Q. AND A.: Tuscany Travel Tips From Massimo Ferragamo
As the chairman of Ferragamo USA, Massimo Ferragamo, 59, the youngest son of the founder of the fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo, has strong roots in fashion, but recently, he’s unexpectedly found a second career in the world of hospitality. In 2003, Mr. Ferragamo, prompted by his penchant for Tuscan wine, purchased Castiglion del Bosco — an 800-year-old, 5,000-acre estate in Montalcino, Tuscany — and spent five years transforming the property into an upscale resort.
Mr. Ferragamo spends several months a year in Tuscany and spoke to The New York Times recently about his love of the region. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.
What gave you the idea you to turn Castiglion del Bosco into a resort?
I wanted to get involved in producing wine in Tuscany because I have always loved Tuscan wines, especially Brunellos, and a friend of mine heard that the property was for sale and took me to see it. It was a massive estate that was somewhat run-down, and the vineyards were only 150 acres out of 5,000. The best use of the land was to turn it into a resort, so that’s what I ended up doing.
Tuscany is a well-traversed destination. What are some hidden gems?
Definitely Punta Ala, a town set on the Tyrrhenian Sea. I grew up going there in the summers with my family, and it has incredible sailing and a nice beach. Then, in the countryside, there are the most charming villages around Monte Amiata, which are untouched by time, like Abbadia San Salvatore and Piancastagnaio. And around the villages you have pristine pastureland that’s rich with chestnut trees.
Summer and early fall are the region’s peak tourist seasons. When do you think is the best time of year to go?
September is beautiful because it’s harvest time, and the weather is pleasant. April and May are also great when it comes to weather, and November is the time to go for white truffles — the town of San Miniato has a great truffle fair then. I’m also a fan of Tuscany in winter — it’s nice to sit in front of a fire with a delicious glass of red wine at night. During the day, you can go on long walks through the countryside and take scenic drives, but without any crowds.
Visiting wineries tends to be a staple activity for tourists to Tuscany. How should they pick which wineries to visit?
They should visit ones that produce high-quality wines and have scenic estates but stick to seeing two wineries a day — any more and you won’t appreciate anything you saw or tasted. Ask locals or your hotel concierge what wineries they like and think are the most beautiful, or ask your friends who’ve been to the area. I like going to Duemani, which is in the Riparbella area, and also am a fan of Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Can you come to Tuscany if you don’t drink alcohol?
Absolutely. It’s a great place for fitness fanatics; there is both rigorous and gentle hiking and biking there. Also, you can go to olive oil estates to taste oils. It’s also possible to visit farms that produce cheese and have fabulous meals in little restaurants that have been around a long time. If you’re into history, we have historic towns and villages, such as Pisa and Siena, and centuries-old abbeys and convents.
Is Tuscany a destination for families?
Many of the hotels welcome children, especially along the coast, and offer lots of activities for them. At del Bosco, we have kids’ cooking classes and archery lessons and even get them to crush grapes during the harvest. And kids are welcome at almost any restaurant in Tuscany. Most don’t have children’s menus, but the owners will make your kids anything they want, whether it’s a simple pasta or fried chicken.
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