Cally Law (The Sunday Times)

The wide terrace, with its lemon trees, fragrant bushes and long views over gentle Tuscan hills, is possibly the best bit of Borghetto Calcinaia, but it’s just one of many things that make this such a perfect spot for either a large family holiday or a romantic break for two. Standing alone on its hillside, overlooking a turquoise lake, the borghetto consists of a four-bedroom holiday house, a one-bed apartment and a one-bed studio, as well as the home of the hospitable English hosts, Gilly Love and Dennis Sullivan. There’s a pool and an olive grove and an ancient road runs from the house down to woods where wild boar and porcupines roam, the very road that Saint Francis is said to have trod on his way from La Verna to Assisi.

Dennis and Gilly make a good team. She’s a garden designer and a former interiors stylist, and it shows in every detail of this elegantly converted collection of old stone buildings. He enjoys luxury international hotels and has had fun recreating the hotel experience but on a personal scale.  “We provide what you would expect in a top hotel, but with books, DVD, satellite TV, wi-fi, DVD and CD libraries and Bose iPod dock. Even a chef if wanted,” he says. Guests get exclusive use of the large pool. “You might as well stay at a hotel if you are going to lie by strangers round the pool.” 

Borghetto Calcinaia is within easy reach of the frescoes and wines of Florence, Siena and Chianti, but we chose to spend our few days close to home. Nearby cobbled towns offer charming family restaurants, ice cream parlours and quiet bars, all you need in this sleepy Tuscan world.