Borgo Pignano

Near Volterra, Tuscany, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
Opulent yet informal hotel plus maisonettes and cottages for 2-13, spread across an idyllic 750-acre estate between Volterra and San Gimignano
Standing sentry over a sea of Tuscan hills, the estate of Pignano has quite a history. Inhabited since 900BC, it’s witnessed war, peace, plague and prosperity, and even a stint as a medieval hospital. Today its main focus is relaxation, thanks to a decade-long restoration that has seen it transformed into a sumptuous and spoiling retreat.

At the hotel’s heart is a rambling old villa, whose ramparts enclose 16 frescoed rooms and suites, plus an elegant restaurant; dotted around are a variety of cottages and maisonettes. But that’s not all. If you fancy lazy days doing very little, you’ll find cypress-scented lawns, fire-warmed lounges, and a sparkling pool carved into a former limestone quarry. If you’d prefer a bit of activity, there are music and billiards rooms, a yoga hall, a lake, horses to ride, and art and cookery classes to sample. There’s also a biodynamic garden that produces everything from the veg and honey used in the kitchen to the herbs which infuse the in-room soaps. Beyond, the walled towns of Volterra and San Gimignano tempt with their towers and trattorias. It’s a very special place indeed.

Highs

  • The feel is peaceful and remote, yet it’s near 2 of Tuscany's prettiest towns and less than an hour from Florence, Siena and Pisa
  • Sublime views to Volterra and the distant sea. On a clear day you can spot Corsica shimmering on the horizon
  • Delicious food, plus weekly pizza nights in the garden or roasts by the fire in the medieval kitchen
  • Wonderfully romantic, but the laid-back vibe means it works for families, too (with accommodation options - and space - for all, plus guided kids' adventures and early-evening babysitting)
  • A commendable commitment to all things local and organic, with fruit, veg, honey, meat and more produced on site

Lows

  • It’s reached via a bumpy 1km track, with a very tight turn from the main road
  • If you’re looking for contemporary style, this place isn’t for you
  • It’s a drive to the nearest town, though there’s plenty on site to fill your days
  • Rooms have no TVs or radios, but you won't miss them
  • It’s sometimes booked out for weddings

Best time to go

Borgo Pignano has something to enchant in every season. Spring brings wildflowers and green hills; summer, sun-drenched days and balmy evenings (though the nearby towns get very busy). We stayed in October and were treated to rich autumn colours, crackling fires, and the lovely scent of wood smoke drifting across the valley; it’s also the time to visit if you fancy trying your hand at truffle hunting (available on request). The hotel is closed from mid-November to mid-March, though it normally reopens for a week or so over New Year.

Our top tips

Climb the tower in the main villa for sweeping views in every direction. It’s a fantastic place to watch the sunset, or to stargaze once darkness falls. If you’re here for romance, private dinners can sometimes be arranged at the top, too.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel & Villas
  • 16 rooms + 6 apts/houses for 2-13
  • Restaurant & bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 4 Dec 2016 - 25 Dec 2016
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Pool Table
  • Bicycles Available
  • Boules
Room:

Rooms

The main villa houses 16 rooms and suites, all elegantly dressed in antiques and Italian linens. Some have frescoed walls, others ornate fireplaces or terracotta floors, and a few come with additional beds for children. All are spacious and sumptuous, with marble- or travertine-clad ensuites, though it’s worth choosing one with a tub so you can wallow in the fragrant bath soak made on site using home-grown herbs and lavender.

We were lucky enough to bag one of the Signature Suites - a sprawling set of rooms gazing out over the countryside. We slept blissfully in our canopied bed, and awoke to a magical view of mist shrouding the hills.

The maisonettes and cottages are simpler in style but just as beautiful. Some sit in outhouses next to the main hotel, others in the meadows a few minutes’ walk away. Our favourites were Il Granaio, a 2-bedroom apartment with soaring ceilings and a roof terrace, and Casa del Lago Cottage, a romantic lakeside hideaway for 2-4. There’s also a large farmhouse called La Fonte, which is divided into clusters of connecting rooms for 2-13 and offers flexibility for groups.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The restaurant is a serene, vaulted space overlooking the garden - the kind of spot where you could happily linger for hours. We were treated to fresh, zingy flavours at every meal - for breakfast, a buffet of lavender-infused honey, homemade jams, juices and just-baked bread; for lunch, pasta with a medley of tomatoes, followed by silky olive-oil ice-cream. Once a week, staff organise a pizza night in the grounds or a roast in the old medieval kitchen. Our stay coincided with the latter, and we gorged ourselves on flame-grilled pork while chatting to other guests in front of a blazing hearth.

Before your meal, we recommend lounging on the terrace with one of bartender Pietro's wonderful creations. Just let him know your tastes and he’ll magic up a bespoke cocktail garnished with herbs from the garden. Ours contained thyme, prosecco and orange liquor, and made a wonderful start to our evening.

If you’re staying in a maisonette or cottage, you can self-cater in your fully equipped kitchen (shared with other guests if you’ve booked a set of rooms in La Fonte), or wander up to the restaurant; breakfast is included in the rates.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll or cycle around the estate (there are bikes for hire), play boules, then loll by the pool with a book from the library and a tipple from the bar
  • Tour the biodynamic garden, then visit the lab to see how its produce is turned into honey, aromatic soaps and more
  • Ride Borgo Pignano’s horses (lessons and guided treks are available), book a yoga or Pilates session, or head to the kitchen to learn how to make pasta and bread with the chef
  • Art classes, in-room massages, wine-tasting, truffle hunting (in season) can all be arranged, too
  • Drive a few km to the walled town of Volterra. Wander its atmospheric ramparts and cobbled alleys, then linger over lunch in the alabaster-clad piazza
  • Or head in the opposite direction to San Gimignano, famous for its 14 towers (its skyline has been likened to a ‘medieval Manhattan’). It attracts swarms of tourists in summer, so visit after dusk to avoid the worst of the crowds
  • Siena, Florence and Pisa are also within easy day-tripping distance

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Pool table
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Despite the air of romance that pervades Borgo Pignano, children are warmly welcomed. Accommodation options suit all shapes and sizes of family, with plenty of space for kids to roam without disturbing other guests. What’s more, the friendly multilingual staff go out of their way to make sure parents and their offspring feel at home, and an early-evening babysitting service is available.

There are great organised activities, with an emphasis on freedom of expression and creativity inspired by Steiner and Montessori. These include guided nature walks introducing children to the flora and fauna of the estate (there are beehives, a waterfall, meadows and woodland), pizza-making, and arts and crafts sessions.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Many of the rooms and suites in the main villa have additional bedrooms, space for extra beds, or sofabeds for 1-2 children. If you want a bit more flexibility, choose one of the maisonettes or cottages. They come in a range of sizes and bedroom configurations, and most have a combination of twin and double rooms that work well for those travelling with kids. The sets of rooms in La Fonte are handy for those staying with another family or grandparents, and many have kids’ sleeping areas on mezzanines.

Babysitting:

Babysitting in the evenings is available with a bit of notice.

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

There’s no set kids’ menu in the restaurant, but the friendly staff will happily tailor dishes to young tastebuds; the pizza nights are particularly popular with children, and they can help make the dough or create their own toppings. Alternatively, the kitchens in the maisonettes and cottages have everything you need for cooking full family feasts. Note that a babysitting service is offered from 6.30-9.30pm, so parents can dine à deux while their offspring enjoy a separate kids' meal.

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Towers to climb in San Gimignano
  • Gelati galore in Volterra and San Gimignano
  • Castles to explore

Families Should Know:

The pool isn’t fenced, and it’s reached via a steep set of stone steps.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour's drive (Florence or Pisa)
  • Shop: 15 minutes' drive (Volterra or San Gimignano)
  • Hospital: 15 minutes' drive (Volterra)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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