Under The Tuscan Sun ~ Where To Stay On Your Vacation In Tuscany

Thinking about spending some time under the Tuscan sun?

sunset at Podere Cunina in Tuscany

Every year I like to spend a few weeks in Italy.

People always ask me where to stay in Tuscany, especially if they are not seeking out an overly homogenized hotel experience.


Podere Cunina standing watch over the Crete Senesi

Personally I love to rent an apartment, rent a car and drive around Tuscany, finding endless spectacular towns and villages that aren’t in the guide books.

Podere Cunina, Buonconvento, Tuscany

I like to be super close to Florence, and not too far from Rome. In a country with such a fantastic rail system, I like to be close enough to a train station that it’s easy to make a last minute day trip to Venice, or maybe Pompeii – wherever feels like fun that day. 

I like to relax in the piazza, drink cappuccino and watch the world go by. Shop at local markets for fresh produce,all grown inside a 10 mile radius and picked to be sold today, with flavor that just explodes in your mouth. (Unlike the flavorless factory farmed produce here in the US)
There’s nothing quite like having a local vendor choose items for you, and tell you how to prepare them the way generations of their families have been doing for centuries, and then going home to your gorgeous Tuscan apartment, throwing it together and enjoying it, truly enjoying it with a local Sangiovese, or maybe a Brunello, living the luxe life.

I love filling my Italian apartment with freshly picked wildflowers and sprigs of fresh rosemary, the combined olfactory delight of which tells my brain I’m really, truly here. 

My dear friend Silvana is living the life I dream of.
Together with her husband Piergiorgio she bought an old, run down farmhouse on a little hill overlooking the spectacular Crete Senesi. They rebuilt, refurbished and restored it using traditional materials, creating a home that at the same time is visually mesmerizing, maintains historical truth but is equipped with all the modern conveniences. Its called Podere Cunina.

Beautiful Podere Cunina in Buonconvento Tuscany

The stonework, the iron work, the colors are achingly beautiful.

Part of the restoration project involved creating 7 apartments to rent to vacationers.

One of the apartments at Podere Cunina, Tuscany

Apartment at Podere Cunina, Tuscany

Apartment at Podere Cunina, outside Buonconvento Tuscany

Apartment at Podere Cunina

 There are 2 two bedroom apartments and 5 one bedroom apartments, each of which is just gorgeous.

Apartment at Podere Cunina, Tuscany

Podere Cunina is located 3 kms outside of Buonconvento, near Siena. An easy drive from either Rome or Florence it places you in the ideal location from which to drive around Tuscany and really experience the majesty of this amazing part of the world.

After a long day of enjoying yourself it is just lovely to sit out on the patio area and have a prosecco as you watch the sun set over neighboring Montalcino(one of my favorite towns in all of Italy).

 Wine lovers adore the region, as it is home to the Brunello, one of my all time favorite reds.

Prosecco time at Podere Cunina as the Tuscan Sun sets

Silvana is the ultimate host. She always has loads of ideas of great places to go see and experience. She always tells me about fabulous villages that the tour buses (thankfully) don’t know about, is endlessly knowledgeable about where the best local markets are and when, which restaurants and cafe’s you mustn’t miss, and has the most wonderful stories about this spectacular slice of the world.

Lovers of Frances Mayes’ Under The Tuscan Sun, and her subsequent tomes about her life in Tuscany will love driving to Cortona, which is not too far away, and spending the day walking through every moment in her delicious Tuscan world. (I think at this point I probably know her books by heart)

Summer is not the only time to enjoy Tuscany. Spring and autumn are beautiful, and this past year I was able to enjoy some pre-Christmas magic in Tuscany too.

If staying on a glamorous little farm is a bit to rural for you, Silvana also rents out an apartment in beautiful San Gimignano, which is my Italian home, and which I can never go a single day without thinking about.
Learn more about Podere Cunina or about vacation rental in Tuscany here: Agriturismo Podere Cunina 

catching up with my dear friend Silvana on the steps of Podere Cunina as the sun sets over the beautiful Crete Senesi

I snuck this last photo from Silvana’s facebook page. Can you imagine having your wedding at beautiful Podere Cunina?? What a dream…


Cooking Lessons In Tuscany

One of the most fabulous things to do when traveling in Italy, is to learn how to prepare and cook the amazing local food.

It is so much fun to get off the beaten track, away from the touristy T shirt shops, and go somewhere really beautiful, like a private villa, a winery or a farmhouse, and have a lesson with a local chef.

Marcello makin fresh pasta at Podere Cunina in Tuscany

 Typically you will learn magical recipes that have been in the chef’s family quite literally for hundreds of years, passed down through the generations.

My very dear friend Silvana Freddi and her husband Piergiorgio own a beautiful Agriturismo in Tuscany, outside of Siena, not far from Montalcino.

Podere Cunina perched on it’s mountain in Tuscany

I have written about it before – the lovely Podere Cunina, perched on a mountain, with views that would make you weep.
An Agriturismo is a boutique farm (agricultural  – not an animal farm) with apartments or houses for tourists to rent and live in for their vacation. See my post from last year, Where To Stay Under The Tuscan Sun to look at pictures and read about lovely Cunina.

After first reading Frances Mayes “Under The Tuscan Sun back in the late 90’s I became obsessed with Frances’ recipes and the idea of spending a day cooking in Tuscany.
Fast forward a few years and I wound up renting an apartment in Tuscany from Silvana every summer, and building one of those wonderful friendships that will last forever.

Silvana’s son Marcello is a master chef who was running a boutique restaurant on Lake Garda, but has since moved to Podere Cunina to work in the family business and teach Tuscan cooking lessons to tourists, both those staying at Cunina and also those who just want to spend a day cooking and eating and drinking the glorious local wine.

A gorgeous group of Russian tourists spending the day cooking, eating and drinking wine with Marcello at Podere Cunina in Tuscany

People from all around the world come to stay at Cunina and to learn to cook with Marcello. His recipes are divine, and he is fun, charming and engaging.
Everyone wants to come back and cook with him again!

making homemade pasta with Marcello at Podere Cunina in Tuscany

If you have never rolled out fresh, homemade pasta before, it is an experience you won’t forget anytime soon. And no pasta tastes like homemade pasta!

There is much more to Tuscan cooking than just pasta. (although the pasta is spectacular!) There are so many wonderful dishes to experience, so many fantastic recipes to bring home and wow your friends and family with.

Marcello wanted to improve his cooking English and his tourist English, so last December he came out to Phoenix to live with us for a couple of months.
We cooked together every day, and Marcello even filled our freezer with homemade pasta meals and gnocchi before he left.
So I can personally vouch for his amazing cooking!

You can find out about staying at Podere Cunina, or just booking cooking lessons with Marcello by clicking here

If you are having a lesson with Marcello and are completely wowed with his cooking English have him do a little Kid Rock for you. We not only taught him how to use words like “whisk” and “sprinkle” and “bring it to a boil”, but we also taught him to rap his way through “Cowboy” – after all you never know when it might come in handy 🙂