Ever since watching ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’, artist Jessica Yolanda Kaye has dreamed of spending summer in Tuscany. And this year, she was lucky enough to get a taste. Get lost in her travels with her Siena guide.
A guide to Siena
I spent a week in a charming villa in Siena for an art residency with Mondo Corsini and it was everything I dreamed of (and more, more, more). I returned to London bursting with inspiration and a suitcase filled with sketches.
Villa La Strega
I was fortunate to stay at Villa La Strega, a charming villa in the heart of Tuscany, which has been in the Corsini family for decades, and it truly was love at first sight. From the pastel-hued interiors, to the breathtaking views of Siena, to the golden light that trickles in throughout the day. This place is magic.
There is a pool overlooking the medieval walls of Siena town, a pink dining room that opens up to a rose garden, a yellow living room downstairs, a chequered living room upstairs and seven bedrooms (I think). And yet, somehow it feels cosy. It feels like home. With the little yellow kitchen at the heart.
We were a group of four, all there in pursuit of inspiration and when we weren’t exploring Siena (twenty minutes walk away) or Florence (an hours drive away), our days were spent creating. I painted in the pink room, with Cami filming intermittently, Jess shooting in the garden and Matteo cooking lemon pasta for us all. We would then all come together over a spritz and an Italian feast, staying up late chatting for hours. Opening up about our creative struggles, our hopes and our dreams.
It’s hard to put into words how special this place; how special this week was.
I can’t wait to go back.
Lunch at Antinori winery
From the moment we drove into the pink-hued carpark of Antinori winery, on the drive from Florence airport to the villa, we were shook. The carpark is honestly stunning. The contemporary architecture, stunning. And the vineyards all the more stunning as a result. The winery took seven years to build using natural materials (terracotta, wood, glass) and overlooks the Tuscan countryside. We enjoyed a late lunch outside on the terrace surrounded by vineyards (book) and it set the tone for an incredible week.
Sandwich from Semel (Florence)
One of my favourite sandwiches (ever) is from a little hole-in-the-wall near the Sant’Ambrogio markets in Florence. If you’re a vego, like me, and don’t mind a street-side bite with a side of people watching — go. Try the pear, truffle and pecorino panini (and a glass of 1 euro vino, served by the owner who will be dressed in a shirt and tie no matter how hot it is outside).
Dinner at Osteria Le Logge (Siena)
One night we gave Matteo a break from playing chef and wandered into Siena town for dinner at Osteria Le Logge, a cute little spot in the thick of it with delicious pasta and an extensive wine cellar (which they’ll show you if you ask).
Apertivo at the Bardini Gardens (Florence)
I love walking through the Bardini Gardens. It is slightly more quaint than the Boboli gardens and has a breathtaking view of Florence. I would recommend visiting towards the end of the day so you can end with a spritz at dusk at the bar at the top (La Loggetta di Villa Bardini) and take in the exquisite scenery.
Vodka penne at Trattoria Alla Vecchia Bettola (Florence)
We only had one dinner in Florence and I was tempted to book Trattoria Cammillo, which ticks all the boxes (charm, food, character) but after a full day of exploring, all we wanted was a big bowl of pasta. I’ve tried a lot of pasta in Italy over the years and the vodka penne at Trattoria Alla Vecchia Bettola has to be one of my favourites (almost as good as Matteo’s). It’s not the prettiest spot in Florence but it’s so tasty and has a neighbourhood energy that makes you feel like you’re a local, until they speak to you in Italian.
Art at the Uffizi & Palazzo Strozzi (Florence)
There are so many galleries in Florence, it can be overwhelming. If I had to narrow it down to two though, it would be the Uffizi, to catch a glimpse of Renaissance masterpieces (including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus) and Palazzo Strozzi, a 15th century mansion in the heart of the city with some of Europe’s best contemporary art exhibitions.
Vintage shopping at Aloe & Wolf (Siena) and Recollection by Albrici (Florence)
I’ve never had much luck with vintage shopping in the past (largely because I don’t have the patience to make my way through racks of clothing) but I was recommended these two vintage shops and surprisingly managed to find a few gems. Both shops are well curated and have some vintage Chloe, Dior, YSL — we had a lot of fun trying everything on.
Art supplies from Rigacci (Florence)
A few years ago I stumbled on Rigacci, a little art store near the Duomo that has been family run for 97 years. They have stacks of beautiful paper and drawers filled with the best art materials. This time I left with rolls of paper in blush and ochre tones, an assortment of pencils and colour pastels. All of which I put to use back in the villa in my make-shift pink studio.
You can see some of my sketches below xx
Jessica Yolanda Kaye is an Australian artist based in Notting Hill. Through abstract portraiture, Jessica explores the way people think, feel and act in relation to others and themselves. She is fascinated by the fine-line that separates complexity and simplicity in human behaviour and psychology, and seeks to explore this in her process and aesthetic.
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Holly’s hot tip: Sign up to Jess’s newsletters – reading her words of wisdom have become a much adored ritual for me xx
If you haven’t already, immerse yourself in a well-rounded Tuscan lifestyle with our Tuscany retreat.