Driving around Tuscany is a captivating experience as roads can lead to a series of varied panoramic backdrops of neatly-rowed vineyards, olive groves, ancient hamlets, cypress trees standing like soldiers guarding long driveways, dried up mowed fields with scattered bales of hay, and yes, the magnificent medieval castles and villas. In one of the stretches of ancient country roads from Florence to Rignano sull’Arno, stands a magnificent 18th-century villa displays it grandeur amidst 200 hectares of rows of vineyards, olive groves, wood and gardens.
Torre a Cona, formerly referred to as Quona Castle, has been around since the 11th-century but between wars, the castle was razed and the only part that remained still standing until now is its impressive 12th-century tower. Rebuilding took place between the 12th century until the 18th-century. During the ownership of the Rinuccini family in the 18th century, the powerful Florentine family wanted an imposing mansion that could rival the Palazzo Pitti of Florence. In 1848, the Rinuccini family sold the villa to the Trivulzio counts of Milan who, in 1882, gave it to Baron Padoa. The current owners, the Rossi di Montelera family, through Napoleone Rossi di Montelera, purchased Torre a Cona in 1935. Napoleone wanted a villa with a flourishing agricultural landscape. However, during the Second World War, the villa was taken over by the German army and British army and it was used as a hospital. Various masterpieces of importance like the ones of Michelangelo and Donatello were sheltered in Torre a Cona during the war and with this awareness, the villa was saved from the bombings. After the war, the Rossi of Montelera family repossessed the villa and started a reconstruction project of the building in different stages which today is a complex of complementary buildings such as cellars, stables, a lemon house and individual farms that makes the estate self-sustaining.
In its full splendor once again, Torre a Cona opens its doors to guests who would like to have a 360° panorama of a full Tuscan immersion from wine tastings, truffle huntings with their expert truffle hunter and his dogs, trying the typical local dishes that their chef prepares daily at their restaurant, and sleeping inside the four walls of the luxurious villa, all within the warm embrace of a true Tuscan hospitality.
Who are the Rossi di Montelera? The family owns Martini & Rossi, the multinational alcoholic beverage company that is most known for its vermouth called Martini. Along with founders Martini and Sola, Luigi Rossi joined the company as the third partner in the late 19th century which he eventually took over in the later years. The title of count was received to the children of Luigi for industrial merit later on to which “di Montelera” was added to their last name. The family’s passion for winemaking still continues today with the currrent generation, as they take a wine production that shows off the territory they are standing on. There is Napoleone’s son, Lorenzo, and today with Ludovica, Niccolò and Leonardo, the new generation.
Torre a Cona Wines
As explained by Wine Manager Chiara Bellacci, of the 200 hectares of the estate, 20 are dedicated to viticulture with Sangiovese dominating the varieties planted at 10 hectares and the rest for Merlot, Colorino, Trebbiano and Malvasia. The vineyards are scattered within the property at elevations between 300 to 400 meters above sea level, facing south and southeast which are optimal conditions for attaining high quality. The vines are cultivated on varied soils like clay and chalk and significantly on Albarese limestone, a kind of sandstone with proportion of calcium carbonate which is one of the classic soils found on the Chianti Classico zone. The vineyards enjoy a particular micro-climate, thanks to the valley that opens in front of the vineyards and invites great drafts of wind and wide diurnal temperature range. Expert vineyard management is conducted by nationally-respected agronomist Federico Curtaz whose management is guided by the model of sustainable agriculture which is fundamental in the natural equilibrium of the ecosystem.
In the cellar is oenologist Beppe Caviola who has been managing the winemaking at Torre a Cona since the 1990s. With his guidance, the Sangiovese clones suited for the estate’s cool climate are highlighted to have resulting wines of distinctive styles and personalities. The seven vineyards in the estate provide different expressions to the wine like the: Badia a Corte, the oldest vineyards with Sangiovese vines with an average age of 30 years planted on loamy soil with stones; Casamaggio vineyards located directly across Badia a Corte with the same soil elements and Colorino and Sangiovese vines of an average of 25 years old; Badiuzza, the extension of Badia a Corte with less stone content in the soil; Chiusurli vineyards where Merlot strives perfectly on the type of soil; Merlaia, at 300 meters above sea level with clay as the predominant soil is partly planted with Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca; Mulino a Vento, the youngest vineyard in the property where Sangiovese and Colorino are planted; and Fonte Petrini, where the vineyards of Sangiovese rest at 270 meters above sea level.
The wines produced by Torre a Cona represent various expressions of the territory and styles. Chianti Colli Fiorentino, obtained from the Sangiovese and Colorino grapes that ripen slowly due to the relatively high altitude of the vineyards; Terre di Cino wine obtained solely from the best selection of Sangiovese grown in the best parcels of the estate; Badia a Corte wine obtained from Sangiovese cultivated at 370 meters above sea level in the Badia a Corte vineyards; the monovarietal Colorino Casamaggio; and Il Merlot from Merlot grapes cultivated in the Badiuzza and Chiusurli vineyards; Merlaia, the dessert wine made from Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia del Chianti grapes obtained following the traditional Vin Santo method; Fonti e Lecceta, the Occhio di Pernice a sweet wine produced from a selection of the estate’s best Sangiovese grapes with an exceptionally long ageing process during which half of its liquid evaporates in the process. Lastly, the Fontesanta Vermentino, grown and produced by a specialized producer in Maremma.
Osteria Torre a Cona
Every subject of full immersion needs a portrayal of the gastronomic part of the experience. There is a place of big interest in Torre a Cona which is found in the kitchen of Osteria Torre a Cona managed by celebrated husband and wife team, Chefs Maria Probst and Cristian Santandrea. The restaurant, opened in June 2021, is located in the one of the estate’s charming setting, the old lemon house, when in good weather can also be enjoyed outdoors amongst the stone walls, wisteria and centenary trees. Their philosophy is to translate the Tuscan heritage with contemporaneity and elegance. They showcase the genuine flavors of the cuisine with respect to the tradition while conveying their personal styles and techniques. Mostly, the ingredients are locally-sourced making them seasonal and fresh, obtaining their maximum expression. The wine list is comprised of various wines from Tuscany alongside the estate’s own production of course. In the dining area is the commendable attention of Maxime Walkowiak who gained his experience from a 3-starred restaurant in London.
Both chefs came from the historical restaurant of Cristian’s family, La Rossa Tenda located in Cerbaia in Tuscany that they closed in December of 2019. Prior to that, Maria, originally from Germany, worked in the kitchens of restaurants in Switzerland, Spain, Austria and France then finally to Italy where she met Cristian and for 16 years, they worked together in the kitchen of La Rossa Tenda where they made traditional Tuscan dishes including handmade pasta. Their tasks are divided: while Cristian takes care of the fresh pasta, leavened products and desserts, Maria handles the salty dishes: fish, meat and vegetables. Cristian prepares the pici by hand and it is deliciously cooked with fennel seeds and ragù of Tuscan suckling pig. For appetizer there is also the grilled anchovies with aromatic herbs and local sausage. The menu is interesting with five entries per course: Appetizers between €9 to €12; Pasta and Risotto dishes between €12 to €15, and Main Courses between €18 to €27.
The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner except Mondays.
The villa is comprised of two main parts with the central part as the private residence while the lateral structures have been renovated to accommodate 20 rooms, all of distinctive styles. Antique Tuscan furniture complements contemporary accessories of the rooms with harmony and luxurious comfort as foremost. The bathrooms are of interest with the choice of retro bathtubs installed positioned in front of the wide windows framing the panoramic view while immersed in the comfort of the private bathrooms. Apart from the rooms in the villa, there are two large farmhouses with apartments immersed in the vineyards for a different kind of experience in tune with the Tuscan nature.
A luxurious relaxation is not complete without a swimming pool, and the one at Torre a Cona has a beautiful view of the vineyards. In the property, there are also gardens, olive groves and a 20-hectare park interlaced by a geometric pattern of white-surfaced roads, offering various species of oak trees, as well as Rococo statues.