At Follonico, a hilltop B&B near the Crete Senesi (between the Valdorcia and the Valdichiana), life slows down as you step into organic, local living, listen to the sound of the birds and frogs, and let the beauty of nature impress itself upon your soul. This is the home and business of Fabio and Suzanne (Roman and Dutch, respectively): it was their solution to get out of the daily work routine in the big city, raise their children away from the smog and social norms of the city and spend more time as a family. Spending a day or a week at this unique bed and breakfast will not only be relaxing but, if you want it to be, transformative.
You can see this house near the town of Montefollonico, with open views across the valley to Montepulciano, for miles as you drive up on a charmingly small road. As you approach to the greeting of friendly dogs, you’re immediately struck by the love and care that clearly goes into the perfectly manicured exteriors.
Roses in full bloom climb up exposed brick and stone walls, an explosion of colour demonstrating a green thumb; animals – one of each, it seems – graze in a field and vines surround the house. Clearly a spot of paradise.
While Fabio’s lair is the large and well-tended garden, as well as the kitchen where he transforms the season’s best into a healthy breakfast every morning, Suzanne’s sense of style pervades the interiors, and the exterior niches that create charming spaces literally everywhere, including the chicken coop. Dresses and suitcases, typewriters and books of poems, old pots and boots are artfully arranged in the most beautiful way. Rooms are calming, comforting safe havens without technological distractions.
Supporting local producers of everything from handmade terracotta dishes to the food eaten by family and guests is part of the couple’s personal dedication to this place in Tuscany that they want to see continue to thrive. A set of good, locally made sheets might cost ten times as much as a standard import, Fabio says, but you have them for life, they don’t get holes in them after a few washes. And by helping these businesses through our purchases, we make sure they and the families who depend on that business continue to operate. Through word of mouth and research, they seek out people and the things they make, which isn’t only an economic transaction but also a human one. It’s easier to live like this in the countryside than in a large city, Fabio admits, but through some acts of consciousness it’s possible to live locally anywhere in the world.
Personally, I’m inspired to make more local choices and think more about the long term in my purchases. I’m already really into healthy and local eating, so why not expand that to some other areas of our life? I asked Fabio and Suzanne to share with us some of their favourite local businesses in Tuscany so that if you’re reading this and want to pick up some unique souvenirs during your visit, or if you’re living in Florence like I am and want to go check out these artisans, you might refer to this list.
Local Living in Tuscany: Artisans Follonico recommends
Bed and table linens / Busatti: Established more than 100 years ago in Anghiari (yes, the location of the battle Leonardo represented), this family run business makes house linens to last. Follonico chose them for sheets and towels.
Soaps and shampoo / Bioofficina Toscana: Ethical and local cosmetics by a young company based in RapolanoTerme (SI).
Glassware & Furniture / Sestini e Corti: This family business located in Bettolle (right off the A1 highway) has been making furniture with repurposed materials since the 1970s, i.e. way before it became trendy to do so! At Follonico you’ll find their super cool water glasses made from cut-off wine bottles, as well as other accessories. www.sestiniecorti.it
Tableware / Ruggiero Gesu (Instagram) is an Arezzo-based pottery artisan who makes stoneware pottery with natural glazes in a tiny workshop. Every piece is unique, and a large order can take a long time to receive, but it’s worth the wait.
Floral decoration / Puscina Flowers: For special occasions, this family run flower farm is just around the corner in the Montefollonico area. Three sisters have taken over the family farm and planted selections of rare and native Tuscan flowers. Regular visits are scheduled for a learning experience, see www.puscinaflowers.com.
Local food: sustainable producers
Pecorino di Pienza / Podere Il Casale: Fabio explained to me that “pecorino di Pienza” is not a DOC, or product of controlled origin, so the sheep milk to make this cheese often comes from other areas (in fact, look around and you see more vines than sheep here). Sandra and Ulisse’s charming farm can be visited for educational tours (upon reservation), you can meet the sheeps and goats who help make their delicious cheeses, and even eat in their farm-to-table restaurant in Pienza. https://podereilcasale.com
Coffee / LoScuro: If you’re going to drink coffee, it’s a good idea to limit yourself to the best of the best. After much research, Fabio found local roaster “Lo Scuro” (or l’Oscuro), in Sinalunga. He says it’s worth going there every few days to top up on the bean – you’ll have to judge for yourself!
Wine / Uccelliera: Of all the producers in the Montalcino area, Fabio recommends his friends at Uccelliera for the respect that this producer has for the earth. The winemaker, who purchased the property in the 1980s, writes of how, working his own land, he realized that making wine is about creating a rapport with this land more than a simple act of entrepreneurship. The winery makes Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino and a few IGT Toscanas.
Località Casale 2 – 53049 Montefollonico. Tuscany, Italy