Get­ting there

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Cover Story -

Griff Rhys Jones flew with Bri­tish Air­ways (0344 493 0787; from Lon­don City air­port to Pisa, with fares from £86 re­turn. EasyJet flies from Lon­don Gatwick to Pisa with fares from £28 re­turn. From Pisa, rent a car with one of 10 providers at the air­port in­clud­ing Avis, Hertz, Europ­car and Sixt. Idyl­lic Italy (0161 787 8587; bridge­wa­ter has a num­ber of large vil­las in the Monte Ar­gen­tario re­gion, in­clud­ing Torre di Tala­m­one – fea­tured in the Bond film Quan­tum of So­lace – with panoramic views of Porto Santo Stefano; from £7,828 per week, sleeps 12. To Tus­cany (0121 286 7782; to-tus­ of­fers smaller vil­las on the penin­sula, such as Bellav­ista at Punta Nera (from £1,602 per week) and Vil­letta at Punta Nera (from £1,887 per week), both sleep­ing four. If you pre­fer a ho­tel, con­sider the el­e­gant Ho­tel Il Pel­li­cano near Porto Er­cole, on the south side of the penin­sula. Rooms from £560 per night; see our ex­pert re­view at tele­graph.­li­cano. hearts that didn’t feel like this­tles and toma­toes that tasted strange be­cause they tasted of tomato. Af­ter all the overindul­gence, I slept badly.

At 4am, the house be­gan to rat­tle with bangs and thuds. Drag­ging on shorts, I stepped out into a wild world of thrash­ing olive trees and bend­ing cy­presses as a warm, damp Sirocco wind swept fu­ri­ously over the moun­tain and bat­tered our hand­some dark green shut­ters.

The next day, we took a boat out. From the wa­ter, the town of Porto Santo Stefano is piled up like a hang­ing gar­den. Else­where, much of old Ar­gen­tario has faded. The farms are like rubbed-out scrib­bles on the hill­side; the ter­races are over­grown. But here, out a bit, we could see above town: ser­ried ranks of care­fully tended olive trees blob down a steep slope; cy­presses draw ver­ti­cal lines of hatched dark­ness. In this one bowl of moun­tain­side, a vi­sion of sharp-shad­owed, cul­ti­vated Tus­can coun­try­side hangs over a rocky shore and a wine-dark sea.

We mo­tored around the head­land in a fresh breeze. There were two or three grey beaches, where Zo­diac in­flat­a­bles and a cou­ple of mo­tor boats had an­chored. We joined them, and jumped in off the bow. The wa­ter was pleas­ant, even in June. Blue fish swam in pretty pat­terns 10ft be­low us.

We upped an­chor and sped back to har­bour where, with the north coast snaking away and Elba’s blue moun­tains clos­ing the hori­zon, it felt like we were on the shore of some gi­gan­tic, shim­mer­ing blue lake. Be­yond the is­lands of the Tus­can archipelago, the alpine sum­mits of Cor­sica are of­ten

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