Back from Tuscany which still casts a magic spell on me; I spent some time working on a farm here in the 1980s and then visited again and again in my early 20s, mesmerised by architecture, landscape and way of life, probably in a very naïve way. The first week was in an old farmhouse 30 miles north of Florence, wonderfully remote and with views of an old world landscape out of every shuttered window. No distractions, so a lot of reading and playing cards and cooking meals over a long time to eat on the terrace. The English owners had done the house very beautifully (see www.columbinehall.co.uk/ilpozzo) and I enjoyed both old fashioned detective thrillers and 19th century memoirs of aristocrats from their shelves. We did spend one day in Florence, and enjoyed the views from Piazzale Michelangelo when we arrived by car and parked, and left after seeing the sunset from the same positition. We went on a splendid horse and carriage ride round the streets, which slows you down and makes you look up, over the heads of the crowds and we also had a wonderful set menu lunch in a very non touristy place called Zio Gigi, on the Via F Portinari. The Boboli Gardens for a siesta and the Uffizi after an ice-cream and wander along the river. The second week was perhaps 15 miles south of Siena in an agriturismo apartment in an old castello, with a pool shared with two other families, again very peaceful and swimming took over. It was flatter country too so I could run every morning and snoop around abandoned farmhouses dreaming of owning one, for holidays anyway. Siena was busy but beautiful and the rest of the family climbed the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico while I sketched in the Piazza del Campo. One of our best evenings was in Pienza, visiting the charming central square and then having supper in a square, after a day visiting thermal pools with an artist friend Malgozia Levittoux who lives nearby.