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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Locanda Al Colle
To be perfectly honest, I didn't do much planning for our trip to Tuscany last weekend. A friend had already booked the trip and invited us along with them, so my flights and hotel were already chosen for me. Bonus. All I needed to do was show up.
Things that I can do in life:
1. Show up for a trip to Tuscany
2. Eat cookies
Sadly, our friends had to cancel their trip. We figured we might as well still go, heck the trip was already booked. But now...now I had to do some actual planning.
What airport were we flying in to?
Where the heck is Camaiore??
What kind of pasta am I going to eat?!
See? Things were getting scary, real fast.
Luckily, one thing I didn't have to worry about was where we were staying.
Enter Locanda al Colle.
aka - a little piece of heaven in the Tuscan country side.
My friend found this hotel through Mr and Mrs Smith (seriously, check them out ASAP if you think I am talking about a movie rather than an awesome boutique hotel website) - and let me tell you, the Smiths did not steer us wrong. Neither did the awesome reviewers on TripAdvisor - every.single. reviewer for this boutique hotel on TripAdvisor gave it an "Excellent" rating and wrote a glowing review.
So, did this place live up to all the hype?
You bet your boots it did.
It was more than what we could have imagined or hoped for from a place to rest our feet at night.
Upon arrival the first thing I noticed (besides all of the cute and welcoming nooks on the front patio that just screamed COME HERE AND DRINK A GLASS OF WINE! and all of the amazing flowers blooming around the entire property) was that there wasn't a check-in desk. There was no formal computer system or line of other guests waiting anxiously to get to their room. Instead, I was greeted by softly playing music as I stepped in to the hotels living room. Arianna appeared from nowhere and welcomed me right in. Within moments of telling her my name she had our room keys in hand and was showing me the way to our room.
Immediately upon entering the room I felt at home. I was hard for me not to kick off my shoes right then and there. After a quick tour of the room she was off again, and I was left to my own devices. As I usually do when I first get to a new hotel room, I went through every nook and cranny in the place. No drawer was left unopened, no door was spared from being opened. I read all the welcome pack information as well as had a peak at all the bath goodies and the rain shower in the bathroom. And then, I sat down and took it all in.
The room was impeccably decorated with vintage furniture, interesting mismatched pieces that perfectly fit together in a way that I could never replicate in my own home. The room was a calming mixture of taupe and sage green, eggshell and muted gold with pops of orange and wood furniture. The bathroom was divine. Bath products made from local olive oil, plush over sized towels and the biggest rain shower I have ever seen in my whole life nearly made me want to move right into the bathroom itself.
Of course if I had done that I would have missed sleeping in the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on in Italy. Not only was the bed comfortable and the bedding luxurious - but the pillows! These were the biggest, fluffiest, squishiest pillows I have ever slept on in probably all of Europe. Typically in European hotels (apart from all the big chains, obvi) the pillows are some sort of an after thought. Or maybe, Europeans don't really care about the quality of their pillows too much. All I know is that they usually leave us with a sore neck the next morning. But no...not these....
And the view....
Oh, the view....
If you look hard enough you can just see the coast and Mediterranean in the distance. I was surprised at first but then realized that we were only 5km away from the sea. Amazing, considering it felt like we were a million miles away from everything.
Locanda al Colle is nestled in the Northern Tuscan hills, about thirty minutes drive north of Pisa. Lucca is close by as well as many charming small towns, and the ritzy summer seaside town of Forte dei Marme is a mere ten minute drive away. Normally we stay in Southern Tuscany, so I was a little apprehensive about how we would like this area. I should never have feared (duh, we were in Italy after all). There are more than enough things to do here, I wish we could have stayed for a week rather than just the weekend.
In addition to our perfect room (next time I want to check out one of the Deluxe or Suite rooms which come with private outdoors space) the entire hotel (not that it's that big, there are only nine guest room in total) is decorated impeccably. Much of the furniture was picked up by Riccardo on his travels around the world and many pieces are vintage, perfectly preserved or restored. There is an odd mix of old and new, contemporary and vintage, but somehow it all just works.
The hotel also features artwork by local artists, from paintings to sculptures, displayed inside and out. Find a piece you really fancy? Just ask Riccardo for the price list and he is happy to indulge.
Speaking of indulgence - I haven't even started telling you about the food. Included in the rate was daily breakfast - served only from 9am to 11am (my kind of place - you don't have to worry about getting there early before all the good stuff is gone!) - and is a casual affair served in the communal kitchen. There are fresh breads with jam, cereals and yogurts, usually one sweet and one savory baked item and fresh fruit. Fancy some eggs? No problem! Place your order and Arianna or Riccardo will fix them right up for you, often times sitting down to join the guests for breakfast.
And if you are lucky enough to stay at Locanda al Colle on a Wednesday or Saturday night, you MUST take advantage of the home cooked dinner that is served. The chef (who used to work in a two star Michelin restaurant I might add) cooked us, and the other hotel guests, a delicious four course dinner. The evening starts with a glass of prosecco and canapes in the living room while you mingle with other guests or admire the artwork. Moving into the dining room you have your choice of wine (or more prosecco if that's how you want the night to go down) and then the courses start flowing.
While we were there we had a delicious polenta starter, followed by an artichoke and spec risotto and ended by pan fried sea bass with seasonal vegetables. Each bite was divine. And then, we had dessert. Arianna made an orange tiramisu that was out of the world. The orange flavor was so delicate and it was such an interesting and inventive twist on a traditional Italian dessert. We had an excellent time chatting with the other guests and learning more about Riccardo and his amazing hotel.
Oh yeah...I almost forgot to mention!
Don't forget to bring your bathing suit (like I did). There is a heated pool that is open year round.
Overall I have to give Locanda al Colle is glowing five star review (As if you couldn't tell that already). Not only is the hotel beautifully decorated and as comfortable as your own home (if not more!) but the hosts Arianna and Riccardo really do make this place special. They were both so helpful in recommending local restaurants and things to do, and were more than happy to print out ferry schedules and add their two cents on how to make our stay even more enjoyable. It is amazing to know that this place has only been open for a year and a half - when it seems like they have been doing this all their lives.
The value for money here is outstanding - but you better hurry up and go...this place won't stay a secret for long!
Locanda al Colle
Via della Stretta, 102
loc. Capezzano Pianore
55041 Camaiore (LU)
Phone +39 0584 915 195