Borgo Santo Pietro

Valle Serena, Tuscany, Italy Book from

An opulent but wonderfully informal country retreat - medieval buildings, divine gardens, exquisite food
After lengthy renovation and entangling Italian red tape, what was originally meant as a family escape for Claus and Jeanette Thottrup quickly became a hotel project - and Borgo Santo Pietro was born. We should be glad. A restored 13th-century Tuscan villa, this boutique hideaway stands in quiet isolation just outside the village of Palazzetto, and all around are views over the Serena valley.

It’s an elegant building with stone walls, sweeping staircases, high ceilings and cosy nooks. Deep velvet sofas, swagged silk curtains, hand-painted frescoes and 18th-century portraits (cleverly hiding flat-screen TVs) give the place a Medici-worthy decadence. Everything is tailored towards complete relaxation and romance, from the his and hers iPads to the huge antique beds. Add extraordinary food, a well-stocked wine cellar, tennis courts, a lawn-embedded trampoline, an infinity pool and an outdoor cocktail bar, and there’s little incentive to ever leave.

Highs

  • Beautifully landscaped grounds impart a feeling of peace and isolation - cypress-shaded lanes, rose gardens, herb gardens, wild flowered fields and fruit orchards
  • Sumptuous, antique-filled interiors
  • Claus and Jeanette’s personalities set the tone: fun, sociable, informal; ideal for families too
  • Modernity mixed with grandeur - club sandwiches and chill-out tunes around the pool by day; a sommelier, a pianist and an exquisite menu at night
  • A great little spa, tucked away amidst the healing herb gardens and flower meadows
  • The romance: it’s as if you’re a character in a Petrarch sonnet

Lows

  • Some of the passageways in the house are quite dark, as you’d expect from an old building
  • Not for minimalists!
  • Tricky to find and on Sundays your journey might be slowed by cycle races

Best time to go

The hotel is closed from November to early April. High summer (July/August) is great for lazing by the pool and taking alfresco meals, but remember Italy shuts down in August so some restaurants and attractions will be closed. Spring brings wild flowers and green landscapes; autumn is lovely for cosying up by open fires in your room and taking frosty walks through the countryside.

Our top tips

The vibe here is laid-back and relaxed, but you might want to bring dressier clothes for dinner by candlelight in the romantic restaurant (something loose-fitting is advised to accommodate the 8-course tasting menu!).

Great for...

Family
Honeymoon
Wedding
Eco
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Hotel
  • 16
  • Restaurants and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome.
  • Closed: 5 Dec 2016 - 3 May 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The decadently luxurious rooms are in a Medici-come-Marie Antoinette-at-Versailles style: some have old stone fireplaces, most flaunt roll-top bathtubs, and all have luscious fabrics, polished floorboards and exquisite chandeliers.

The magnificent Master Suite, Santo Pietro, is more of a self-contained apartment than a room, taking up the entire first floor of the south wing. Sweep through tall gilded wooden doors to find an enormous (2.4m wide!) four-poster, a private terrace for breakfast, a huge bathroom and a sitting room with a stone-carved fireplace and oak dining furniture. It’s a fantasy suite and doesn’t come cheap, but is worth the splurge for honeymooners.

Though not as vast, the other Suites are still enormous. Grand and dramatic Ground-floor Suite Rinaldo Pievano di Sorciano would be good for families who fear making noise. Valle Serena is equally big but decorated in blue and gold. This was where we stayed, and we can vouch for its romance - several silk-festooned windows look onto the gardens and courtyard, a roll-top bathtub in the living area and a Titian-esque nude on the wall. Ground-floor Villa Suite Il Vecchio Forno is a newer addition - we can't wait to sample sundowners on it's alfresco terrace.

Junior Suite Via del Pelligrino was a favourite of ours. Glazed French doors lead to a bathroom with a roll-top bath. Similar in size was moodily dark Junior Suite Studio Badia, decorated in deep burgundy silks with a Bordeaux-red marble fireplace. Styled as a library, it has shelves filled with antique tomes.

Deluxe Rooms San Galgano and Sir Vincent and Superior Room Giardin de Fiori are the smaller. San Galgano follows the Baroque theme, decorated in gold and purple with a stunning fresco on one wall.

There are 7 garden-facing rooms, including the Garden Junior Suites (La Mora, L'Ulivo and Il Melograno). The quartet of Garden Suites (Rosmarino, Basilico, Maggiorana and Casa dell’Unicorno), each have a private terrace. They feel like little cottages with stone floors, antique furniture, exposed beams and old carved fireplaces.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Owners Claus and Jeanette are real foodies and this shows in the care they’ve put into their gastronomy. There are 2 restaurant options. Expect fine dining at Michelin-starred restaurant, Meo Modo. Meals here are served in a mirrored and candlelit dining room or outdoors. The chef conjures up such marvels as wild boar in dulce-forte and figs, seasonal vegetables and greens plucked fresh from their own kitchen garden, and rabbit-stuffed ravioli. Trust the award-winning Sommelier to choose the most delicious wines from the extensive wine cellar to complement each course. The second option is the more relaxed Treehouse Bar and Brasserie - with sofa’s to relax on - which serves home-style Tuscan food. In the autumn the bar benefits from an open fire to cosy up around with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and 180 degree views over the Tuscan countryside.

Monday evening sees the arrival of Borgo’s farmer’s market, an event designed to give you a taste of Tuscany. Choose from fresh meats, cheeses, seasonal vegetables and freshly caught fish, which will then be cooked on the spot. This is accompanied by a buffet that offers starters of cured meats, cheeses and pasta dishes, all freshly prepared and made using local ingredients. Enjoy your pizza or a traditional Tuscan steak in the garden while listening to live music.

There are also a number of special dining options on offer. Choose to have your dinner served in the Romantic Grotto set in the gardens by the infinity pool. Or opt for the Chef’s Table dining experience; from your own private area, watch the head chef cook your meal. He will come to your table and help you construct a unique meal based on the foods that you like or wish to taste.

Breakfast is a relaxed affair, set up in the open-plan kitchen and taken outside or at the long kitchen table. The chef will cook you scrambled eggs, pancakes, omelettes - anything that takes your fancy. Load up your plate with freshly baked bread, homemade jams, muesli, fresh orange juice from the garden’s trees, yoghurts, hams and fruit. You can also request breakfast in your room.

There’s a local pizzeria just a short walk away in the nearest village if you fancy a complete change of scene.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Farmer's market
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Borrow a mountain bike and cycle to the beautiful ruins of San Galgano, where you can see the locally famed 'sword in stone' and the gothic Abbey of San Galgano

  • Learn! Take an art lesson with the resident artist (every month a different artist lives and works on the grounds). Or try flower arranging with the in-house florist. Supplies are included in the lesson costs

  • Take a dip in the river; ask for directions at reception. This river and wood is a nature reserve; birds to be spotted include barn owls, hawks and eagles

  • Have an indulgent massage in the spa, then laze in ergonomic wicker sun loungers by the infinity pool

  • Walk the grounds, down passageways framed by sweet-smelling roses and into fields of wildflowers

  • Have a cooking lesson with the talented chef, or play bocce (boules) on a court shaded by jasmine flowers

  • Play tennis (coaching can be arranged), basketball or badminton on the hotel’s courts

  • Take day trips to Siena, Florence and local vineyards (Borgo Santo Pietro’s sommelier can get you into vineyards otherwise closed to the public)

  • Play golf on Italy’s oldest course (Ugolino, outside Florence in Grassina)

  • Go hot-air ballooning and get a bird's eye view of the region

  • Swim in the sea: the coastal resorts of Follonica and Castiglione della Pescaia are only 30 minutes' drive away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Well being

Kids

There's plenty for children to do here and the hotel has thought it out well: the playground, for example, is well out of earshot of other guests. Decadent antique-filled rooms might be the stuff of parents' nightmares, but the staff here are relaxed and, with 13 acres of grounds, playing outdoors and well away from expensive breakables is easy to do.

Note that there's a small nightly fee for cots, extra beds and small pets.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The Rinaldo Pievano di Sorciano Suite is on the ground floor away from any others; any of the the Garden Suites (little cottages with private terraces and gardens) are also ideal. Two of them are interconnecting if you're travelling with extended family or friends.

Babysitting:

Available by arrangement; day nannies can also be arranged (ask in advance).

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

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

Children's meals:

If they don't like the imaginative Michelin-starred food, the chef is happy to whip up special meals; the pool bar serves antipasti, burgers and the like and there's a pizzeria in the village too.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Playground
  • 13 acres of garden to play hide and seek in
  • Trampoline
  • Spring-fed infinity pool (unfenced)
  • Tennis, basketball and badminton courts
  • DVD players; iPads given on check-in
  • Piano room

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Cycle to San Galgano and try your luck with its sword in the stone
  • Swim in the nearby river or the sea, 30 minutes away
  • Take a day trip to Siena or Florence

Families Should Know:

You'll need to watch your children in the gardens - the pool is unfenced. Interior decorations are not all child-friendly and some are breakable.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Hospital: 30 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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