Work in the Tuscan countryside to weather the spring slump

I climbed up a rocky road, convinced my little Fiat 500 would either collapse on a gravel pile or explode in a tire. This dirt road is one of the roads of Tuscany You’ll want a bianch, a part of the landscape and heritage which, unfortunately for the unprepared towers, cannot be asphalt. However, I was soon distracted from the ordeal by the sight of the villa, on top of a hill, ivy crawling over the facade and a vineyard spread beneath. I slowly paused and took a moment to catch a glimpse of the paradise that would be my new temporary “office”.

While spring brings flowering flowering trees, chirping birds, and the first true days of warm sun, many workers also experience the annual spring slump. It may manifest as a feeling of sluggishness, anhedonia — the inability to enjoy anything — or just frustration at stooping at a desk while you might be dreading in the gardens.

Help websites are brimming with tips on how to get rid of the spring blues, with some surprisingly effective tips like cleaning your desk in the spring. But as a travel writer, I decided to choose a change of scenery and book a work appointment in the remote Tuscan countryside. Here I am, sitting on a sunny flag-stone veranda shaded by lemon trees dotted with fruit and drinking coffee while editing an article.

Business has emerged during the pandemic, partly as employees realized they could work by the pool instead of a makeshift home office and partly because the travel industry has exhausted its brains to come up with ways to adapt to the restrictions of the coronavirus. Hotels and resorts have started offering packages to facilitate remote work while ensuring guests get the most out of their free time. That could mean early morning yoga on the hotel balcony, an afternoon sightseeing trip around Rome or evening spa sessions.

But as the pandemic continues to spread, remote workers have realized that their work should not only last a few days, but may extend into weeks and even months. It’s no longer about escaping the shackles of the home office, it’s about moving it into this dream escape. Suddenly, the phrase “digital nomad” spread like wildfire.

Margherita Pelleero, founder of Essenza Escapes that provides travel consultancy and luxury property rentals in Italy, has decided to add long-stay workplaces to its list of services amid this trend. I have been temporarily relocated to Le Pratola, their elegantly converted farmhouse in Tuscany’s famous Chianti wine region. When settling in already, I feel energized about work because I am happy at the multiple workstations I can try: the serious desk in the living room, the kitchen island, the long dining room table, or any of the many outdoor seating areas.

I use the afternoon of the first day to assess my surroundings and meander down to the Gaiole Valley town of Chianti. The small Gaiole mall is surprisingly lively, with many bars open and customers hanging out at tables. Families roaming outside in the afternoon sun. The vegetable seller is having a conversation with friends outside the store when I arrive, leisurely interrupting his conversation. I buy a pair of carrots, celery and onions and he hands them to me in a paper bag that I quietly put under my arm.

Then I stopped at the butcher, a centuries-old time capsule. While pushing lumps of meat into the mincer, the owner told me about his storied store. Lightly for an 80-year-old, he climbed up on a chair to fish photocopies of documents he had found in Town Hall which attest to the existence of a butcher’s shop since at least the eighteenth century. Purchased ingredients for my ragu sauce – a dish I purposely chose for the long cooking time – I head back down the gravel road in first gear to the villa.

For a longer working stay, immersion in local life is essential. Pelleero realized early on that those wishing to move to a foreign country and possibly a more rural location, as in one of Italy’s attractions, faced many challenges such as a short stay in a hotel. Other than shopping, guests may need to take advantage of services such as healthcare, schools, summer camps, and car rentals. So, along with renting the villa, Piliero takes care of all the onerous organizational aspects.

But Piliero also holds that the “positive” part of the “workcation” is adequately fulfilled. She gave me ways to walk on my morning outings, where I noticed a deer jumping and a badger rummaging. For a cool evening, Netflix is ​​available at the touch of a button and stacks of DVDs. Being in the famous Chianti wine region, excursions are naturally centered on the vineyards.

Closest to Le Pratola is Capannelle, a country farmhouse at the top of a very steep road. It has a warm family feel in the spacious tasting area on the top floor and lounges for guests staying in the resort rooms. Downstairs, I wander through cellars filled with dusty bottles, oak barrels, and the mysterious cavo de Cabanel, the equivalent of a bank vault in a winery. Carlotta’s guide pushes a button and the large steel doors are sealed with a giant C-opening slot. Inside, under dim lighting, are steel shelves with only a few bottles on each, bearing the name of a restaurant, enoteca or hotel. These are bottles belonging to an exclusive club of companies that can squeeze their wines in this cellar.

Head back to the villa in the evening, ragu bubbles warmly waft and I sip fresh, fruity Chianti Classico Riserva from Capannelle and leisurely read its history, the slack of spring has been completely forgotten.

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