Tuck away my heavy feather jacket, take out my trench coat and colorful ballerina shoes, as the Spring is officially here!
Me and my husband had been wanting a nice day trip in Tuscany for a while, however the past unpredictable weather held us from actually doing it. But last week we finally made it! We head off to La Foce in the Chianciano Terme (Siena) on the sunny Saturday morning, aiming to visit the garden of the Villa Origo.
Built in the 15th century and abandoned owing to wars and poverty, the villa was bought by Iris and Antonio Origo in 1924. The Origo couple decided to do something intelligent around the villa, one of which was to engage with the English architect Cecil Pinsent to develop the now famous gardens. It took around 14 years to finish the work, and nowadays part of the garden is open for visit (on strictly guided tours).
As the beginning of the Spring, there wasn’t major blossom of the flowers. However the hedges and the lawns that dominated the gardens, were already good enough to show case Pinsent’s great art work.
Cypress trees, hedges and lawns are the main characters in the garden
Finished in 1939, this big garden represents one of Pinsent’s most important masterpieces.
“I am an architect, I don’t like flowers.”
Pinsent only used hedges and lawns to shape the garden. Then he gave the huge responsibility of showing the beauty of his work to the light. The interaction between the hedges and the light, the changes of the shape of the shadows make this place unique and special. Imagine looking over the garden during the sunrise or the sunset! It must be magical!
The lemon tree hostel inside the garden. Starting from end of November until next year May, lemon trees of the gardens are gathered and sheltered inside to be kept in warm place.
Seen the garden? Don’t be hurry to leave yet! Since you are already here, there is no reason you don’t go to their restaurant Dopolavoro for a bite. And trust me, you won’t regret!
Built in 1939, Dopolavoro was originally for workers and farmers of La Foce to gather after work (dopo lavoro), enjoy quality time with family, share and laugh over glass of wine. The Origo couple did many innovative things and contributed a lot to the community: kindergarten, clinic, etc., and Dopolavoro was also one of their projects. And nowadays it is still run by the 2nd generation of the Origo family.
What I like about this restaurant? Well, EVERYTHING!
THE VIBE: unlike a typical countryside Trattoria, which is usually with dark wood decorations and tables one next to the other, Dopolavoro is with light colored interior, as well open space. When I first stepped into the restaurant, I felt like walking into a fashionable canteen: casual, friendly and chic!
THE FOOD: it has been one of the best meals I’ve had recently. And my husband couldn’t agree more on this! They serve homemade bread, pasta, dessert, etc. And all the ingredients for their dishes are coming from small local producers.
I recognized certain Brunello producers, who I visited last month during a food & wine tour co-organized by Curious Appetite and We Like Tuscany. Casato Prime Donne being one of them: a small brunello producer in Montalcino, which is managed fully and only by women. I could still recall the wine tasting experience in their cellar: a piece of music composed specifically for a type of their brunello is played in a designated spot, and you must taste that brunello at that spot while listening to that music. Buono~~~
Excuse me for not having any photo of our main dishes taken. The reason is obvious: I was too busy with enjoying my plat of food. But I did snap our desserts: home-made cantuccini (for my husband) and sponge chocolate cake (for me).
The minute the cantuccini were served, we could immediately tell they were home-made, rather than industrial products. The color was darker, and they looked much more juicier than those packed ones in the supermarkets. They looked like pieces of cakes, but still hard as biscuits.
My sponge chocolate cake: soft cake wrapped with crispy skin, dipping in rum and cream. It made a perfect full stop of the meal.
THE FACILITY: besides the indoor restaurant, there is also the outdoor garden with tables for dining. Also it is a very baby-friendly place providing high chairs, baby menu, and a small playground outside (only bummer was that there was no changing table in the toilet). So not only us, my 20-month boy also had a great time having lunch here.
And of course you can also shop some products from the local producers directly in the restaurant. Wine, cheese, olive oil, honey, cooking sauces, etc. all that jazz from Tuscany!
Tips before visiting La Foce:
- Check in advance to make sure the garden will be open! The garden is only open in certain period, and visits are strictly on guided tours. So be sure you don’t go there and find a closing door. You can find their contact on the booking page of the website.
- Always have a Plan B for clothing! The weather in countryside is very unpredictable. It may be sunny and hot in the morning, then all of a sudden it could turn into cloudy/ windy and start to rain. Make sure you bring with you something heavier than the season.
- Find more information here:- La Foce: http://www.lafoce.com/– Dopolavoro Restaurant: http://dopolavorolafoce.it/