Skylark Travels

Just Back From Tuscany

By: Staff

Skylark correspondent and luxury travel consultant Joey Levy recently returned from a weekend in Italy, where he stayed at one of Skylark’s favorite Tuscan treasures, Villa la Massa. Here’s his report, wine-stained and still warm from the sun.


There are few landscapes as romantic as Tuscany’s, and arriving at Villa La Massa, tucked into a bend on the Arno River, definitely tugged at my heartstrings. Talk about a sense of place: The surrounding hillsides were crosshatched with olive groves and vineyards, and when the breeze blew, I was enveloped by the scent of sun-baked cypress trees and lemon blossoms. The best part: This heavenly slice of the Tuscan countryside is just five miles from the center of Florence.


Like its sister property on Lake Como, Villa d’Este, La Massa had a palpable sense of history. It was originally built in the 16th century for one of the Medici clan and it still feels fit for a prince. Vaulted ceilings with exposed wooden beams, rich tapestries and ornately carved writing desks added up to a scene from a Botticelli fresco. There are only 37 rooms, which makes it perfect for intimate, quiet getaways. Case in point: David Bowie was married in the on-property church. 


So about Tuscany being perfect for lovers—it’s even more perfect if your love affair is with food. Olives, steak, truffles, and really, anything you can twirl on the end of a fork, you’ll find here at its peak. I loved dining on the riverside terrace at Villa la Massa’s restaurant, Il Verrocchio, and enjoying homegrown produce like zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh ricotta and just-picked tomatoes, scampi and scallops served with porcini mushrooms, homemade tortelli topped with black truffle. Don’t wear a tight belt!


Sitting at the desk in my room, sipping the day’s first espresso and watching the orchard’s dew turn to mist as the sun rose over the Arno.


The roads that twist and turn through Tuscany are custom-built for unhurried Sunday drives—or for tearing up in a brand-new, shiny red Ferrari. During my stay at Villa La Massa, I took a one-day tour of Chianti in Ferrari’s latest model, the 488 Spider. Lorenzo, a former race car driver, gave me a rundown of the technical stuff before I jumped behind the wheel. Thinking it would be like drivers’ ed, I waited for the instructor to sit shotgun, but instead Lorenzo got in his own car and we were off!

After a few minutes behind the wheel, my pulse stopped racing and I got used to the car’s power and zoomed along the countryside. In fact, I was almost comfortable behind the wheel by the time we stopped at the Mazzei winery—one of the oldest in Chianti—for a tour and a long Italian lunch (sans wine, of course). Then it was back on the road!

Want your own tour of Tuscany? Get in touch with one of our agents and we’ll rally our favorite Italian adrenaline junkies (or, for those looking for that unhurried Sunday drive, we’ll arrange something that doesn’t make your heart race quite as fast.)


  • For views of the Arno River, book a room on the top floor of the main building, Villa Nobile.
  • Families and groups should reserve in the Il Vilino building, which is smaller and has interconnecting rooms and suites.
  • Villa La Massa is open seasonally. This year the dates are April 6–October 29.
  • The hotel is ideal if you to spend your days sightseeing in Florence but have room to spread out in the Tuscan countryside between touring. The property is a 15-minute drive from the Ponte Vecchio.