This guide covers the hot spots of Tuscany and the Italian lakes, but we have found special places all over the country: from the heel of Puglia to the mountains of Val d'Aosta, via Italy's amazing islands. We look for owners, homes and hotels that we like, and we are fiercely subjective in our choices. 'Special for us is not about the number of creature comforts, but relates to many elements that make a place work'. Certainly, the way guests are treated comes as high on our list, as the setting, the architecture and the food.
I would like to introduce our Special Places and Slow guides which pinpoint the way to some 5,000 remarkable places to stay across Europe and beyond. What do I look for?
* Warm, very human, interesting people
* Beautiful buildings, original style, elegant simplicity
* Fine old things that, however dilapidated, carry their age and authenticity with dignity
* Delicious food, much of it grown at home and cooked with devotion
* A touch of fun with a touch of class. Quirkiness with seriousness, a light touch, an easy style
* Honest writing with a dash of panache
* Comfort - yes, but not at the expense of everything else.