Chianti has more than its share of hilltop villas and castles, now posing as hotels, or, as in this case, self-catering (agriturismo) apartments. The Villa di Vignamaggio at Greve in Chianti stands out from them all: one of those rare places that made us think twice about giving away the secret. The villa's first owners were the Gherardini family, of which Mona Lisa, born here in 1479, was a member. This could even have been where she and Leonardo met. More recently, it was the setting for Kenneth Branagh's film of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Villa di Vignamaggio is a warm Tuscan country villa. A small formal garden in front gives way to acres of vines. The pool, a short distance from the house, is among fields and trees. The interior is a perfect combination of simplicity and good taste, with the emphasis on natural materials. Beds, chairs and sofas are comfortable and attractive. Old wardrobes cleverly hide small kitchen units. The two public rooms are equally pleasing, and breakfast there or on the terrace is thoughtfully planned, with bread from the local bakery and home-made jam. The staff were charming and helpful when we visited.