In this day and age, when everywhere you go seems like everywhere you’ve been, with the same boring brands in every modern mall or supposed reclaimed historical site, it almost feels as if the “real” anything exists only in the imagination, lost to your ability to experience it, forever.
Well, take heart, for here at Il Cardo Resort, near the town of Anghiari, the real Tuscany still exists. Far away from tourists, crowds--and bad restaurants filled with people who only care if it looks authentic, never mind the taste—is a wonderful respite. From the moment Maria Pia meets you at the door to the moment you drive away, eyes fixed on your rearview mirror, you will experience Tuscany in a way many people only dream of.
This is the kind of review that is hard to write, because I fear by sharing it, I will ruin it.
Il Cardo is everything you might want in a wonderful place to make the center of your exploration. In this cozy B&B, run by the fabulous Maria Pia, you will find comfortable rooms and apartments, an inviting swimming pool and an atmosphere that is pure Tuscany: friendly, warm, from the heart.
The week that we stayed at Il Cardo—high season, August—we were the only non-Italians present. Maria Pia took great care to help us plan any number of adventures, beginning with Sunday dinner at a nearby osteria. Go to Tavernelle, to La Pergola, she said. See Francesca, she will feed you. But be careful to only eat a bit of what she brings at the beginning, because it will keep coming.
And so it did, antipasto, primi, secondi, contorni, espresso, all of it in a dining room filled with Tuscan families, grandparents to babies, having their Sunday meal. A bottle of the house vino rossi was a perfect accompaniment. The service was spectacularly friendly, again, even though our Italian was nearly non-existent. No noses turned up at tourists, just the warm, inviting graciousness that makes Tuscan dining even better.
The hospitality continued through the week, with Maria Pia organizing wonderful one-on-one tours with local (and renowned) artists Gianfranco Giorni and Elena Merendelli, as well as the luxury fabric retailer Busatti, whose original factory is still here in Anghiari. We toured the tiny factory led by Mr. Busatti himself, whose passion for fine fabrics shows in the quality of his products. Be aware, I’m not talking “tourist” tours here—these are opportunities to talk with artisans about their work and their lives.
Maria Pia also suggested wonderful day trips to amazing locations, including La Verna, where St. Francis journeyed for his meditations, on one of the most spectacular mountaintops imaginable and Caprese Michelangelo, the birthplace of the artist. As the wind whispers through the trees in this ancient walled village—tiny, tiny, you can’t imagine how small—you are struck with how creativity can flourish in a world of only natural distraction.
And then, the cooking classes. We learned how to make four different dishes. The highlight of both sessions was the meal that night, with Maria Pia and Franco, on their patio, under the Tuscan moon. Great food, great wine and Franco’s very own vin santo...glorious!!
Il Cardo Resort is made up of two buildings with several rooms and apartments, some with small kitchens, all of them with some kind of outdoor eating space. Breakfast is served every morning in the main dining area. This is self-service lodging, by the way, so Americans looking for the maid to come through every day should be aware that it will not happen. Clean sheets and towels are available whenever you need them, however. The rooms are generously sized, with wonderful décor and very comfortable beds. Though there is no other food service (other than a continental breakfast or dinner by Maria Pia, available by prior arrangement), Anghiari boasts some of the best restaurants to be found anywhere. I can honestly tell you, as a New Yorker used to really wonderful dining experiences both cheap and expensive, the restaurants of Anghiari are right up there.
Our favorites, in the area:
Osteria La Pergola (in nearby Tavenelle, rustic dining)
Per Bacco (Anghiari, fine dining)
Da Alighiero (Anghiari, fine dining)
Bar Pizzaria Baldaccio
Finally, do not hesitate to contact Maria Pia in advance of your stay, to set up any number of wonderful itineraries, including biking and horseback riding. And make sure to take advantage of the hot stone massage done by the fabulous Rafalla, one of the very lovely people who make Il Cardo SO special.
Il Cardo is a jewel. Enjoy your stay!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.