Sometimes, to get somewhere, all you need to do is to slow down. Such a place is rural Tuscany, where local life is rooted in the rhythms of centuries’ worth of farming culture. Here, medieval villages perch atop rolling vineyards, cypress tree-shaded lanes snake up and down golden hillsides, and olive groves invite lazy afternoon siestas away from the summer heat. In this corner of Italy, slowing down is how people live it up.
As I pedal to Follonico on my bicycle, nothing but a small wooden sign points me to the grounds of this agriturismo bed and breakfast, located near the storied wine town of Montepulciano. It is more a gut feeling that tells me that I have arrived—a first glimpse of the ancient stone farmhouse from my bike seat is enough to cause the world to slow. Horses are grazing in lush fields, and Fabio Firli, the property’s owner, is outside in the vegetable garden, tending to the tomato plants. “You couldn’t have chosen a better mode of transport to enjoy the pace of Tuscany,” he exclaims as he greets me warmly.
Follonico is housed in a 200-year-old farm building that Firli and his wife, Suzanne, have lovingly converted into a six-guestroom countryside bed and breakfast. “When we first bought our home in 2006, our daughter was calling it ‘the house without a roof,’” Firli laughs, telling me about the extensive three-year restoration. The house hadn’t been inhabited since 1961, but the couple’s love of its remote setting in a scenic valley was far too strong not to tackle the crumbling state it was in. Today, rustic details throughout still hint at the building’s past—but each brick fireplace, weathered door, and piece of retro furniture is balanced by contemporary decor and plenty of colourful, quirky details.
Everything about Follonico feels more like a family home than a guesthouse. In the evenings, the owners and their three children eat dinner at a big communal table in the shared living room, where Suzanne’s collection of vintage bric-à-brac tells stories of the family’s past and present. Wherever I look, I see hand-embroidered dresses hanging from wooden ladders; old-school irons doubling as doorstops; and entire walls clad in dozens of enamel lids and pots. It is this personal touch (“The result of over 30 years of collecting,” as Suzanne puts it) that lends Follonico its character and soul. At the heart of it all lies the owners’ desire to share the best of Tuscan life—the closeness to nature, the seasons, and the calm tempo—with their guests.
At breakfast, more than 90 per cent of the ingredients that I get to enjoy in the sprawling garden are either home-made, home-grown, or organically sourced from less than 30 kilometres away from Follonico—which translates to freshly cooked apricot jam, warm pastries, and traditional panzanella bread salad made with garden tomatoes and sheep’s cheese from the nearby Podere il Casale farm.
Locality is also the guiding principle inside my quiet, cozy bedroom, with plant-based toiletries from Biofficina Toscana, handcrafted Busatti linens, and soft, Italian-made bath towels. Vintage photos adorn the bathroom walls, and the panorama of Montepulciano from my private terrace is so captivating that I don’t even notice the absence of a television.
Breathtaking views aside, the best entertainment at Follonico is found in the many farm animals and pets that the owners have adopted into their family. Geese waddle around the pond, Suffolk sheep and donkeys laze in pastures, and Priscilla, the resident dog, keeps guests company. “Recently one of our chickens disappeared, so I went to the market straight away and brought back three new ones,” explains Suzanne. “This place just wouldn’t be the same without animals.”
On my final morning, I wake up to a small miracle: the lost chicken, Henriette, has returned to the farm after more than a week abroad. It might have taken her a little while, but I’m not the least bit surprised that she found her way back to Follonico.
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