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Villa Dievole
I-53010 Vagliagli, Siena
011 39 0577 322632

Into the Divine Valley
Honoring Heritage among Tuscany's Old Vines
By Alain Gayot

Quintessential Tuscan escape

Vineyards rolling languidly along hillsides. Cypresses shivering in honey-toned, late afternoon sunlight. Private farmhouses-turned-inns dappling the landscape. Clichés? Yes. And yet, they are the very facets that draw us to Tuscany. We want the private farmhouses, shivering cypresses and languid vineyards. Not because they are recognizable, but because they are authentic. They are not the product of a savvy marketing team or some Italian Disney, and it is their legitimacy that gives them their appeal.

Among Tuscany's genuine experiences is Villa Dievole, where working the land has always come first, and a chance to stay there and appreciate it secondary. Eight miles north of Siena in the Etruscan hamlet of Vagliali, the Dievole Vineyards have been planted with grapevines since 1090, when the area was known as Dieulele, or "the divine valley." Today, the estate's 750 acres of woodland, olive groves, citrus trees and farmland include sixteen unique vineyards, each cultivated by an individual vintner. The planting and tending and harvesting will go on whether you choose to spend a night here or not.

Open-air terrazzo
Restored chapel

Fortunately, the accommodation of guests is taken seriously, beginning in the 16th-century, nine-room villa, which includes two suites and one grand suite. Casa Dievolino is a private four-bedroom guesthouse, and the freestanding Olivo, a former stable, has four guestrooms. The property's gem, Colombaio, features nine private suites in a quartet of converted 17th-century farmhouses, set in a hilltop hamlet near the ancient bread ovens on the winery's highest vineyard. Although rooms are equipped with amenities such as CD players, it is their classic atmosphere that provides their greatest comfort.

Villa Dievole is not a traditional inn, but it does offer the anchors for a memorable stay. A natural complement to the Sangiovese wines produced on the estate, the cuisine is rustic and traditional. An open-air terrazzo provides a picturesque setting for dinner, but you want to make sure to come during one of the scheduled feasts in the candlelit wine cellars. The drama of the setting alone will fulfill your appetite. For recreation—and if you feel the need to work off your meals—there are two swimming pools and a fitness trail through woods and vineyards.

The villa exterior
Heritage vines

One of the estate's treasures is its restored chapel, with its falso marmo (false marble), painting of wheat on the altar in tribute to Tuscan farmers, and original fresco above the altar of the winegrowers of Dieulele. It provides a tranquil starting point for understanding the estate's story, which can be further explored on a complimentary winery tour offered to guests. Sip wine in the tasting room and discover how, during the past two decades, this antique property has been revived. Like its vineyards—comprising heritage vines, vines planted in the mid 1990s and vines slated for planting in the next few years—Dievole is a place where the past meets the future in a gracious acknowledgment of Tuscany's rich history of winemaking.

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(Updated: 07/08/08 ET)

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