This year I went with the family and explored Germany’s campsites. It has to be said that I am not a passionate devotee of camping. If the weather is lovely it’s okay but if I have to stumble throught the rain to the toilets at night I lose at little bit of my enthusiasm.
Glamping sounded nicer and when you invite me to investigate this phenomenon in lovely Tuscany you have me intrigued. So – to Florence, from which you can get to Camping Village Orlando in Chianti within an hour. The glampsite is the brainchild of the Dutch businessman Loek van de Loo, who with his Italian business partner invested a whopping five and a half million Euro in this glampsite. You can find everything here – you can still come with your tent, caravan or mobile home and use all the nice facilities but you also can rent accommodation of various sorts. There are normal tents without toilets but also quite a few which are so big that they fit a double bed, a stock bed, a pantry, a toilet and a shower. The tents have wooden flooring which is covered with sisal. If it rains you don’t have that mud and wetness in your tent – very nice.
If you want to be more comfortable you can rent one of the lodges, which come in different sizes; some have two rooms with a double and two single beds and a small kitchen. You also have a sheltered terrace where you can sit and relax. One of the attractions is the Air Lodge, a two-storey tent. On the second floor you can lie in your comfy double bed and look through a window at the stars – very romantic.
My home is a cube – they tell me proudly that only six of these exist in Europe. The interior of the cube is like a hotel room; little mirrors hang on the wall and there is a small pantry so that guests can cook if they want. Lying on my bed I look at the forest of holms which dance slowly in the wind. What a view! In an instant I am relaxed, but the next second I’m on alert because a llama is passing my view and munches on the leaves. Horst, as he is christened by my fellow travellers, is a remnant of a little zoo the communist local council got from their brothers and sisters in the USSR.
When the Soviet Union collapsed there was no money for Horst and his friends. Nowadays there is only a lonely bear left behind the cages. The llamas have long since fled the premises but Horst stayed. Unfazed by the excited tourist he munches on the leaves. He’s not the only animal in the camping village – next to a donkey there is a Shetland pony which carries little children through the camp several times a week. The little ones here are in heaven – they can enjoy the big slide in the luxurious swimming pool whilst their parents supervise from the surrounding deck chairs.
It is off-season now and there is enough space for everyone. Space is one of the favourite subjects of Loek van de Loo – with his concept of glamping he prefers all his accommodations situated in a leisurely manner around the restaurant and pool at the hill. Nothing should be in rank and file as it has traditionally been on campsites with caravans.
There is sufficient space; no-one can see me in my cube or anyone else in the other lodges. Even when they build more huts and cubes it will remain this way. This is van de Loo’s promise. In a few years Orlando should accommodate 1060 guests. To feed them there will have to be a bigger restaurant.
This is another aspect of glamping – no fidgeting with the small gas cooker and anyway, if you are in Italy and can eat in the nice restaurant in the park why shouldn’t you? Only the club sandwich is a disappointment – otherwise you can indulge in big pizzas, lovely garlic spaghetti with bacon or chicken in balsamic. If you fancy a change of scenery you can go to L’Osteria Del Rifugio Del Chianti which is located only a mile away. You won’t regret it – the food is gorgeous, with delicious bruscetta – why do the tomatoes taste so much better in Italy? – and of course there is pasta in all its glorious creation. The region is famous for its wild boar which is seasoned with fennel and is a revelation.
Everything is gulped down with easy to drink Chianti which leads us to another important topic: wine. I am in the home of Chianti and the Castello d’Albola. Every week Orlando organise a 40€ dinner in that wonderful castle which is surrounded by its vineyards.
You can visit the old wine cellars and, if you are lucky, they let you see the breathtaking garden of the Zonins who bought the vineyard in 1979. The dinner is something to remember – first they serve antipasti, then risotto followed by masses of meat, potato wedges, peppers, baked tomatoes and chard. And of course we are lavished with the vineyard’s excellent wine. Unfortunately the shop is closed in the evenings so if you want to buy your Chianti do it during the daytime. From April to November there are tours through the castle; during wintertime you have to make an appointment.
Camping with toilets and heating. No stumbling to the toilets through the rain. The wine! The food! The view! I am sold. The only problem is that dogs are not allowed in the camping village’s cubes and lodges. You can bring your canine friend with your own caravan, tent or mobile home but otherwise they are verboten. What a pity, though maybe I should just smuggle our miniature dachshund into the cube like that Italian guy did with his chihuahua.