CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Florence | HotelJune 30, 2010

Old World Hospitality

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They say every land holds a story in its heart. The story of Villa Mangiacane, a recent property of the Stein Hotels and Resorts, has waited five hundred years to be told.

After so many years I have now arrived here, and as a story teller myself, I am craving to hear it s story and write it for you. And in case you are a Renaissance dreamer, a connoisseur of high art, a celebrator of life, a lover of simple pleasures, a passion seeker or an incurable romantic sit back, and enjoy the ride!

This is the story of the ancient and powerful Machiavelli family, how they courted power and distilled it into their home, Villa Mangiacane.

Nestled in the heart of the famed wine-making region of Chianti Classico, (between Siena and Florence) the villa keeps its watchful eye over the haunting Arno Valley, framing within its arches the nearby Dome of the Cathedral and  Giotto's Bell Tower and holds within what is considered a tempestuous marriage of art and vine.

The 15th century villa set on this incomparable setting is imbued with history and culture. And for those who seek the opportunity to live within the character of an informal luxurious private home as an authentic Tuscan villa living where luxury, art and history blend together seamlessly, this is the right place to be!

Its name (which in Italian means "the dog that eats" or, "eat the dog"), refers to the imposing stone dog sculptures atop its gate's pillars that were used to guard the villa. Set amongst 600 acres of lush vineyards, olive groves and forest, the magnificent 15th century villa bears the unmistakable mark of the Renaissance master Michelangelo.

The Villa was built by Cardinal Francesco Maria Macchiavelli (the uncle of Nicolo Machiavelli) thanks to the substantial commissions given him by Pope Urban VIII, and was sold by the Machiavelli's in 1645 to the aristocratic family of Marchesi Mazzei (who kept it until the mid-20th century). Villa Mangiacane's fortune rose and fell over the course of the century.

The owner, Glynn Cohen, a successful entrepreneur from South Africa bought Villa Mangiacane in 2000 when it was practically in ruins, and he has brought it back to its former splendor with the help of the grand Florentine restoration expert, Gianclaudio Papasoglu Tacca and Cape Town based interior designer Ralph Krall.

On our arrival, a very pretty blonde young lady from South Africa, Tanja, welcomes us with a large smile while opening the door of a small and elegant room used for receiving guests.

We are kindly offered inviting fresh lemonade and handed a Capodimonte bowl filled with large green apples while the villa's director Juan Miguel silently photocopies our passports in a small hidden back office.

Tanja sits with us on the comfortable vintage burgundy velvet upholstered couches, giving us information about the region's activities such as wine tasting, culinary courses with chef Massimo Bocus, a drive to Florence and Forte dei Marmi for the day (I spent my childhood Summers there), bike rides through the olive groves or just an opportunity to chill-out by the magnificent pool and garden surrounded by beautiful sculptures from Zimbabwean artists.

We are shown our room. Out of the spectacular  28 guest accommodations all different from each other, mine is the spacious but cozy suite number 25. It's located in the annexed old loggia surrounding the vineyards and close to the main pool. It has a small private garden, with a modern indoor jacuzzi.

The outdoor jacuzzi looks more like a small antique bath when illuminated at night. Close by, waiting for me to sit, is a red cushioned Italian style reclining chair under a "Wi-Fi'ed " pine tree. I can already see that it will be exactly what I need to find inspiration when writing on my blog about this small piece of paradise.

Mr. Cohen's presence can be found all around the Villa especially in pictures of his family and friends, neatly organized in heavy photo albums and charming silver frames over a piano in one of the living rooms of the Villa which overlook the breathtaking view of Florence from the loggia. Parties are thrown here all the time, all excuses are good enough to celebrate the launch of a new wine named after his daughter, a wedding ceremony like the Rochild's last year, or simply drinking around a table on the occasion of friend's a birthday.

When asked about his dream come true, he answered that his idea has been to produce fine modern wines in a setting that could offer "old world" hospitality to its guests and friends. "The exceptional Tuscan landscape combining human artistry with nature's beauty."

I wonder if Michelangelo already knew!

Joelle's Tips:

The Villa : Villa Mangiacane

Via Faltignano 4, San Casciano 50026 Firenze Italia Tel No. +39 055 8290123 / Fax No. +39 055 8290358 E-mail : info@mangiacane.it

Activities at Villa Mangiacane:

Wine Tasting

Cooking Lessons with Chef Massimo Bocus:

Classes will be held with Chef Massimo Bocus, a young, engaging and passionate culinary professional using Italian cuisine with an international twist. You will also learn specialty dishes that vary with the seasons and include: handcrafted Caserecce (pasta with broccoli), toasted pine nuts and black truffle, red tuna and porcini mushrooms sautéed on Tuscan bread, soup or Irish beef loin filled with foie grass served with a Tuscan Vin Santo reduction. Cooking lessons are held every week daily in the morning starting at around 11 am, followed by a cooking class that lasts about 3 hours and followed by lunch with the executive chef.

Cost is Euro 170 per person including lunch. Alternatively it can be booked as a part of the "Flavors of Chianti" book package. Classes are hosted all year except when closed between (10 January and 10 March approximately). E-mail : info@mangiacane.it

OH AND YOU LOVED THIS RECIPE! Here is the Fresh Zucchini salad recipe:

Ingredients:

5 medium sized zucchinis (must be light green in color and preferably flowering) 4 tablespoons of Pine nuts (toasted) 2 sprigs of fresh marjoram Rocket Parmesan shavings to garnish

2 table spoons of fresh lemon juice 4 table spoons of grape seed oil Maldon salt and freshly ground white pepper

Method:

Finely slice the zucchinis and place in a bowl. Add pine nuts and marjoram (stalk removed). Season with Maldon salt and ground white pepper. Dress with grape seed oil and mix. Allow the salad to "rest" for 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and mix again.

To serve:

Place rocket leaves on plate and place salad on top and garnish with freshly shaved parmesan. Best enjoyed with a glass of Villa Mangiacane Shimiso Rose.

Buon Appetito!

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