it was time where strangers bonded, exchanged experiences, had an impact on each other and developed a friendship.
Our dinner each night was perfectly prepared. The salads, beef, pasta, all made with the freshest ingredients and paired well with wines but no matter what we ate or ordered we could not get enough of the Strawberries and (fresh, Luigi, hand picked) Sage Sauce. Writing this is making me salivate reliving the taste! Where else do you meet the Chef picking the herbs for your meal and get a lesson on why it is being served?
When it came time to depart and head further south, we wished we would have made more time to stay at VC. During our stay we shared our itinerary with Gemma. She went above and beyond the call of duty for us knowing when we were departing and where we were headed, she provided us with three or four stops along the way. We decided on the Sulfur Springs and the Wine Estate of Frascole. Frascole was a true gem and we never would have come across this on our own! A small producer in Tuscany, home to the # 1 rated wine in Italy! The sulfur springs rejuvenated us for the continuation south towards Amalfi, again without Gemma and her suggestion, no spa!
On a side note, we fell in love with one of Gemma's dogs. A native breed to Italy of course, the Laggotto Romagnolo, a rescue dog, known historically as a Truffle Hunter. Gemma's three dog's were the first to greet me as I opened the door to my car, and stepped foot on the VC grounds. It so happens my girlfriend and I have been in the market for a dog and now are looking for a Lagotto.
There is a difference between staying in a great place and a great place to stay. VC is a great place to stay. All of it made possible because of the owners top down approach. This is the difference. Gemma could have easily went on with her day. Instead she personally took the time to get the name, address, directions, description of the attraction, name of the proprietor or contact. Wrote it down by hand and then typed it on her computer, translated it into English and printed up separate copies for each couple and handed it to us for inspection before we left. Each stop only enhanced our vacation and memory of Tuscany and Florence and is forever part of our lives and traveling experiences.
I opened the review saying Life is what you make of it...People, Places and Things. The People, Places and Things experienced while at VC were above and beyond our expectation. This stay was a combination of the right place, at the right time, traveling with the right people. People who have a passion for life, passion for their craft and a genuine desire to share their experience with you. We are sure to visit again, order Olive Oil at harvest, and name our Lagotto, Gemma or Luigi! That is the impact staying at Villa Campestri had on us. Thank you Trip Advisor! It is easy to see why Villa Campestri, again and again are a TA award winner for 2013! Prego Gemma! Prego! Thank you for your time and memories, Adam, Liz, Angel and Kellie