Palazzo Brandano

Petroio, Tuscany, Italy Book from

Modern-Renaissance hotel with fab views and an excellent terrace restaurant in a small 12th-century hilltown between Siena and Lago Trasimeno
It was, we are told, the ‘terracotta capital’, the hub of Tuscany’s fired-earth potteries; but modern-day Petroio is a sleepy little place. There is a narrow main street which spirals round the hillside up to a church, 1 bar (which opens on a whim), a butcher, a baker, and a hairdresser (which opens just once a week). It has a museum (the Museo della Terracotta), and an artisan pottery studio, but you are more likely to see a line of washing strung across a courtyard than a crowd of tourists lining up to take pictures. And therein lies its charm.

Karim and Miriam Hwaidak (he’s Egyptian, she’s German) settled on Petroio as the place to open an equally charming hotel. A sandstone palazzo with green shutters and a terrace which clings to the hillside, it was named after "Il Brandano", (Bartolomeo Garosi), a Renaissance saint born in the village. The 11 comfortable rooms and suites have traditional décor with rustic roots and 1 foot in the Middle Ages - note the nouveau frescoes, hand-painted on parchment walls. If there was a boutique hotel for Renaissance artists, this is what it would look like.

Highs

  • Location, location: a slice of real Italian village life within easy-peasy distance of Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano
  • The restaurant alone (delicious food, impeccable service, great views) is worth a visit or a detour
  • The staff are exceptional: nothing is too much trouble, and you’ll know them all by name (Joergen, Ousmane, Massimo) by the time you leave
  • There is a policy to upgrade when rooms are available

Lows

  • Due to a recent plumbing issue, the hotel is currently closed until further notice
  • There's no pool
  • Not quite enough off-street parking for everyone, but your car can be valet-parked in the village
  • It can get a little noisy in the evening, mostly chatter and laughter drifting up from the terrace below
  • Although delivered with the usual charm, breakfast lacks the imaginative lustre of lunch or dinner

Best time to go

Spring (April-June) and Autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit. July and August can get very hot and crowded (with coach-loads of tourists pouring into Pienza, among other local attractions). But the hotel’s quiet location (and air con in all rooms) makes it a good high-season choice - just be sure to book ahead. It can get chilly in the winter, but the rooms are heated. The hotel is open all year round, but be aware that the restaurant closes from mid-January to the beginning of March.

Our top tips

Think of something you’d like to do and ask. The staff here will organise almost anything from Vespa hire and truffle-hunting to yoga classes and acupuncture.

Great for...

Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily except Jan-March)
  • All ages welcome.
  • Closed: 4 Dec 2016 - 31 Dec 2017
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

The hotel has 11 rooms and suites, all named after illustrious Renaissance masters (Botticelli, Michelangelo and Piero della Francesca to name a few). Two - Superior Room Lorenzetti and Superior Suite Giotto - are a short walk away in the village and are therefore slightly more independent, plus both have terraces.

All are air conditioned, and simply but generously furnished with comfortable armchairs and sofas (upholstered in damasks or brocades), kingsize beds with painted wrought-iron headboards, tapestry rugs on unglazed terracotta floors, and dark wooden furniture. Some have wood-beamed ceilings with skylights. The décor is modern-meets-medieval, with parchment walls decorated here and there in the hotel’s trademark frescoes; each frieze and hand-painted figure is chosen to match the name of the artist. Expect big wardrobes (and/or wrought-iron hanging rails), flat-screen satellite TVs, thick towels and ultra soft pillows; iPod docks, DVD players, and even Playstations, are available on request.

There's 1 Executive Suite, Botticelli - just a singular room with a terrace, but the largest you’re likely to find this side of The Dorchester, with cherubs and Venus courtesy of Primavera. The main difference between the other rooms is their size; Superior Rooms (Lorenzetti, Raffaello, Filippo Lippi, Bellini and Piero della Francesca) have sitting areas, and the Junior Suite (Mantegna) and Superior Suites (Giotti, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Tiziano) have a living room and an extra bathroom. Bathrooms are lined with travertine tiles and have rain showers with massage settings or Jacuzzi baths. Superior Room Bellini is equipped for disabled guests.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player (on request)
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • IPod dock (on request)
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Playstation (on request)
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace

Eating

Karim and Miriam had a "good feeling" about young Umbrian chef Nicola Sgarbi, and their instincts proved spot on. The restaurant, Il Brandano, is as good a reason as any to stay the night. And it has built a solid clientele among locals as well as guests. Note that it is closed between January and March.

Weather permitting, lunch and dinner are served on the terrace - an attractive, sociable space wrapped around 3 sides of the building, where you can sit under sunshades, among potted herbs, lemons and geraniums, and admire the views (or watch the sun go down by candlelight). Inside, there is a more formal restaurant, with linen-clad tables, upholstered chairs and a private dining space.

The food is inventive but unpretentious, using classic ingredients and traditional Tuscan flavours with a modern twist. There's a refined 7-course degustazione menu, or you can order platefuls of hearty food. We were wowed by squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and topped with truffles and pine nuts, stuffed rolled rabbit with roasted apples, glazed duck with cocoa beans and cannellini, and char-grilled Chianina steaks. And the pastas! Pigeon tortelli with pea puree, chocolate fettucine with white truffles, and pici, a fat spaghetti that's a favourite in Tuscany.

Breakfast is pretty much what your heart desires: fresh yoghurt and fruits, an assortment of pastries and jams, fresh breads and fresh blood-orange juice, eggs, meats, even cornflakes. It's served more or less whenever you like.

Should you wish to eat out one evening, there are several excellent options in the area; reception will be happy to give recommendations and book a table for you.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Get out your camera and guide book, and do the medieval hilltowns of southern Tuscany: Pienza (7km away), Montepulciano (18km away) and Montalcino (33km away) are among the best and most visited in the region. At a push you could see all 3 in a day

  • Visit Sant’Anna in Camprena, a fortified 14th- to 16th-century hermitage (as seen in The English Patient) a few miles from Pienza

  • Take a day trip to Lake Trasimeno or Siena (30 minutes away), Perugia (60 minutes away) or Florence (75 minutes away)

  • Learn Italian: a local professor gives lessons

  • Throw a pot: the Museo della Terracotta next door offers masterclasses in traditional ceramics

  • Try the local wines: the hotel can organise tours and tastings in numerous wineries (including Poggio Antico, Poliziano and Triacca)

  • There is a golf club in the Val di Chiana, 20km away

  • Horse riding is available in San Quirico d’Orcia (20km away)

  • See the sights from above on a hot-air balloon flight from nearby Montisi, or rent a bicycle in Petroio and go exploring

  • Pamper yourself: reception can arrange for a masseuse to come to the hotel

  • If you need a swim, there is a public swimming pool in Trequanda, a few minutes from Petroio

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Language courses
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome, and those under 3 stay for free. Most rooms have sofabeds for kids aged 3-12 (extra charge). There isn't a lot for children to do (no pool, no gardens) but Karim and Miriam’s children are often seen around the hotel, and others are welcome to join them. Playstations and DVD players are available on request.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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