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  • Gaiole, Tuscany: The best place in Europe to live

Gaiole, Tuscany: The best place in Europe to live

It's deep in the heart of Chianti but you would be forgiven for never having heard of it, overshadowed as it is by the likes of Siena 28km away and Arezzo and San Gimignano, both 55 km distant.

But the small town of Gaiole – or Gaiole in Chianti to give it its full name – has been named by influential American magazine Forbes as Europe's most idyllic place in which to live.

Gaiole in Chianti, in the north of Siena province, Tuscany, has barely more than 2,300 inhabitants and has fairly hidden itself below the tourist track radar. Until now. Forbes described it as "a sleepy and picturesque municipality…it holds an annual wine festival in September and has an average temperature of 20C (68F). A 17th century farmhouse high in the Chianti hills is likely to cost around €600,000.

Badia a Cotibuono, Barbischio, Lecchi, Lucignano, Meleto, San Sano, Starda, Torricella, Vistarenni, Vertine…the typically Tuscan beauty of the towns and villages that make up the comune of Gaiole in Chianti have for decades been a secret known only to locals and a few well-travelled visitors.

This area has a rich history and tradition of art and culture stretching back thousands of years. Its isolation was one of its attractions; this was a place the few visitors who had discovered it could retreat to, away from the mass tourism and foreign property speculation that have seen large parts of the surrounding area dubbed Chiantishire.

Now that’s all about to change. But for the better? Local mayor Claudio Parigi certainly seems to think so; this is a change that he – perhaps understandably keen to get Gaiole in Chianti on the world map – seems happy to embrace.

Just before Christmas Mr Parigi wrote to Barack Obama, inviting him to visit. It’s unclear how quickly, or if at all, the US President will be taking Sig Parigi up on his offer. But the opportunity to come here is one thousands of visitors are now unlikely to pass up.

One person who took up that chance was an English sculptor, Matthew Spender, who in 1968 moved here with his painter wife Maro Gorky and never left. So scenic is the area that acclaimed Italian movie director Bernardo Bertolucci used Matthew’s Tuscany property to shoot scenes from his 1996 movie Io Ballo Da Sola (I Dance Alone).

Near the couple’s home lies Il Castello di Brolio, one of Tuscany’s oldest and most important vineyards, where wine production has remained buoyant and immune from the effects of the recession.

The Forbes Top 10:

1. Gaiole, in Tuscany

2. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

4. Kefalonia, Greece

5. Ljubljana, Slovenia

6. Burford, UK

7. Budapest, Hungary

8. Sibiu, Romania

9. Rome, Italy

10. Dejà, Spain

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