29 Feb

La Torre

Posted by Jenna, Under Travel

Right now I’m in the middle of planning our Thailand trip set for this September (is this seriously real life?) and while researching a place to stay I find myself repeating in my mind “I want La Torre, I just want to stay in La Torre again.” I don’t know if a La Torre experience exists in Thailand, but I’m not going to stop researching until I find something as close to it as possible.

While planning our trip I emailed back and forth with a girl who has spent time living in Italy, and she suggested I look into staying at an agriturismo at some point during our trip. Agriturismi are working farms described really well by About.com:

Agriturismo – a combination of the words for “agriculture” and “tourism” in Italian – is a style of vacationing in farm house resorts codified into Italian law in 1985. An agriturismo vacation is suitable for the whole family and some places even be very romantic or luxurious. An Italian agriturismo will usually serve foods to guests prepared from raw materials produced on the farm or at least locally. Some will allow the guest to actually participate in the activities surrounding the farm. Despite the rural nature of the lodging, one might expect a rustic experience; yet many agriturismi (the plural form of agriturismo) feature rather luxurious accommodation as well as swimming pools.

A farm out in the middle of nowhere that would serve me homemade food grown on the property and in the surrounding area? Hello dream vacation experience, nice to meet you. Unfortunately all of the agristurismi my friend recommended were unavailable during our available dates. I spent hours and hours researching, and decided to take a chance on a tiny place in an area of Tuscany known as Bagni di Lucca called La Torre.  Paolo and Laura quit their 9-5 office jobs, bought a run-down property in the middle of the Tuscan countryside, and spent years restoring the property to its present state. As if the whole quit-your-job-and-start-a-bed-and-breakfast part of the story wasn’t romantic enough, they were actually married in the small ancient chapel on the property in 2005.

As you already know from my opening paragraph, La Torre was heaven and I want every vacation experience to be an exact replica of that marvelous time from now on. I hope my pictures can do it justice in some small way.

The view from the property

The building where our room was located

At La Torre you have the option of staying in either an apartment, or a room. We stayed in a small room, accessed by a steep set of stairs with a thick rope as a guardrail, and a bathroom set up with everything you need (toiletries and hairdryer).


Some of the bugs were big, but we never had any make their way into our room

The computer room (ancient computer with ancient internet speeds), the apartment house, and a playground.



This picture is for my dad. Look dad, they use drip irrigation!

Along with the breathtaking views we had two of the best dinners of my life. Paolo acts as waiter, giving you several choices for each course prepared downstairs. Over two dinners we ate:

Eggplant in oil
Salumi
Mixed vegetable crostini
Frittata
Porcini mushroom pasta
Tomato penne
Croquettes
Trout
Mixed vegetables
Panna cotta with chocolate
Panna cotta with fruit

Prosciutto
Salami with wild boar
Lucca specialty meat, starts with a B
Beans and onions
Cheese and sausage
Toasted polenta with mushrooms
Spinach and cheese ravioli with butter sage sauce
Zucchine in green pasta
Salad
Chicken
Butter fried potatoes
Panna cotta with fruit

Highlights include the porcini mushroom pasta, salumi, spinach and cheese ravioli with butter sage sauce, and the panna cotta with fruit. If you go, and they have the panna cotta with fruit. GET IT. Dinner is 20 euros per person, and in my opinion worth much more.

Breakfast. Delicious as well. 

This is the kind of place you go to relax and drink in nature. We did some light hiking (which injured TH’s achilles tendon and put a damper on the rest of our trip, unfortunately) and there is a dark and scary cave you can explore if you’re not a scaredy-cat like me.


Doggy graves. A very sweet tribute.

The view from the pool, here. And a panoramic view of the pool area here.

On our last morning there I woke up before sunrise to spend some time photographing the property in the soft light of early morning. I plan to wake before sunrise and do a photo walk wherever we travel from now on. The memory is a cherished one of mine.















As I was about to walk back into the door to our room, I looked back and saw the sun breaking through the clouds in this very ethereal way. My photographs don’t do it justice, but it was certainly majestic.


If I am lucky, very very lucky, I will return here again and bask in the beauty and the bounty of La Torre.

34 Comments


  1. Wow, Jenna – that looks incredible! And I think your pictures and descriptions DO do it justice. At least, I find myself saying, “I want to go there!!”

    I hope you find something comparable in Thailand!

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  2. Just a quick thought on your upcoming trip to Thailand. As long as you are going all the way there, I would look into spending some time in Laos and possibly Cambodia. I seriously disliked Bangkok (noisy, dirty, etc.) and many other places in Thailand are VERY touristy. Laos is quieter, slower, and more beautiful and the food is equally as wonderful (or better) than in Thailand.

    Jenna Reply:

    I was thinking about Cambodia, but with the dangerous border crossing on the ground, and the the outrageous price to fly, combined with the fact that we only have 8 days of effective vacation time, I decided I’d like to maximize our time in Thailand and not spend so much time travelling. I’m pretty sad about missing out on Angkor Wat though!

    Virginia Reply:

    I apologize for bringing this up again, but please don’t let that blog post you linked to discourage you from crossing through Poipet. Many people do it every day with no problems. I did it myself and I was a girl traveling alone. I met a lot of people on my trip who crossed with no problems. (I also did a lot of research beforehand and nothing indicated that this was unsafe).

    I agree that 8 days might not be enough, though, and you definitely need at least two days to explore Angkor Wat, so this might be an excuse to go back in the future :)

    Jenna Reply:

    I really was going to push for it, border crossing and all, but I think we’d like to capitalize on our time there a bit more. Right now our schedule is going to be something like:

    2 days in Bangkok
    Night train up north
    3 days in Chiang Rai
    Night train down south
    3 days somewhere on the beach
    Back up to Bangkok to fly home

    Emily Reply:

    This sounds like a good plan! For Thailand beaches, my perception is that you have to trade-off between accessibilty, price, and crowdedness… we went to Koh Kho Khao, which I thought was a pretty good compromise. Feel free to email me if you want info about anything.

    amy Reply:

    I went to Thailand and Cambodia last November and it was stunning and amazing and wonderful. I cannot wait to see your pictures.
    For beaches I highly recommend Railey Beach. it’s beautiful and cheap and super relaxing. Bonus, there is a ‘fertility cave’ there (on the most beautiful beach I have ever seen). I explored it and was pregnant a month later!
    I didn’t go to Chiang Rai, but I did go to Chiang Mai and found it enchanting and wonderful and amazing.
    if you go on tripadvisor, my name there is Oskargidget, and I wrote reviews of a lot of places I stayed and the things I did. You are going to have an AMAZING time

    oh, and I was able to get a round trip flight from Bangkok to Siem Riep for a fairly cheap price. just FYI

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  3. elizabeth630 says:

    That looks fantastic! We did agritourismo at Spannocchia in Tuscany, four years ago (and I asked my husband to marry me there)! But this place… has the same name as my husband’s family. We will have to try this place out on our next (far away) Italian vacation.

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  4. We went to Thailand for our honeymoon. I highly recommend going north to Chiang Mai for a totally different atmosphere than the islands. We stayed in the Four Seasons w/ views of their rice field and absolutely loved it. It’s secluded, peaceful and stunning. If you’d like more info feel free to email me. Four Seasons are pricey but in Asia they are usually less money that what we’d pay here. We even got a free night.

    Virginia Reply:

    I second this suggestion, Chiang Mai was one of the best parts of my trip. I’ve also heard good things about Chiang Rai, but I haven’t been there.

    I also recommend Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.

    Jenna Reply:

    I think we’re going to stay at the Le Meridien Chaing Rai using some points. http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=3160

    The Four Seasons looks like it might be a little bit nicer, but you can’t beat free, you know? :)

    Dana Reply:

    So true!

    Chiang Rai is supposed to be even more “true” Thailand than Chiang Mai. Enjoy!

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  5. La Torre looks amazing. I’m not sure where you are heading in Thailand, but one of the best experiences I had there was north of Chiang Mai at the Elephant Nature Park. It’s a sanctuary for working elephants, and you can stay overnight in a hut there and help bathe the elephants. If you’re an animal lover, it’s an incredible educational experience to understand the role of elephants in Thailand.

    Also, please don’t plan an elephant ride. I went on one before visiting the Nature Park and now wish I hadn’t. Elephants are not properly designed to carry humans plus a seat on their back, and most of them are worked very hard with few to no breaks during the day.

    Jenna Reply:

    Yay! Another elephant lover. I had ruled out most of the elephant tourist locations because I just love them so much and I don’t think they are meant to be sitting around waiting for us humans to treat them like show ponies. I had looked into the Elephant Hospital a little bit as well, where elephants damaged by mines and stuff are sent to stay and recuperate. It’s not much of an experience though, more of a chance to just go learn about elephants and make a donation.

    And we are headed up to the Chiang Mai region so I think that could work.

    Is this the same place that you went? http://www.elephantnaturefoundation.org/go/visit

    Emily Reply:

    That’s the same place that Jenn is talking about, and it was also my best experience in Thailand. We were there on a Monday, which our guide said was the busiest day because it’s when new week-long volunteers arrive, but our experience was incredible nevertheless. If possible, though, go on a day other than Monday for the best possible experience.

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  6. Jenna, this is a beautifully composed travel post. My favorite one you’ve done by far. The photos are amazing and I love the story behind it. Well done.

    I went to Thailand the spring before the tsunami. Highly, highly recommend Koh Phi Phi and Phi Phi Lei, which are tiny islands off the western side of the peninsula (and where The Beach was filmed) I’ve linked in my name to a few pics (scans) so you can see. Incredibly cheap and accessible, both in terms of lodging and transportation.

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  7. Hi Jenna,

    I, too, went to Thailand on my honeymoon. Husband’s parents are Thai and he still has extended family there, so they hooked us up, so to speak! I second the suggestions about going north … we did Chiang Mai, but I’m sure Chiang Rai is also great. I would suggest places around Krabi at the beach … the scenery is gorgeous and it’s a bit lower-key than Phuket (ugh). Don’t expect solitude anywhere, though, especially the Phi Phi islands — they are overrun because of the movies. I third the suggestion to minimize your time in Bangkok. Aside from a few gorgeous temples and the massive market at Chatuchak, I wasn’t a fan. Very crowded and congested.

    Another place to consider is Kanchanaburi and western Thailand. It was not very touristy at all, lots of WWII history (which I love, don’t know if that’s your cup of tea) and Erawan falls (massive seven-level falls, exhausting to hike to the top but awesome) make the trip worth it alone — look up the pictures!

    Regarding elephants, we went to a place called Baanchang elephant park. We had a great time and they are very reputable in their treatment — no separating mom and baby, strict limits on how tourist rides, bareback only, etc. Many are rescued. Here’s the link:
    http://www.baanchangelephantpark.com/aboutUs/

    Oh, and I hope you like spicy food! We took a cooking class in Chiang Mai that was fun, too, though I’m sure there are similar ones all over:
    http://www.siamricethaicookery.com/

    Have fun and “mai pen rai” — you’ll want to learn that one, for sure. If you’re staying somewhere high-end, you may not be exposed to a lot of the idiosyncrasies of Thai society, but just be prepared to take a lot of stuff in stride :)

    Jenna Reply:

    We were really only going to stay in Bangkok for a 2nd day because of the cooking class I want to take. But I guess there isn’t any reason I can’t take something up north instead and get out of the city! I hadn’t thought of that, thank you.

    If we were to go to the falls, could that be a day trip from Bangkok? They are magnificent.

    Mrs. Yoyo Reply:

    It would probably be a stretch … if I remember correctly, from Bangkok, it would be at least a couple hours to Kanchanaburi and then at least another hour to Erawan. And you would want to spend at least half a day there just to hike to the highest tier where most people don’t go, take pictures, swim in paradise, gawk at the monkeys, etc. So I would probably stay one night there and do the falls the next day.

    There may be some cool waterfalls up north … we saw a cool one near Chiang Mai when we went zip lining. Erawan is just exceptional because of all the tiers and the fact that you can hike it all.

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  8. I realize that the The Cabbages and Condoms Resort may not comport with your personal ethics, but it looks beautiful! I’ve been to their restaurant in BKK many times and always wished that I had the time to go to the resort.

    Jenna Reply:

    What is up with the name? Does it mean something?

    violarulz/ducksandbooks Reply:

    You can read more about it on their website, but in a nutshell, it’s an organization that provides family planning to groups of low income rural and urban laborers. To raise money to do so, they have restaurants and a resort.

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  9. Go to wwoof.org for agritourism opportunities around the world!

    Jenna Reply:

    Thank you so much for teaching me about this amazing website. There is a farm 3 hours from my in-law’s house that I really want to go stay at now!

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  10. Beautiful. I definitely would like to experience accommodations someday.

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  11. Hi Jenna! I have been a follower of your since the Weddingbee days however I am just delurking now. This post was well-written — it made me want to go to La Torre (and eat that amazing food) right now! Also – my husband and I just returned from two weeks in Thailand. It was our first-foray into Southeast Asia and we LOVED it (aside from a few small mishaps). Highlights included a cooking class in Chiang Mai (they took us to an organic farm, outside the city, as well as a local market; also the kitchens were outside an open air), a pilgrimage to Wat Doi Suthep (also in Chiang Mai; this wat was a frenzy of people, but mostly there for religious reasons; watching the rituals and blessings was so incredibly cool and fascinating), snorkeling on the island of Koh Lanta (the island was very low-key and family friendly) and finally our small side-trip to Penang, Malaysia. Supposedly Penang is the ‘food capitol’ of Malaysia and we certainly ate many amazing things. The country is such a melding pot of different cultures/religions (Chinese Buddhists, Indian Muslims, Malays, Catholics) that it was really fascinating. The architecture in Penang was also very unique. Anyways, long post, but I just wanted to say: Enjoy your trip and thanks for your great posts :)

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks for stopping by to tell me about Wat Doi Suthep. It sounds like something I’d like to look into!

    I’m curious about the mishaps?

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  12. Marissa C says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. Italy was never really in my top places to visit for some reason (preferred Northern Europe), but you are changing my mind.

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  13. Hi Jenna- I’m a blog lurker and have been following you since your weddingbee days. I decided to pipe up today because I was in Thailand last year and have an amazing experience. I was only in Bangkok for two days, and spent a week on islands Koh Chang and Koh Kood. Koh Kood might be a big trek if you only have a three days for some island fun, but do check it out. I stayed at a Bann Makok and it was pure bliss!

    Thanks for the post on agriturismo! It sounds wonderful… I wonder if they have something similar in France (my next getaway, I hope!)

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  14. La Torre looks amazing! Would you mind saying how much it cost you to stay there? We are planning our European road trip for the second part of this year and it would be great to know whether it would be a splurge or well outside our budget. (We’re going for 3 months so are on a reasonably little budget).

    Jenna Reply:

    Sure! We paid 75 euros/night.

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  15. brendalynn says:

    Your photos are gorgeous! I actually work in a field related to agritourism, and there are a lot of opportunities like this on farms in the states too. The website farmstayus.com has a bunch of farms that welcome visitors for overnight stays and in California, there’s calagtour.org (wineries! and pumpkins and more).

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks Brenda!

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  16. Cambodia isn’t dangerous. I have been there many times and traveled around for about a month each time. I crossed both by air and by land. Siem Reap is a fun town, and there are near-empty islands off Sihanoukville to stay at. Vientiane and Luang Prabang in Laos are incredible….ESPECIALLY Luang Prabang. I don’t know why everyone gets on the Thailand bus….it just doesn’t compare to Laos, and the Cambodian people are hands down the friendliest people I’ve ever met. South East Asia is one of the few places where you can travel for dirt cheap, be safe, and enjoy a decent level of development. Quite frankly, Europe is not worth the cost and hasn’t been for awhile.

    If you REALLY want to be open-minded, travel to Xinjiang, China. That’s serious travel, though–not really for those who do a week or two at a typical location. I saw things on the Karakorum Highway that I’ve never seen anywhere in my life, and I have been around…

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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