I had the good fortune to be invited by friends to stay in their vacation home in northern Tuscany. I stayed for a month (they weren’t there) and had the experience of a lifetime.
For those who read this post I have good news. My friends, Art and Lynn Chenen, rent out their home, Il Mulinello, when they are not there. Visit Il Mulinello’s website. It is perfect for a couple or a couple with two children. It has two bedrooms and two baths. The master bedroom is large and very comfortable. The living/dining area is also large with a beautiful rustic wood dining table and two couches, not to mention windows that look out on the wild garden, rustic patio and stream.
The feature that I like the best is what they say about the three most important things in real estate — location, location, location. Il Mulinello is located next to a beautiful stream (when I was there in February and March, it was more like a river) that broadcasts its soothing sound inside the house all year. Surrounding the house is an enchanting wild garden of trees, plants and flowers and a secluded patio. Across the stream is a lovely walking trail of about a mile and a half accessed by a short walk. Up above are lush Tuscan hills backed by the towering mountains of Parco delle Apuane National Park.
Il Mulinello is located about halfway between two small northern Tuscany towns — Monzone and Equi Terme. The nearest cities are La Spezia and Parma. The lovely city of Lucca (purportedly home of the world’s best olive oil) is a an hour and forty minute train ride away, or an even shorter drive. The beautiful northern coast of Italy is about an hour’s drive.
While central and southern Tuscany are overrun with tourists, most of northern Tuscany (above Florence) have been left unspoiled, and the most unspoiled of all is the area around Il Mulinello. Yet the attractions of Tuscany are there: great food, friendly people and gorgeous scenery.
I recommend that you stay for two weeks so that you have time to explore the area and enjoy the beauty and serenity of Il Mulinello. Spend some time in Lucca to the south and the beautiful coastal fishing village of Lerici. Take a scenic stroll along its waterfront and a walk up the hill to have a drink on the terrace of the Doria Park Hotel — great view of the city and the bay. Take the ferry to Portovenerre — another charming little fishing village. Stop in Sarzana and take a walk in the center of the town — great antique and art stores. Visit Cinque Terre, the “five lands” or towns that until maybe 25 years ago could only be reached by boat. Enjoy the great seafood in all of these places.
You will need a car to get around to the wonderful towns within a half hour’s drive of Il Mulinello, as well as the coast. But, if you can, take advantage of the beautiful walks from Il Mulinello to Equi Terme to the East and Monzone to the west. They are less than a mile. Or hike in the hills if you have more energy.
Don’t miss the bakery on the road to Equi Terme. The daily fresh bread and pizza are unbeatable. Great restaurants abound within a short drive. Da Remo in Monzone and da Felice in Equi Terme, along with Al Vecchio Tino in the hills above Monzone, are my favorites. All of these restaurants specialize in anti pasto. Be sure you order it. The fresh pasta and meat dishes are also excellent. For the best pizza in Tuscany go to Mulin in the little town of Gragnola, a few minutes west of Monzone.
Fortunately, Art and Lynn have put together a notebook with maps, directions and commentary on the best restaurants in the area. You’ll find it very helpful.
Finally, the cost is economical, especially compared to other Tuscany locations. Art and Lynn charge $700 to $800 a week to stay in their beautiful villa, depending on the season. Any time, especially from May through October will be wonderful. The days are warm, and usually the evenings are cool.