I imagine that no one who stays at La Luna di Quarazzana is especially deprived, but everyone who comes here surely leaves a few notches more uplifted. Ilaria Baccherini is blessed with a gift of making her guests feel truly looked after and listened to.
There is nothing elaborate or fancy about the house or rooms, but the immediate impression is of a habitat which is loved and cherished. My room, with a wash of rustic old rose, looked over the chestnut clad hills and a hay barn. Quarazzana is a hamlet at the end of a narrow country road and the only vehicles to be seen are tractors and the very occasional car. I helped myself to a simple breakfast of local yoghurt, fruit, bread, cake and tea or coffee. Lunch was available- slivers of zucchini from the vegetable garden dressed with fragrant olive oil, local cheese and newly baked foccacia with olives, or zucchini flowers, local prosciutto. People were travelling from far afield to eat at Ilaria’s table because they had heard about the quality of her cooking. Dinner was chard and ricotta dumplings, pesto and the best panacotta I’ve tasted.
Ilaria’s grandmother owned a trattoria in Fiesole (Florence) and continues to be her inspiration. Ilaria follows her recipe for focaccia and many other dishes and relies upon her own vegetables, just as her granny did. Although she and Stephano had well-paid jobs in Florence (only 2 hours away) Ilaria dreamed of her own place in the wilder fringes of Tuscany. “I listen to the deer in the night. Here all my talents have come together and I can offer what I have created without charging high prices. I believe completely in slow living! Stay with us a few days and see how different you feel.”
She continues, “It’s my nature. I can understand how you are feeling and what you need and I just find the right thing to do for you. It happens I even manage to make your favourite food without your asking.”
There are just five rooms each with its own bathroom, crisp white sheets on the beds, snowy towels, shady places to read, extensive walks, an icy natural pool for wild dipping in the neighbourhood and a Medici town, Fivizzano, to explore which has the beautiful, welcoming church of Saints Jacopo and Antonio and a Blessed Virgin- Beata Vergine dell’Adorazione said to be a miracle maker.
Stephano lived in the same villa in Florence, San Francesco, as the Anglo-American litterateur Harry Brewster. From his obituary in The Independent:
HARRY BREWSTER was among the last representatives of that expatriate culture which, from the 18th century onwards, so enhanced the profile of Florence as one of the sacred places of European art. Generally English, German or American (the French tended to visit rather than stay), these so-called “romantic exiles”, including everyone from the Brownings, Mrs Trollope and Norman Douglas to Bernard Berenson and Harold Acton, settled mostly in airy Medicean villas among the olive and cypress groves on hills overlooking the city.
I raced through two of Brewster’s books and Stephano kindly put on an al fresco exhibition of paintings his father had done of the Villa San Francesco.
One night when I had mentioned the TV series “Inspector Montalbano” Stephano quickly assembled his brand new Apple home movie gadgetry in the patio and tried to beam in an episode. It didn’t work, but that’s what he and Ilaria are like.
Ilaria took me to the local cheese farm where a picture of Andrea Bocelli looked over the counter. He is a regular customer. I also bought small amounts of chestnut flour, organic spelt grain and stone-ground durum flour from the nearby water mill. Ilaria and I talked about the possibility of her giving cookery demonstrations and exporting some of the local produce and wine to Oxford.
Ilaria hopes to create a simple spa in one of the stone buildings and to encourage artists and musicians to stay and give workshops.
Her address and contact details are:
Via Nardi 9 Quarazzana