La Bandita Townhouse

Pienza, Tuscany, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Ben Reed
Contemporary laid-back luxury in Pienza's old convent, and a charming slice of authentic Tuscan life
If you like urban-chic hotels, but also hanker for a genuine experience of local Tuscan life, you've found your perfect match. Just opened (2013), it’s a sleek 12-bedroomed townhouse, once an old nunnery, in the lovely hilltop town of Pienza. Ambling along the cobbled streets, it’s easy to miss the simple façade, which blends seamlessly into the surrounding Renaissance masonry. But once inside, any confusion vanishes. You find an exceptionally crafted hotel, which somehow fits its complex historic shell beautifully. Although the owner has retained exposed original brickwork and wood-beamed ceilings (plus an altar in one room), that’s where the history lesson ends. The rest is gloriously contemporary, with bespoke furniture, angled straight lines and an unusually bold light grey, yellow and orange colour scheme (strange but it works).

The 12 bright and airy rooms provide ample space, comfort, and all the crisp linen and mod cons you could wish for; the views over terracotta rooftops feel like paintings from another age. And did we mention the team behind it all? This is the second project by American owner John, once a US music mogul. His countryside hotel, La Bandita, was a runaway success; now he wants to show people the simple, relaxed beauty of life in Pienza, where he and his family live. And from the moment you walk through the door, you get a palpable sense of energy and enthusiasm, a real feeling that something exciting is happening to the Tuscan hotel scene.


  • The hotel's Townhouse Caffe is exceptional, serving innovative twists on Italian food, using market-fresh ingredients
  • The juxtaposition of a historical Tuscan village with all the comfort, style and character of a cool city hotel. There are Illy espresso machines, egg-shaped bathtubs with Ortigia products, even a mini spa
  • Staff are some of the friendliest we've ever met, all emitting genuine warmth and smiles. They cannot do enough for you
  • The generous and relaxed spirit: complimentary soft drinks in your minibar; an honesty bar in the lounge, where you can play John's vast vinyl collection; a welcome glass of wine on arrival
  • The beauty of the the Val d’Orcia: Pienza is a Unesco site and you're surrounded by unforgettable landscapes and big views


  • There's a medieval walled garden, but in the summer heat, you may miss a pool
  • Parking is tricky; best to drop your bags off then park outside the town walls and walk back
  • Pienza can get very busy with tourists in the summer months
  • Not for those seeking traditional Tuscan décor

Best time to go

Any time of year except January, when the hotel is closed. The summer heat can be fierce in the dry Val d’Orcia, though air conditioning and a hill-top location make it a good high-season choice. Go out of season for cooler weather and fewer tourists, in spring for flowers, and in autumn for the wine harvest.

Our top tips

  • Take in local village life in the Piazza Pio 11, Pienza's picturesque main square. It was the work of Pope Pius 11, who in the 1460s transformed his home town into what you see today
  • "Pienza is one of Tuscany's prettiest places, where little has changed for centuries," John says. "To fully appreciate it, take an aperitivo at Bar Castello, on the town's medieval walls"
  • Great for...

    City Style
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Hotel
    • 12
    • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
    • All ages welcome
    • Closed: 8 Jan 2017 - 6 Apr 2017
    • Pool
    • Steam Room
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Concierge Service
    • Bicycles Available


    All rooms are individual and come in a variety of 12 shapes and sizes. Original features have been immaculately restored and juxtaposed with contemporary furnishings, and the overall effect is light and bright - it's amazing to think these were once nun's cells. Beds are kingsize, some four-postered, all dressed in Busatti linen, and there are leather club armchairs, bright pops of colour, perhaps a desk or giant mirror.

    There are Standards, Superiors and Suites. The Suites are located high in the building to maximise the beautiful Tuscan light. We were lucky enough to stay in Suite 12 on the top floor, which had a huge wall of windows overlooking Pienza's bell tower and the rolling countryside beyond. We loved the free-standing egg-shaped bath, funky sofa, high-timbered ceiling and the Illy espresso machine.

    Another standout is Suite 11: a wonderful, huge space with exposed brickwork and the original wood-beamed ceiling. Traditional windows span 2 sides, with views over terracotta rooftops. The bed is a skinny four poster, and there's a freestanding tub and a vast oversized mirror; you'd really feel like the king of the convent up here.

    The Standard and Superior rooms are slightly smaller in comparison, but are by no means tiny (Superiors have space for an additional bed). Whichever you choose, you'll be very happy. All have minibars with complimentary soft drinks, huge-flat screen TVs, an Illy espresso machine and free WiFi. Bathrooms are lovely throughout, with rain showers and Ortigia toiletries; some also have a tub.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Bathrobes
    • Central heating
    • Coffee tea making
    • Espresso machine
    • Extra beds
    • Free soft drinks in the minibar
    • Hairdryer
    • Honesty bar
    • Internet access
    • Internet access
    • Phone
    • Safe box
    • Satellite tv
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi
    • Wifi internet


    The buzzing Townhouse Caffe overlooks the hotel's medieval walled garden, and is causing a real stir in the local area. It wouldn’t look out of place in London or New York, with an open kitchen displaying the chef's creative touches and retro furniture throughout (reclaimed orange steel factory chairs at the bar, French school chairs at the tables, and blackboards displaying the menus). The chef was kidnapped from La Bandita for this new enterprise, and it was genuinely heart-warming to hear people praising his creations to him throughout the evening.

    We opted for the set menu, which changes daily depending on what local produce is available at the market; friendly staff can recommend accompanying wines. The starter of rich cauliflower and parmesan soup with truffle shavings set the standard from the word go, and it remained sky-high through a perfectly cooked asparagus and ricotta tortellini, then a grilled-to-order steak on a bed of white beans with balsamic reduction and tarragon. Pudding was a mini selection of Tiramisu-foam-topped brownies. Simple Italian food with the freshest of ingredients, cooked immaculately - and good value to boot.

    Breakfast was also exceptional, served either in the restaurant or alfresco in the walled garden on sunny mornings. Freshly squeezed juice, pastries, fruit salads, coffee and a menu packed full of mouthwatering options; after much deliberation we opted for the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Other choices included various combinations of bacon, sausage and eggs.

    If you can drag yourself away, there are numerous cosy and atmospheric trattorias dotted around town. Sette di Vino comes highly rated for lunch, as does Latte di Luna for their amazing 'Maialino' roast pork. Or try Pummaro for pizza.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Children meals
    • Coffee tea making
    • Organic produce
    • Restaurant
    • Restaurants nearby
    • Vegetarian menu


    • Wander around Unesco-listed Pienza, famed for its 15th-century buildings, narrow cobbled streets, charming piazza and the Piccolomini garden
    • Pienza is also the birthplace of pecorino sheep’s cheese, and there are plenty of shops selling it. Just follow your nose - it’s not a subtle smell
    • Walk along the town's walls to admire views that stretch for miles over quintessential rolling Tuscan countryside
    • Go wine tasting. Staff can arrange lunch and private guided tours at small local Brunello vineyards. Or you can go it alone and borrow the hotel's bicycles
    • Explore film-set landscapes: chunks of Under the Tuscan Sun were filmed around here; Sant'Anna in Camprena, a medieval abbey near Pienza, provided scenes for The English Patient; and Pieve di Corsignano, a 10th-century church with surrounding countryside, was used in Gladiator
    • You are in the heart of Tuscan hilltown territory, with Montepulciano, Montalcino and Monticchiello all a short drive away; Siena is accessible for a day trip
    • Go walking or horse-riding through the beautiful green landscapes of the Val d’Orcia, or drive to Bagno Vignoni and visit medieval hot springs
    • Sit in the hotel's garden and read, or have a massage, jacuzzi and steam in the small spa

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cycling
    • Hiking
    • Historical sites
    • Horse-riding
    • Museums / galleries
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Private guided tours
    • Shopping / markets
    • Well being
    • Wine tasting


    Children are welcome and stay for free. Kids under 5 eat for free in the restaurant. The village is very kid-friendly and has no traffic for most of the day, La Bandita Townhouse opens onto pedestrian-only cobblestoned streets.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    The two Family Suites are ideal for families, these have a bedroom with a queen sized bed and separate sitting room with sofas that convert to two twin beds. Superior rooms and Suites can also accommodate 1 rollaway bed or a baby cot (both are free of charge). Ask if you want a room with a bath. One Junior Suite sleeps 4. It is split-level with the bedroom upstairs, and a living area downstairs with 2 single sofa beds.


    Available on request

    Baby equipment:

    • High chairs
    • Baby cots

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

    Children's meals:

    Simple pasta dishes and half-portions can be provided on request; children under 5 eat for free

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Some toys in the garden
    • The "Very Relaxing Room" is a private spa suite with steam room and large Jacuzzi, which can be rented by the hour, and is where treatments can be taken. Families often take it over with one parent getting a massage and the other playing in the Jacuzzi with the kids, and then they switch over

    Kids Activities nearby:

    • Playground close by
    • Families, both local and visiting, enjoy congregating in the local piazza
    • There's an arrangement in place with a nearby pool/restaurant for guests to use their facilities for a small fee, just 10 minutes' drive away


    • Airport: 1.5 hours (Perugia) / 2 hours (Florence)
    • Hospital: 20 minutes
    • Shops: 1 minute
    Kid Friendly:

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