'I inherited an Italian farmhouse and want everyone to enjoy its beauty'

The beautiful farmhouse is set in 50 acres of Tuscan countryside  (Oliver Poole )
The beautiful farmhouse is set in 50 acres of Tuscan countryside (Oliver Poole )

At first I was excited. Then I was terrified. Now I cannot believe my luck. Like one of those befuddled characters caught up in a Hollywood find-yourself comedy, I was that person who, on a dark winter’s day, received the unexpected phone call: a voice at the other end saying I had just inherited a 15th Century farmhouse and 50 acres of rolling Tuscan countryside.

I had no idea it was coming; the journey of how it had ended up with me being a convoluted one of marriages, divorces and death. But as a result I found myself the recipient and sole owner of an Italian property and, I just as quickly realised, all the responsibilities that would come with it.

Because of this I found myself, a week or two later, firmly in the terrified stage amid the curling carpets and strip lighting of Stansted airport waiting to board a Ryanair flight to Florence. I am writing this now because once I arrived I found a place thankfully not terrifying but so perfect that I want everyone to come and experience it too.

Let’s start with the location. Settled halfway between Florence and Siena on the crest of a hillside parked less than mile from the outskirts of the obsessively-Instagrammed village of Castellina-in-Chianti, the house is in the heart of Tuscany’s Renaissance golden triangle. There is not only the big three of Florence, Pisa and Siena (complete with its July and August Palio horse races) but also less-known gems like San Gimingnano and Val d’Orcia all in striking distance.

Il Bacio’s stunning garden (Oliver Poole)
Il Bacio’s stunning garden (Oliver Poole)

Yet it is not the historic splendour of the surrounding cities and towns that makes the location so special. What I realised as I turned off the main road and onto the gravel-covered lanes that lead up and down the surrounding hillsides to my new Italian home was this is a spot blessed with the most precious of gifts – peace and calm.

It’s a cypress-filled agrarian sanctuary: a place not of traffic or the burden of people but of the vineyards and olive groves that top the surrounding landscape. Woods and forests hug the roadside. Driving through it, deer and wild boar emerged from the foliage to peddle their legs in shock away from my approaching car.

Less than a 15-minute drive away in Castellina are world-class restaurants with celebrated chefs. Forty-five minutes away is the beautiful city of Florence. Near the end of my new property’s drive, I would discover, is a vineyard whose wine is treasured internationally and where visitors can have tours to drink direct from its latest bottles.

But, at the moment of my arrival, none of this was a consideration. Rather it was just the overwhelming feeling that I had stepped out of everyday life and into the background of a Fattori painting with all the sense of relief that might bring.

The primary bedroom in Oliver Poole’s Tuscan farmhouse (Oliver Poole)
The primary bedroom in Oliver Poole’s Tuscan farmhouse (Oliver Poole)

The house is called Il Bacio, Italian for The Kiss, which I can’t help but like, and as you turn down its driveway it welcomes you like a stone-clad ship sat at dock. Spread over two floors and holding five sprawling bedrooms with their own bathrooms, it even has its own courtyard and library. The old wooden olive press from its 19th century farmhouse days stands by what is now the dining room. The ancient hearth, dating back to the 15th century, remains as much the centre of the household as it was when all living there had to gather round it for cooking and heat.

The previous owner, and the one who I inherited it from, was my grandfather’s third wife. She was someone known for her sense of taste and culture; the type of London gentlewoman on boards at theatres and ever present at first nights at the Royal Academy. The result was I have had to do nothing other than add suitable electronic mod cons to the place. The décor and furniture were already perfect down to the piles of paperbacks buckling each bedside table.

Sat on the veranda, staring out over the valley below, you feel closed off from the outside world. Worries become about how strong to make a gin and tonic or which book to pick up next

But it is the football-pitch sized garden that I love the most – that and the woods that stretch around it. My grandfather, when he bought the place in the late ‘60s, had no interest to do olives or wine. He was not really the agricultural sort. This has meant that over the last fifty years the land has undergone what would now be called a rewilding. Across its 50 acres is a tableau of woodland, laced by quick-running streams, heaving with wildlife that had been looking for, and found, its own haven.

Sat on the veranda, staring out over the valley below, you feel closed off from the outside world. Worries become about how strong to make a gin and tonic or which book to pick up next. We all know how awful the world can feel at present. But not sat there.

There is a separate property in which a house manager is living to look after you so there will be no stresses. In spring and summer bathe in the sun and enjoy the long sunset-filled evenings. In autumn and winter cosy round the fireplace after having visited the nearby sites that by then are mercifully free of tourists.

Our most recent guests were a troupe of archers from the Midlands competing in a Tuscan tournament. It was the garden that swung it for them. It was long enough that they could set up their targets and practice for their contest.

Cosy nooks in Il Bacio (Il Bacio)
Cosy nooks in Il Bacio (Il Bacio)

So, come and stay. Explore Tuscany if you want to. Simply enjoy the house and all that is there if you don’t. Above all, escape real-life. Relax and let us host you. I know how lucky I am to have got a phone call once that unexpectedly opened this new world to me. I hope reading this will do that for you too. Come and visit what can also be your Tuscan home.

If you wish to stay at Il Bacio email stayilbacio@gmail.com or book at abnb.me

Five places to visit in Tuscany


A city hailed by UNESCO as the “greatest concentration of universally renowned works of art in the world” needs no introduction but as well as the sights enjoy roaming its maze of streets looking for mementos or just to enjoy its famously delicious paninis.

Florence (Shutterstock / Catarina Belova)
Florence (Shutterstock / Catarina Belova)


Tuscany’s romantic Gothic city with its famous bareback horserace, the Palio di Siena, staged in July and August is brimming with historic artistry but is no museum. Its terracotta streets are buzzing with activity, not least due to the many university students filling its bars.

The vineyards of Chianti

Nearly all the great estates offer the opportunity to visit for a tour and tasting, and the most iconic are not only worth visiting for the wine but also for the architecture. Both Brolio and Meleto, for example, are able to boast their own castles.

Siena (Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images)
Siena (Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images)

San Gimingnano

Perhaps Tuscany’s most iconic hilltop town with its 14 medieval towers offering opportunities for unrivalled views. A place where you can wander its alleyways, marvel at is array of medieval frescoes, and then stay for the fine local vernaccia white wine.

Val d’Orcia

Tuscany’s most beautiful and scenic valley offers endless views over the idyllic surroundings and provides the most iconic cypress tree-lined roads we all know from pictures, in a landscape that has barely changed since the 14th and 15th centuries.