Malcolm effortlessly whipped up great pizza for lunch ('what else do you do when it's raining in the morning?'), heated some of their frozen cache of fabulous Neopolitan bread (beats the unsalted Tuscan stuff any day), and accompanied it with some good local cured salami, sweet tomatoes and their own extra virgin olive oil.

When Phil guessed the contents of the huge pot on the stove contained barnyard chicken, Malcolm said wryly, 'Sorry mate, it's for a duck lasagna. After it's cooked, I'm going to pull the meat from the bones and make some lasagna from some fresh goose eggs I've got....'

malcomWe had three nights here, taking day trips around the 'picture postcard' Tuscan towns, loaded with advice from our hosts, returning to cook ourselves or dine with them and an interesting assortment of guests.

To people who want to unwind, but also seek a 'massage for your eyes' view, this place is a gem, and Daniela and Malcolm are your willing, knowledgeable guides to ensure success in custom-making your own enjoyable experience.

Bring your own shopping; stop at a local market (a list is provided in your abode), or book into dine with Malcolm and Daniela and their delightful young daughters and any fellow guests who wish to do the same.

They grow an excellent garden and have ample supplies of basics and treats as they love good food and wine, and are cultured, engaging people. There are a number of simple holiday apartments, so you just book in by yourself, with your family or with some friends.

viewWith a bit of notice, they can provide cooking lessons, truffle hunting, horse riding, hiking, and massages. The rate includes free wifi, great views and fresh air. You can do as much or as little as you like. Unwind, watch the flow of nature, read, chat, pat the animals (very tempting to make away with one of their cats) - whatever you like. You can also get your washing done for an extremely reasonable rate, by Michaela, their daily help.

Day one was fun.

Malcolm and Daniela had some friends around and what an interesting bunch!

We all drank too much wine and enjoyed each other's company, all coming from diverse backgrounds.

A Neopolitan couple, she a friend of Daniela, he a doctor. Apparently Naples is a fabulous place we must all visit, just don't venture out wearing any watches or other jewelry or stray more than 20 meters off the main routes... We suggested he might like to visit NZ instead.

A very erudite amusing Englishman, who is an historian of ideas (only about 20 in the world).

Plus ourselves.

The duck lasagna was amazing.

Day Two

Went to the market in Rapolano. A mixed bag. Great scallions. Went to a local butcher and bought a yellow chook and some of his own-cured bacon. Bought a choice of the local reds - nothing very expensive. All very drinkable.

Had lunch in the restaurant of the Castello of San Giovanni d' Asso. Very good.

Day Three

Trekked out again, and returned to dinner cooked by Malcolm and Daniela with more guests, this time excellent homemade pesto and diced sundried tomatoes over trofie pasta, followed by meat and salad containing toasted almonds and a wicked little dessert with delicious strawberries.

That evening's company included a stylish, attractive couple in their mid thirties from Munich and their rather large dogs, she was doing pediatric training and he was ex film industry. They were going to venture out for a bit of designer outlet shopping sometime during their 5 days there. The others were a Chinese couple, who we thought were very intrepid going that far out into the wilderness driving themselves. When we asked how on earth they had discovered the place, he told us they had read about it on a 'bulletin', the Chinese equivalent of a blog...

He was in the frozen fish industry and they hailed from the beer making town of Tsingtao. The couple from Munich wasted no time opining how bad frozen fish from China was...all in good humour though. Then out came the cigars, Limoncello and grappa...

It's a charming, simple but sophisticated experience.

The place is a haven for children, when their children (girls of 8 and 12) are there. They entertain each other and swap customs and language whilst racing around playing games, feeding the chickens, ducks and other animals. An incredibly easy healthy way to get exposure to other cultures in a friendly environment.