“Our 12th-century house is by the old Bolognese road that originally went right through Italy; it was the last inn travellers could stop at before arriving in Florence. I didn’t like it when I bought it 20 years ago, but as I gradually made changes I realised it was paradise. Everything is so close; we can be in the pool in summer and if we want gelato I can pick it up from the centre of Florence within five minutes.
In summer, we spend most weekends here – usually with guests. On Saturday mornings, I walk our two Weimaraners and go for a swim at the local club. Then I meet my husband Nick at Pasticceria Stefania. It has a mirrored ceiling, like an ’80s disco. As soon as we walk in, they ask, “Il solito?” – the usual – and by the time we reach the bar, their delicious brioche or focaccia with ham, artichokes or egg is already there.
Then we go to Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio on our Vespas. Nick will buy vegetables, fruit, cheese and bread and I’ll look round the stalls. I’m a second-hand freak – bags, furniture, decorative objects… Once we found a ’50s couture dress by Dior.
Back at home, I do some gardening. I try to keep things as natural as possible, as we are right in the landscape, with wild fields all around us. I have brought so many things from this garden to the shop in London: a tree-trunk table, little stools, a fico d’India, which I love.
We may have a nap, followed by a caffè shakerato, and in the evening we’ll go to Trattoria Cammillo, a great restaurant close to the Arno. The waiters have been there forever, always in white shirts and black bow ties. With the sense of ceremony, it almost feels like you are in the 1950s. The food is seasonal and always excellent: we’ll have fried artichokes, then the simplest tagliatelle al ragù, followed by the crostata ai frutti di bosco or tiramisu.
On Sunday mornings, we are usually up early to go for a run. The hills around us are beautiful, and dotted with wild boar and deer. Then we’ll head to the flea markets. There are four or five on Sundays throughout the month – in Fiesole, Santo Spirito or Piazza dei Ciompi. Our house is full of objects from flea markets and antiques shops and I have rooms of cupboards filled with garments. I once found a beautiful handmade majolica lamp crafted as a tree trunk full of birds and squirrels, with a couple holding hands beneath it. We did some research and found out it was a one-off from the 1950s made at a factory in Gubbio where artists used to go to work on their own pieces.
Or we might go to the antiques market in Arezzo, southeast of here. While there, we’ll visit Sugar, the best multibrand fashion store in Italy, then have lunch at Chiavi d’Oro: the architect of both is a friend of ours, and the latter has a beautiful interior with quite raw but delicate surfaces. After that, we’ll visit the Burri Foundation, the collection of abstract expressionist Alberto Burri, part of which is in an amazing old tobacco factory. His work is often on a huge scale and it’s mesmerising.
Pizzeria Antica Porta, where we go in the evening, is a simple place, but the pizza is excellent, with a paper-thin base. We have pizza rossa with ’nduja, a spreadable spicy sausage, and Gorgonzola or a fresh burrata. Then we’ll stroll into the centre to the tiny, box-like Gelateria della Passera, for the best handmade ice creams, and walk with them down to the river. When it’s very late and everyone is asleep, you find the rare beauty of Florence just as it was in the 15th century.”