DAY 1 of 5 – Italy
Armaiolo Serre di Rapolano – 10 km
We’re in Armaiolo, a tiny village which is home to 80 souls. Build on top of a hill, Armaiolo is part of the Rapolano Terme district, a province of Siena.
It’s an enchanting, sweet place, with tender hearted inhabitants. It’s clearly carefully cared for, down to the finest details. We’re struck by the pots of flowers we see everywhere – decorating windows, steps, walls, and roads.
It’s small – no, tiny – it only takes ten minutes to walk through every street. But there’s no limit to the time you could spend uncovering and examining every fascinating nook and cranny of this village – it will have you enchanted for hours.
Weaving through the tiny streets we discover a church, several lookout spots, a fountain nestled in a cave, windows that looked like they’d come straight out of a fairytale, a lots of tiny little wooden doors that we were tempted to open just to see what was behind them.
To our surprise, we come across a small, refined restaurant near the church. Upon entering, we meet Davide Canella, the chef, owner and namesake of Armaiolo’s only restaurant.
Situated in a renovated 18th century wine cellar, the atmosphere is both simple and elegant.
Davide explains to us that his menu is characterized by its top quality ingredients which are sourced daily from local producers.
He’s proud of the food the region offers: cured meats from Casentino and Cinta Senese, goat’s cheese and saffron-infused pecorino from Val d’Orcia, organic pulses, t-bone steaks and Siena’s extra virgin olive oil.
We enter the kitchen. Davide skillfully prepares a few different dishes for us to try, adding a modern flair to traditional meals. Just watching him at work has us bewitched.
And they’re ready…
Beef tartare infused with black truffles and served with creamed parmesan
Ricotta balls with aromatic spices in a pea and lard sauce
Herb crusted lamb
Tuscan “hot and cold”: panforte cannolo, ricciarelli biscuits, gingerbread icecream
What a treat – and what wonderful smells and colours!
We leave Armaiolo and head to Serre di Rapolano, which is also part of the district of Rapolano Terme, province of Siena.
Why are we here? Why, to sleep in a castle with a history stretching back over 1200 years, and to explore its neighbouring village – in the dead of night.
Castello delle Serre was originally a bridge house in the Byzantine era, which by medieval times was an estate belonging to the Cacciaconti family. In 1800 this fortress was turned into a palace.
More than 150 years later, the building was completely renovated – adding modern comforts whilst maintaining all of its architectural beauty.
Panoramic views, a lush garden, and a swimming pool and gazebo all add to the romantic atmosphere. Every single corner of this castle has something interesting for visitors to examine.
We soak up the view of the Tuscan hills from the balcony of our beautiful room.
The interiors of the castle are simply magical, and completely unique. The walls envelop you with the story of their history. For a moment, we imagine what it might have been like to live his in medieval times. What a feeling!
Night falls, and the atmosphere changes entirely. There is something magical in the air. Yellow light emanating from lanterns give the stone houses a colour that has us entranced. Every street seems to have its own shade of yellow.
The village is deserted, it’s just us here. It’s like being on a film set.
Entering through the main gate, we start to aimlessly wander through every street.
Even though Serre di Rapolano is small, it’s incredibile how, behind almost every street, we find ourselves in a small square. Each one different from the last, each one more beautiful than the last. We stop in one, standing in silence to soak up everything that we see around us.
Moving through the tiny streets, we catch glimpses of sights so beautiful they look as though they are painted. It’s like walking through a labyrinth: you walk and walk but you always end up where you started. In one wall, we spy a tiny passageway. We squeeze through and, as if by magic, we find ourselves in front of the castle once more. Incredible! We wouldn’t have thought this was the way. It was like finally finding an exit to the labyrinth.