Inspire

Where To Find A Secret Slice Of Tuscany Just 40 Minutes Outside Of Sydney’s CBD

I’m standing on the balcony of a dusty pink, two-storey villa. Classical Italian music is filling a narrow cobblestone pathway. A red Vespa is parked at one end, beside a Trattoria (an Italian-style eatery) with dark wood, stained glass windows and red and white chequered tablecloths.

It’s a scene that throws all my senses to a sleepy village in Tuscany, but I’m not in Italy. Not even in Europe, in fact – I’m a 40-minute drive outside Sydney, in The Hills, a group of suburbs more known for its shopping centres and soccer mum vans than for its charming, water-worn streets.

I’ve been invited to stay at Guestlands, a newly-opened bed-and-breakfast set in a piazza, beside gorgeous gardens that include a pool and overlooking a small lake. It’s a delicious little slice of Italy – without the plane, passport and pesky pickpockets, of course.

 

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“I saw this about four or five years ago in my head,” co-owner Peter Guest tells me over wine and cheese at happy hour (free every night for guests) one evening. Peter, along with his wife Jenny and a team of local contractors, built the entire village – made of four villas, the Trattoria (a casual Italian eatery), a main walkway and two side streets – in three and a half years. He and Jenny live next door in a lofty house, also Italian-themed that’ll eventually be available to rent.

It’s not just the design and architecture that give it such authentic European flair – the village is built on uneven slabs that give it that old-time, winding road effect. All the doors and windows are from a recycling centre, and almost everything else is second-hand.

Starting before you even arrive with e-mail confirmations sprinkled with Italian (“Grazie”, “Arrivederci” and “Buongiorno”) to a fridge in the Trattoria stocked with prosecco, Prosciutto, and Peronis — every detail here is deliberate, which helps to make the stay far from what it easily could’ve been: kitsch.

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After happy hour, Peter gives me a peek into the other three rooms; all equally priced and with their own unique features – a freestanding tub, a private courtyard and a lounge room. I’m staying in villa four, just across from a little rooftop courtyard I enjoy a sunset wine on one night, and with two balconies – one that faces the piazza, the other overlooking the gardens, lake and a giant chess set.

Sitting out on my garden balcony the next morning, the air thick with cicada hums, Italian music floating from the deck of Peter and Jenny’s home and a post-rain, piercing sun overhead, I feel entirely relaxed and far from city life.

 

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Later, I wander through the gardens which were planted 20 years ago and are now also home to a stone column walkway, an outdoor jacuzzi and an impressive collection of flowers — most of them framed by hovering white butterflies. They’re enchanting, to say the least.

However, the pool — with it’s over-arching Italian Cypress trees — is where I spend most of my three-day, two-night stay (it’s a two-night minimum and cheaper mid-week).

 

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I personally got here by taking a train to Hornsby and a 20-minute Uber from there, but I’d recommend having your own set of wheels to explore the area as Uber can be hard to come by.

I recommend checking out the Italian restaurant, A Chef Secrets, a 30-minute drive away along Berowra Waters. Another restaurant called Saddles — set on 10-hectares of bush — is 45 minutes. There’s also a delicatessen very close to the hotel where you can stock up on food for a picnic.

Of course, I like a go-go-go type of holiday, but if you just want to chill on the property there’s definitely enough to keep you entertained. Apart from exploring the village and gardens or going for a dip in the pool or jacuzzi, you could also curl up with a film in the movie room, indulge in a massage by an in-house masseuse or mingle with other guests in the Trattoria.

Though I came for the Euro vibes, I also got the chance to feel pampered and totally carefree, which I guess is exactly what a real Tuscany getaway gives you: the opportunity to taste, as the Italians would say, la dolce vita.

The author stayed as a guest of Guestlands.

(Lead Image: Instagram /@sangeetatatiana)