Meet the owners – Ca’Valenzano, Tuscany
Something we look for when we’re choosing a Further Afield place to stay, other than making sure it’s lovely, is to ensure that its hosts are the kind of people we’d be happy to stay with. Someone who shares our passion for hospitality, discovery and inclusivity. This time we chat to Alice and Gavin who more than match our standards. Up in the Tuscan hills their family friendly B&B, Ca’Valenzano, is surrounded by woodland, wild swimming spots and the kind of simple tranquility that maybe would do us all good right now…
Tell us what led to your living in Tuscany
We moved to this remote little corner of Tuscany in 2012, before which Gavin had already been living in the country for several years running a market garden. We met and fell in love in 2012 and within six months I had moved out too – exchanging my fledgling wedding planning business (after nine years working in Parliament) in London for a life in rural Italy!
What drew you to opening Ca’Valenzano?
My passion has always been to make people’s lives easier and more lovely, so the idea of running a small, as-self-sufficient-as-possible, B&B was ideal! It’s also great as it combines my skills and passions with those of Gavin who is a wonderful gardener and host. It was a huge change for us both – me coming from the last 10 years in London working at the heart of politics and Gavin from having given up a life in Brighton several years before. We quickly immersed ourselves in our new relationship and threw ourselves into restoring the house and apartments as quickly as possible, learning the Italian language and bureaucracy as we went! We didn’t want a business as such, we wanted a tranquil life, rooted to the land, that would make us happy (and of course make enough money to live) and that we could enjoy sharing with our children (at that point yet to come) and our guests.
Tell us a bit about what guests at Ca’Valenzano can experience
The woods and hills around us are famed for two things: Chianina beef and white truffles. Guests can take a walk and hear the bells of these huge white cattle as they roam free range in the surrounding woods and hills. In the evening we’ll set up a big BBQ with our guests to grill the famous steaks, washed down with local wines and homemade liqueurs. In general we love sharing all the good food of our region and I offer pasta and bread making classes, as well as booking guests on truffle hunting treks and advising the best truffle fairs and restaurants.
It’s not just food though – Renaissance art from Piero della Francesca, Raphael and Michaelangelo can be found in many towns such as Sansepolcro, Arezzo and Urbino – which incidentally also has the best ice cream shops in the area!
Do you have a restaurant nearby you recommend to your guests?
We’ve always felt it necessary to take on the hard and arduous task of testing all the local restaurants for our guests! They are all excellent (including the great bars, restaurants and pizzerias in our own village of Sestino) but one in particular stands out – at the Agriturismo Sasso Simone and Simoncello (a mouthful of a name, after the eponymous flat topped stone outcrops you can see from our terraces), Lorella creates classic dishes that are simply delicious, served in lovely surroundings and friendly smiling staff. It is the restaurant we go back to again and again and always recommend to guests, often sharing a meal with them there on Sunday lunchtimes.
If there was one unmissable experience during a stay with you, what would it be?
The peace here. Spend a couple of hours lounging in a hammock with nothing to hear but the cicadas and the occasional tractor rumbling by. Take the dogs for a walk up the ‘main’ road and encounter maybe one or two cars. Sip a coffee outside the Caffe della Piazza and watch the world go by. See the sun rise and set over the hills….guests can’t help but feel a sense of peace here.
What’s the best thing about running your business?
Definitely the people we get to meet! I always knew it’d be fun to meet lots of new people, but the feeling that has grown with our business that this is not actually a business, but our life that we are so lucky to be able to share with our guests who are such a varied bunch. It’s brings a huge sense of satisfaction to see people settling in immediately to feeling relaxed and at home here, and many guests come back again and again and have become great friends – in fact I now also work as a virtual admin assistant to our very first guest!