These cosy Tuscany cottages with a pool will have you feeling at home from the moment you walk up their garden paths and through their front doors. And leave you rested at the end of your holiday in a way you probably haven't felt in years.
Surrounded by nature. Literally. They sit on a hill top inside the forest of a protected nature reserve that reaches all the way down to the sea. But isolated they are not. For some of Maremma's most magnificent places to visit are within a stone's throw away. Including stunning beaches.
Wake up each morning to nothing less than an awesome view. And a silence that will take some getting used to. Take a walk in the cool woods. Fire-up the coals for a barbecue. Swim in a divine pool. And sit on your terrace at night listening to owls and the grunting play of wild boar. Dampen down the candles and watch them come closer.
Margherita and Sergio's cottages near the coast in Maremma are a piece of heaven away from the mainstream. Pockets of pure peace in an unforgettable setting.
There are eight of them. One old one with a terrace covered in white wisteria. And seven new, totally ecologically friendly, ones. Each with everything you could want for a superb holiday.
The old stone-built cottage sits along the edge of Margherita's farmhouse garden. When she and Sergio brought the farm years ago from a "contadina" (farmer), he was using the cottage to house his animals downstairs, with hay stored in it's loft.
The deeds of the property dated it's construction to between the years 1200 and 1300. But whether it was originally built as a stables is now doubtful. Because of other finds and some medieval history. Don't you just love places that hold mysteries!
When you look out from the cottage's terrace you can see in the grounds below the farmhouse the remains of two stone walls. Walls that were once those of an ancient convent or monastery.
A local historian visited the cottage when Margherita and Sergio were restoring it. He told them that the shape of it's structure strongly suggests that it was built as a chapel or church. To serve the monastery a few feet away.
And then there is the fact that the lane that you will drive along to reach the farmhouse and its cottages was once the main and only road between the nearby mining hill town of Gavorrano, and that of even higher up in the hills, Tirli.
In medieval times, the village and the main road below weren't there. The entire land was underwater. And the road's name - which it has kept - is "Strada delle Croce". The road of the cross.
Pretty as a picture. The cottage in spring, with its pergola covered in white wisteria blooms.
And its terrace with a view.
Meet Silvestro, Margherita's black and white cat. He is a bit timid, and follows her everywhere. But you can have a cuddle if you are patient!
And Margherita and Sergio's horse, Nina. Who, not to be left out, often takes to popping her head through their kitchen door to find out what's cooking!
The living room opens onto the wisteria covered terrace with a view. And comes with a real log-burning fireplace and satellite television.
The kitchen has a large fridge-freezer, microwave, electric oven and hob, and a dishwasher. You'll find a washing machine around the corner, in an alcove adjacent to the downstairs cloakroom.
The double bedroom.
The twin bedroom.
The new roof keeps the cottage snug and warm without the heating on. Even on windy April days, like the one during which I took these photographs. And in the summer the air-conditioning will keep you nice and cool.
The cottage bathroom.
Through the double kitchen doors, the second terrace with a view.
And Silvestro on your steps.
On the hill above their farmhouse Margherita and Sergio have built seven new cottages. In two villas each divided into two: with one cottage on the ground floor, and one on the top floor.
And a larger villa divided into two cottages on the ground floor, and one cottage that stretches the entire top floor. With a dream of a terrace with a view that does the same.
Immersed in green. Built green. Heated green.
All of the cottages are completely ecologically friendly. Built out of wood and decorated with ecological materials. Including natural paints.
With terracotta floors, wooden beamed ceilings, and thick, solid wooden doors throughout.
Your hot water is heated by solar panels and your electricity comes from photo-voltaic panels.
And if at this point you are staring to wonder if you will find a chemical toilets in your bathrooms, don't worry, you won't! The bathrooms are modern and stylish and come with baths for those relaxing soaks for you with candles and a glass of wine. And for kids splash and bubbles time before bed. As well as good sized showers.
The kitchens all have electric ovens and hobs, a microwave, fridge, dishwasher and washing machine.
And all but one of these Tuscany cottages has a "caminetto": a log fireplace. The cut wood that you need you'll find in a basket alongside.
For those balmy summer days when cooking and eating outdoors is the most natural thing to do, you'll find a barbecue on your terrace and all the equipment you need in the kitchen.
The local butcher is only a hop and a skip away in the village at the bottom of the hill. And if it is a traditional Florentine steak that you fancy grilling over the coals, then Margherita can tell you which butcher to go to.
And where to find the local cheese-maker - renowned in Maremma for their zero cholesterol cheese.
And the best restaurants.
Described by her guests as, "the kind presence in the back", her wonderful hospitality will have you eating, drinking, and discovering all sorts of terrific things here in her Maremma. But you will need to ask her if you would like some suggestions. As she won't intrude on you in your home from home.
Just pop down to the farm door. Or catch her in the morning when she is skimming out the flowers that have fallen into the pool...
Each cottage is decorated in a different colour scheme. Throughout you will find nothing but quality fittings and attention to detail that make these cottages feel like home from home.
With plenty of space.
And lovely Tuscan kitchens.
The view of one of the cottages. The pale yellow villa in the background is Margherita and Sergio's farmhouse. Which they have restored and painted in it's original colours. The animal living quarters are now their dining and living rooms!
The second villa.
The villa cottages on top of the hill.
The garden path to one of them with it'swrought-iron seat waiting for new spring cushions. (Trust me, Margherita wouldn't leave you sitting on metal!)
The covered terrace next to the kitchen. Perfect for alfresco meals on scorching summer days in Tuscany.
The living room of the (one) apartment without a fireplace.
The kitchen table, next to the patio doors that open onto a covered terrace with a barbecue to write home about!
It might be the only cottage without a fireplace - which you won't want in the summer anyway - but it does have this barbecue.
And this view.
All of the cottages are wonderful. But the pièce de résistance for me is the cottage on top. The one that spans the width of the whole villa.
With this garden path.
And this terrace. It's all yours! With both the living room and a double bedroom opening onto it.
With this view. That just keeps going on and on to the right, but my camera lens couldn't capture it all in one shot!
Margherita looking at where the House Martins have just started to nest: she loves them, but doesn't want them under these eaves!
Looking through from the terrace to the cottage's front door.
One of the bathrooms.
The great thing about these Tuscany cottages is that they are available throughout the year. For summer vacations, long weekend breaks in spring, or Christmas celebrations with friends.
The cottage's don't just have any pool. But a large infinity one. With a magnificent view. And it too is green.
All 5 metres by 18 metres and 1.40 metres deep. Instead of chlorine, the pool is kept clean through the use of salt.
To reach it of a morning for a before breakfast dip. Or to cool off in the afternoon sun. The garden paths take you past olive trees and lavender. :)
There are terraces at both ends: one of which is as big as a dance floor! With a view.
The turning off the main road to take you up the hill to Margherita and Sergio's looks like a private driveway to a winery. Flanked by two enormous spiky succulent plants, like sentries on duty, and large signs for a residential complex.
To reach the cottages you must pass those and continue up the hill. Up until you reach a tiny cluster of old houses. At this point will feel as though you are driving through their property. But you aren't! So continue along the lane between them.
The hamlet is in fact an "antico podere" - an old farm estate - that has since been divided into individual dwellings.
As you leave the hamlet the lane changes from a tarmac one to gravel. And you now have a 750 metre drive up and up hill. Then down. A short flat stretch. And up again. And at the summit, on your right, you will see Poggio La Croce.
On the top of the next wooded hill you will find the pretty town of Scarlino and its medieval castle, the Rocca Pisana. There's a summer bar in the grounds and you might even find me there as it is one of my favourite places to sit, stare and write this guide.
Just a few kilometres further and you will be on the sands of Puntone di Scarlino beach. Take a short drive and then a trek through Mediterranean macchia - with tiny wild cyclamens and wild boar rootings from the night before along your path - and you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sights in Tuscany. The very special cove of Cala Violina.
Take a 20 minute drive from your cottage and you can be in one of Maremma's most magnificent piazza's in the historic heart of stunning medieval and Renaissance Massa Marittima. With a tower to climb, and street art from the 13th century that will have you looking twice and thrice to be sure you have seen what your eyes told you you have!
Twenty minutes more and you will be walking on boiling hot multi-coloured rocks atop a magma intrusion only 5 to 10 kilometres beneath your feet!
Take a walk in the woods and find a hidden tower. Thought to be a fortified Knight's Templar church and the only thing that remains of a missing middle ages village.
There's so much more to see and do within a stone's throw of Margherita and Sergio's cottages.
But you could just sit still. Away from the little traffic there is in Maremma. Immersed in nature.
The tranquility here is nothing short of immense. It will take you a few days to get used to the silence.
Broken only during the day by birdsong. And at night by the sounds of wild boar digging-up food or taking a bath in the woods. Watch them from your terrace.
Sleep peacefully and profoundly.
And in the morning, wake-up to that view. Have a swim in the beautiful pool. And go for a walk in the forest.
Whatever you decide to do with your time in your home away from home, it will be an unforgettable vacation. One you will want to repeat.
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