Photos Courtesy of Villa Montalbano
and in the preparation of coffee blends. One of the unbelievable coffees served is Kopi luwak, one of the most expensive in the world, selling for between US$100 and $500 per pound in 2010. If you’re a cheese fanatic, fresh sumptuous cheeses, buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and more are produced by a family owned Italian artisan company, Bufalcioffi. An amazing catering company, Rivendita No. 1, orchestrates huge banquets for the region and is run by a family owned company, Patrizio and Anna-Maria Cirri and brother Giovanni Begcali, a team that has served international popular musicians, celebrities and even Michelin star chefs. Celebrity musician and singer James Blunt served under Col. Ridley in the English military years ago and the close friendship has lasted over the years. Blunt visited the Montalbano Estate in 2018 during a stop on his busy European tour schedule.
Villa Montalbano, an historical Pistoia estate, has a lovely selection of 5 fabulous traditional Tuscan homes to rent for a few days or a month to immerse and experience Italian traditions including christenings, weddings and other ceremonies in a special chapel on the property. Colonel Mark Ridley, owner of the estate, or ‘Tenuta’, is the former commander of the Queen’s Household Cavalry Regiment in Windsor. Following a full military career in the British Army, which included the royal command post, Mark took up residence in the Villa. Since he arrived, he has devotedly focused on the management and development of the estate. As the owner, he gives guided tours and lectures regarding the process of making olive oil as the tradition itself is almost a dying craft only known to a select few Col. Ridley can provide you great stories and tales, and even give you a personal hand-
written map to get you where you need to go. He personally knows all the artisans, chefs and shopkeepers of the region to plan your wedding or special Tuscan celebrations and with them he will help plan an experience of a lifetime. Ridley greets guests with a lovely warmth and charm that leaves one enchanted and wanting to learn more about the history of the region and visit this earthly magnet. It’s a firm requirement that Mark’s treasured Rhodesian ridgeback companion, the 4-legged regal gatekeeper, Bemba, be brought a few treats! (Bemba is named for a spiritual and quite amazing matriarchal tribe in Africa.) December 2018 | 90
Featuring Katrina Campins.