Have you seen the Michelin green guide to Tuscany? The Chianti region warrants a big 4 pages of text. We know we’re jaded, but sometimes we wonder if that isn’t about all it deserves. Yes, the scenery is beautiful. But is it more beautiful than the scenery in the Maremma or around Montalcino or in the Sabina? We don’t think so. Yes, the hilltowns can be charming. But are they more charming than Spello, Tuscania, Asolo, or Anagni, to name just a few? We don’t think so. Yes, Chianti is close to Florence. Yes, we have some wonderful places in Chianti on our list. We’d love to rent you one of them. But is it what you really want? Does it really fit your plans? If it does, no problem. We can put you in a nice house in the heart of Chianti.
Consider the following:
Tuscany is crowded. If you’ve ever tried to find a parking place among the 100 or so tour buses lining the approach roads to San Gimignano, you know what we mean. Many sophisticated travelers now consider Umbria, upper Lazio, the Marche, and the Veneto far more attractive than Tuscany, which really is overrun. Even in terms of intrinsic interest, compare Spoleto, Gubbio, Urbino, or Bergamo any day to Greve, Radda, Castellina, even famous San Gimignano. Yes, we love Siena. But if you want a country experience, we strongly urge you to consider other alternatives as well.
Are you a family with children? “We have 3 children, ages 16, 14, and 12, and we’d like to spend two weeks in Chianti.” To do what, may we ask? To have the kids complaining about how they’re bored to death the entire two weeks? “Oh, we can take them to Florence.” Again, we ask: to do what? Churches? The Uffizi to witness the heat peeling the paint off the canvases? What in the name of God does Florence have to offer a child or teenager? Why not consider staying in a city more appealing to kids? Where they can be on their own. We have a prejudice, of course: Rome. Rome is our absolute first choice for teenagers (and adults, for that matter). Even smaller children can relate to Castel Sant’Angelo, the Forum, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, Nero’s Golden House, and the ice cream in a way they will never be attracted to Botticelli, much less Fra Angelico.
What about the seaside for families? A place in Positano, for example. So many people say to me, “We aren’t going to Italy to sit on a beach. We can do that here.” Oh, really? Where can you go to a beach here that is within an hour of places like Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Herculaneum, Paestum, Sorrento, Ravello, and day after day of wonderful Italian food? What about Venice for a family with kids? Kids love that boat stuff, and so do adults. And Venice, don’t forget, has a beach, the Lido. Families who choose to spend a week in Venice invariably come back smiling. A seaside vacation in Italy doesn’t mean mindless days on a beach. Places along the coast offer an ideal combination of education and relaxation. We think this is a marvelous alternative to Chianti.
“We’d like to rent a villa in the Chianti countryside near Florence and invite all our friends who’ve never been to Italy before.” Oh, really? You mean you’d like to take responsibility for planning out each and every day for your friends? You mean you want to play hotel concierge for a month? When we get this kind of request, we are careful to see if it’s what people really want. If so, fine. But often we’ll say, “For God’s sake get yourself a nice apartment right in Florence.” Or take two places in the same building if your group is large. That way, people can explore on their own. You’re off the hook. Everyone can avoid a car. Your third couple to arrive that week wants you to take them to see David? Give them a bus map and tell them how to get there.
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve rented a house in Chianti to people for whom we knew it wasn’t ideal. We’d love more people to be open to areas where they’d really be happy. If that area turns out, insistently, to be Chianti, fine. But we’d strongly encourage openness to other possibilities.