Agrivilla i Pini
Surrounded by green rolling hills with the towers of San Gimignano in the background, set under the warm Tuscan sun, you find Agrivilla i Pini - an agriturismo rich in history that is putting sustainability at the heart of everything it does. Set amongst 14 hectares of olive groves and vineyards, Agrivilla i Pini is a place to relax and unwind, to connect back to nature and to leave behind the stresses of everyday life.
As the first vegan Agriturismo in Italy, Agrivilla i Pini is far from what may come to mind. Luxury has effortlessly met with barefoot nature. There’s a rustic charm running throughout the property - that dates back to the 15th century - with the recycling of antique furniture, Tuscan terracotta tiles and use organic cotton fabrics. This isn’t just a haven that appeals to vegans, but to those looking to enjoy a luxurious stay, free from worries, where they can enjoy fresh, healthy food. With the strong philosophy of sustainability, there is no better example of slow travel than right here at Agrivilla i Pini.
Agrivilla i Pini is located in the heart of Tuscany. Close to the medieval UNESCO heritage town of San Gimignano. It’s a great base from which to explore the best of Tuscany; one hour to Florence, one and a half to Lucca and fourty-five minutes to Siena.
But I found the best of Tuscany to be in the smaller towns closer to Agrivilla i Pini such as the nearby Certaldo - a town famous for its art, which has it’s centre within the old castle walls. Or the bright blue waterfalls at Val D’Elsa. And of course the miles of surrounding vineyards offering picturesque views over the rolling hills, lined with soaring cypress trees.
Thought is taken in everything that is done at Agrivilla i Pini to ensure as little negative impact as possible. Water from the saltwater pool is used to water the permaculture garden, food that would usually be thrown away is used to create new dishes and everything from the food to the furniture is locally sourced. Agrivilla i Pini guarantees quality through it’s Biotique seal, under which it’s ‘green pillars’ (organic, sustainable, vegan, seasonal and handmade) are built. All produce is organic and free from pesticides, water is heated by solar energy and roofs are insulated with a combination of clay, chalk, hemp and rice.
But perhaps my favourite feature of Agrivilla i Pini are the various ‘bee hotels’ that have been created to give a shelter to the many local bees, who i Pini recognises as playing a vital role in our planet and who’s honey will never be taken from them. A field of wild flowers has been left to grow as a home for the local butterflies, bees and bats, where they can pollinate and live in a vast safe space.
The 11 rooms at Agrivilla i Pini are all unique, yet they all having the same effortlessly rustic feel. After a recent refurbishment, care has been taken to strike a balance between being a comfortable space to relax and unwind, while maintaining the highest levels of sustainability possible. All materials and furniture has been sourced locally, with the terracotta floor tiles, hemp and chalk-finished walls and un-ironed organic cotton bed sheets all giving an unmistakably rural-Tuscan feel.
Rooms are decorated with up-cycled pieces of antique Tuscan furniture that have been carefully selected to bring a blend of nature and history into the rooms. Our mirror was once a window shutter, while the wardrobe was once a bookshelf - a reminder of the long history of i Pini’s former days.
Mattresses are made from biodegradable, vegan materials and the duvet from Tencel - a material known for regulating temperatures. There is no air conditioning throughout the property, instead a cooling system has been built into the walls, keeping temperatures low during the warm Tuscan heat. The look is given a modern finish with locally hand blown light bulbs that hang at each side of the bed.
As a working agriturismo, life at Agrivilla i Pini is as much about the surrounding land as it is the villa. Across the 14 hectares of land, seasonal produce is grown that brings inspiration into the kitchen.
3 hectares of the land are olive groves, where olive oil is produced (you can purchase bottles directly to take home). Vast hectares of vines grow up the hill producing the classic Sangiovese red grapes and Vernaccia white wine grapes. Cherries, plums, figs and apricots are picked and served fresh and later used to make chutneys. While fresh blackberries were left in our room one afternoon and later used for a blackberry cheesecake.
There is a permaculture garden used to produce healthy foods while improving the fertility of the soil and it’s biodiversity. Through permaculture design, they work with nature to try to imitate natural growing patterns and reproduce them in the garden. Among the many herbs, fruits and vegetables currently being grown are; tomatoes, beetroot, runner onions, climber potatoes, cucumber, banana, Indian figs, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, radishes and strawberries (the list goes on and on). Once ready, they all end up contributing to the masterpieces created on the kitchen menu that is full of homegrown seasonal produce.
Breakfast and dinner is included during your stay at Agrivilla i Pini, where a culinary adventure awaits. In the evenings, the plant-based chefs put together a creative four-course menu, with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients that stays true to the Italian roots. Produce is grown on site in the Agrivilla’s expansive grounds, where they specialise in foraging wild herbs and freshly sourced ingredients.
A pulled starter with a zucchini foccacia left us guessing the pulled fruit of banana skins. Antipasti of cucumber tartar with kimchi. Main courses were classics of pasta with wild nettle pesto and wild spinach one day, and creative with a pumpkin stuffed with buckwheat and served with a chickpea ragu the next. Each and every day, the desserts were outstanding; chilli and walnut brownie with a warm chocolate sauce, blackberry cheesecake made from freshly picked blackberries, and a simple ‘caramel slice’ that will be dreamed about for months to come.
Lunchtimes are an event in their own right, especially when the outdoor wood-fired oven is heated up and Chef Lahiri is spinning out pizzas. Amongst the toppings were his own homemade mozzarella cheese and the pesto that had been used for the pasta at dinner. Guests were travelling in from outside for this special event where individual pizzas were made to each guests desires - there is nothing more classically Italian in the eyes of a tourist than delicious wood fired pizzas.
The breakfast buffet includes local specialities like farinata bread as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables. Of course, there are also pancakes, cinnamon muffins, salads and cereals. As a zero-waste kitchen, produce is not thrown away, but rather used creatively again - one evening’s chocolate brownie dessert became a delicious topping to the breakfast chia pudding.
The wellness bar is on hand should you be looking for a pre-dinner Agrivilla Spritz, a seasonal detox smoothie by the pool or a refreshing kombucha. There is an i Pini wine available for every time of the day, and when in season, the elderflower 'champagne' is not to be missed.
The restaurant is also open to outside guests for lunch and dinner. All food is vegan and can easily accommodate gluten-free guests as well, just make sure to book ahead as this is a true Tuscan treat.
As an aristocratic house back in the 15th century, wine became a fundamental part of i Pini life. In the 16th century it held the first wine fair in the area and along with saffron, it was attracting wealthy people to the area. The tradition of wine is kept alive today, although it is now produced in line with i Pini’s modern-day philosophies, where biodynamic cultivation has been carried out since 2013. Crushed seashells from a time when the area was covered by sea, create a soil rich in minerals. The vines, now 65 years old, produce just a few grapes on each vine, where quality is prioritised.
There are four wines to enjoy; the white wine Stappo, Vernacca and Tosco Vivo and finally a Vin Santo. The Vernacca is aged off-site in concrete tanks giving it a delicious marzipan aftertaste, while Tosco Vivo is made using the classic Sangiovese grapes.
With quality being the focus in the wine production, not many bottles are produced. Wines are therefore only available at Agrivilla i Pini and the sister property La Vimea, but you can also buy some during your stay to take home.
The saltwater swimming pool is the perfect space to relax in the late afternoon Tuscan sun. Surrounded by green views over the rolling hills to San Gimignano, there is no better spot to soak in the unique surroundings.
You can join a cooking class with one of the experienced chefs to learn some fun plant-based recipes to take home with you. Classes begin in the organic garden, where you will pick your fresh ingredients ready to cook. From homemade gnocchi to traditional Tuscan recipes, you will learn to put a vegan twist on classic dishes.
Tour & Tasting
Take a tour through the 14 hectares of land to learn more about the organic agriculture practices and visit the permaculture garden. This can be followed by a tasting of the i Pini wines where you will learn how each is made and taste their subtle differences.
A stay at Agrivilla i Pini is much more than all that they are doing to meet their sustainable philosophies. The staff who are on hand to take care of your every wish, to give you unmissable recommendations, or to just find out how your day is going, are what makes your stay really special. As a team, they are leading the way with sustainable tourism and definitely making a proud name for themselves in this area. Their commitment to working with local materials, growing their own food and limiting their impact on the environment is what all hotels should be striving for. And having achieved this in such a luxuriously effortless way, this is one hotel that I just can’t wait to go back to.