Borgo I Vicelli: A Gourmet Agriturismo with Modern Cuisine In the Chianti Hills

Bagno a Ripoli

Francesca Feresin
copertina borgo i vicelli

Just outside Florence, Borgo I Vicelli amazes with Al 588 and Andrea Perini's creations. On the menu, dishes that taste of agriculture and farming in contemporary Tuscany.

The Venue

A night at the gates of Florence is a unique experience. For those escaping aggressive overly urbanized metropolises, the Tuscan countryside can transform into a cushion that muffles subtle whispers. It exudes a noisy silence, composed of nature, wild creatures, and plants just minutes from Florence, right here at Relais Borgo I Vicelli, which, with its fine dining restaurant Al 588, is increasingly becoming a delightful magnet for those who have learned to forget their cell phones and be pampered from all angles. But in a renewed version, with the right ambition to make guests feel well.

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A place where time naturally suspends itself to be redesigned by the customer, especially at the table. After several months of closure for renovation, the Relais returns more alive than ever, defining itself as the ideal destination for romantic getaways in an atmosphere that combines history and modernity, design and the countryside.

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borgo i vicelli salotto

The estate, purchased in the 1970s by Giulia Franco's grandfather, the owner and director of the property, and owned since the 1500s by the Spedale Degli Innocenti, encompasses seventeen hectares with two thousand five hundred organic olive trees, surrounded by a forest, a nineteenth-century villa, some cottages, an olive mill that was active until the 1980s, and a private pond. These are complemented by the suites and the spacious infinity pool, completely renovated last year, and the private spa area that includes a Jacuzzi whirlpool, sauna, fitness, and relaxation room, where you can request relaxing massages and beauty treatments.

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"Because we love children," says Giulia, "we believe that, by their very nature, the Relais, with its antique furnishings, restaurant tables by the pool, lacking spaces designed for the games and entertainment for the little ones, and, last but not least, a restaurant with refined and contemporary cuisine, is unsuitable for children, and a stay with us would result boring and limiting for them. For this reason, after eleven years since opening, we have decided to convert the hotel and restaurant into a facility for people twelve years and older." But the main reason I'm here to tell you about Borgo is its restaurant Al 588, led by chef Andrea Perini and pastry chef Francesca Benedettelli. An intimate place, with around forty seats spread between the indoor dining room and the beautiful outdoor garden by the pool.

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Francesca Benedettelli 02

Al 588 Restaurant 

Andrea has been leading the kitchen for ten years. He, very young, after his hospitality studies, spent a year and a half in Gordon Ramsay's restaurant galaxy; from there, he moved to Alicante to work with María José San Román, a Michelin-starred chef at the time, and finally to the Olive Oil Resort Villa Campestri. Here, Perini became close to extra virgin olive oil, a central element of his cuisine alongside carefully selected local ingredients. Since Borgo I Vicelli is a countryside guesthouse, most of the ingredients used are self-produced. The rest comes from small local businesses, such as the meats that Andrea transforms into incredible sheep or wild boar cold cuts, for example, and there's also the Calvana from Salumificio Mannori and the Galaverna cheese from Mugello's Palagiaccio farm.

andrea perini

This all translates into a genuine, honest, author's cuisine that doesn't follow trends but adapts with respect to the land that welcomes it. Perini is a master in both taste and the aesthetics of dishes, which are often composed of a few, humble elements to which he gives new attire and dignity. Not to be forgotten is the dessert section at Al 588, led by the talented Francesca Benedettelli. She, a Roman with an architecture degree, boasts an impressive resume: she trained at Alma in Colorno, then went to Prato to learn from Paolo Sacchetti and later worked in the kitchens of Rocco de Santis at Santa Elisabetta in Florence during its transition from one to two Michelin stars; finally, she worked with Matteo Lorenzini at the starred Osteria di Passignano. Francesca's desserts are essential, light, with low sugar content, and seasonal.

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At Al 588, you can choose dishes à la carte or opt for two tasting menus, a 5-course chef's choice menu for 80 euros (120 euros with wine pairing) or the "Notte Toscana" (Tuscan Night) a 5-course pre-set tasting menu for 70 euros per person (110 euros with wine pairing). They also offer an olive oil tasting with 3 samples for 15 euros. The wine list is curated by sommelier Andrea Armas, a young and well-prepared professional with significant experience at the Terrazza Gallia of the Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan, supervised by the Michelin three-star Da Vittorio, and at the Winter Garden Restaurant of the St. Regis Hotel in Florence. His continuous research has led to a wine list made of non-obvious labels, featuring both well-known wine makers’ names and small producers.

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The dishes 

The start of the dinner at Al 588 couldn't be better. In the garden, just inches from the pool, Andrea personally pampers me with a battery of tastings and delicious bites.

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I nibble on oregano grissini while the aroma of Grigio Casentino ham and aged goat cheese in grape marc tickles the taste buds. A one-shot experience is the nasturtium flower with roasted lemon gel and roasted chamomile, an unprecedented explosion of aromas that taste like spring. And as I advance to taste the Muflon salami, I take the first sip of a Gin & Tonic made with a Gin, like most of the liquors and spirits at the Borgo, produced by Fermenthinks, a local distillery/liquor factory/fermentation facility. The appetizer doesn't stop there: there's artichoke hearts in basil oil with 48-month aged Parmigiano, followed by marinated purple cabbage with extract from the estate's plum tree and Calvana fillet tartare, covered in a black truffle snow.

al 588 location

Moving to the table, I find a tasting of cold cuts made by Andrea, with unique scents, textures, and flavors. There's wild boar finocchiona (Tuscan fennel seeds salami), dry wild boar sausage, and sheep prosciutto. Alongside the small cutting board comes a selection of homemade bread and focaccia to dip in their own-produced olive oil and Podere Tiberi's oil.

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But it's time to get to the real dishes. The chef's choice for the appetizer is Lingua 3.0, which is Chianina tongue cooked in three ways with fig compote, TYPIQO's Tuscany Soya, Mojo Verde, and field arugula. The small, crispy meatball is a delight to be devoured in a single bite; the skewer of freshly seared tongue is playful as well. But the true standout is the central nugget, tender and meaty at the same time, enhanced by the sauces that coat it.

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al 588 lingua di chianina 3 3

A notable appetizer is followed by an uncommon first course: "Riso non Riso," a meticulously cut celeriac risotto that replicates the look of rice, only enriched with extra virgin olive oil butter and served with its broth, Galaverna fondue from Mugello's Palagiaccio farm, and millefiori pollen. A fun, visually striking dish, and importantly, vegetarian.

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The savory portion concludes with the Varena kid goat terrine, carrots, hay, goat yogurt, and ginger. The temperature, body, and thickness rise with this significant main course, a reflection of the true and agricultural Tuscany observed through Andrea's technical and contemporary eye. For dessert, pastry chef Francesca Benedettelli has crafted a fresh creation with multiple temperatures and textures, all centered around apricot, smoked here, skillfully paired in moderation with lavender, extra virgin olive oil, and honey.

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Borgo I Vicelli- Al 588

Via Roma, 588, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli, FI, Italia
Telefono: +39 055 69 90 03

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