Fontelunga

Foiano della Chiana, Tuscany, Italy Book from Eur175

Contemporary design, personal service and top-notch facilities, all served in a traditional Tuscan manor
From the pine-shaded carpark, the tall terracotta padronale with pale blue shutters, stone balustrades and flower-filled amphorae looks quintessentially Tuscan. But step in through the French windows and you'll find clean, crisp living spaces with Starck and Jacobsen furnishings, exuberant artworks and a trendy media-set vibe. Upstairs are 9 cosy bedrooms with pastel colours and unmistakably Tuscan views. Like the house, its owners - 2 English, 1 Italian - combine cosmopolitan flair with Latin charm.

Self-cater or B&B, it's your choice. Stop off for a few nights à deux, and you get B&B par excellence with unbeatable service. Book the main house for a party of 10-18 and you’ve got the pool, tennis courts and gardens to yourselves – plus staff, if you want. There are also 2 small concierged villas for 2-4 nearby. Either way you’re ideally placed: 10 minutes from the motorway, 20 from Arezzo and Cortona, and bull's-eye-centre for Siena, Florence, Assisi and Orvieto.

Highs

  • We liked the buzzy sociable atmosphere, with communal lunches and twice-weekly dinner parties
  • Good facilities: swimming pool, tennis, bikes, and well-equipped bedrooms
  • Guests invariably mention how friendly and helpful the hosts are
  • A refreshing change from the sombre, antique-laden décor of most Tuscan hotels
  • It's a great base from which to tour all of Tuscany and Umbria; but equally the kind of place you could sit and do very little for days on end

Lows

  • It doesn’t come cheap
  • The standard rooms are quite small (around 20 sq.m.)
  • The sociable atmosphere may not suit shy, retiring types
  • Only one room can be twin-bedded, so if you're coming with a (platonic) friend you'll need to book early

Best time to go

The villa is open from mid March to late October; and, for whole villa rentals only, over Christmas and New Year. Best combination of reasonable weather and few crowds, in my opinion, is May or September, with October and April (try and avoid Easter if you can) runners-up. Summer is busy and can be hot.

There’s a host of festivals in nearby Cortona, including a costumed crossbow competition in late May, the Umbrian jazz festival in late July (it’s not strictly in Umbria, but close enough to take part!), an antiques fair in late Aug / early Sep, a film festival in mid-summer (dates vary), and a steak festival with communal BBQ on a 14-metre long grill on Aug 14-15. In Passignano there’s a festive weekend at the end of July with a costumed ladies’ procession on the Saturday and a boat-race (where the boats are carried shoulder-high through the town) for the lads on the Sunday. There’s also a massive communal fish paella at some point in Sept.

Our top tips

We liked the extra privacy of the Junior Suite - you can dip in and out of whatever's going on at the main house.

Wine buffs should book a visit to La Rendola near Montevarchi (by appointment only), which grows excellent Sangiovese, Merlot and Chardonnay and is “one to watch”

If you enjoy catching up on back copies of Elle and coffee-table design books, you could happily spend a week here.

Great for...

Family
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • Breakfast (+ dinner twice weekly)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Dec 2015 - 18 Mar 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
  • Concierge Service
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 8 bedrooms in the padronale (main house) are small but perfectly formed. Named after precious stones, the dual aspect windows have voile curtains in an appropriate hue casting coloured light over the room. Floors have quarry tiles or pretty patterned tiles; beds, some roofless four-posters, some simple queensize, are covered with a delicate damask. Furnishings are simple but pleasing – a white wooden wardrobe and chest, funky metallic tripod lamps, iPod docks, Bramley products in the bathroom. A heating / air-con unit sits discreetly on the wall. Thoughtful touches include a hairdryer, a 3- to 2-pin adaptor, postcards, mozzie tablets, a choice of feather or foam pillows.

All rooms are double aspect but it’s worth requesting a superior or deluxe for the lovely, open views over the Val di Chiana. Deluxe rooms, such as Amethyst, are on the top floor, with additional space for a table and 2 chairs. The standard rooms face the carpark side, the nicest being Ambra on the first floor and Tormalina on the ground floor.

Ensuite bathrooms have dapple-grey mosaic walls, a bidet, heated towel-rail, fluffy towels and bathrobes, and a spacious shower cubicle with good hot water. The deluxe rooms and some standard rooms have a tub with a proper shower, hook and swing-pane, while the superior rooms have twin basins.

There’s also a junior suite in a separate cottage, with a high beamed ceiling and a pigeon-holed wall casting rectangles of sunlight on the spacious double bedroom. It comes with TV/DVD, a fridge and a bathroom with separate shower and tub. Couples with a young child or children can request a folding bed and a cot in this room.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Meals at the Villa Fontelunga are laid-back, sociable affairs, usually taken out on the gravelled forecourt with open views over the gentle Val di Chiana, but sometimes indoors at a designer table in the barrel-vaulted cantina. There's also a semi-outdoor lounge bar where you can enjoy aperitifs at sunset, or a post-prandial cigar tucked under a blanket by the open fire.

A leisurely buffet breakfast starts the day, with cereals, croissants and other patisseries, toast from a sleek chrome toaster, home-made jams, fresh fruit and juices, yoghurts and hot drinks. Paolo, chef-cum-concierge extraordinaire, helps you plan your day, offering printouts of the back route to Cortona and the Armani factory outlet, while the early (or late) morning sun warms your skin and turns the Val di Chiana from blue to lilac to green.

For lunch, a wide and fresh array of dishes is prepared by Paolo, with occasional, lively intervention from his visiting mother. Classic tricolore salads, Italian-style tortillas, cold cuts and cheeses guarantee a healthy intake. Guests and owners sit together around a long table shaded by white parasols, discussing everything from Smart cars to Romanesque churches.

Twice a week – on Tuedays and Fridays – they also prepare dinner at the villa. It’s a lively house-party atmosphere, guests meeting and greeting over a prosecco before sitting down for a 3-course feast at a communal table (or sometimes separate tables, though Paolo says guests always end up moving tables together). In addition, there is a "snack evening meal" for those who do not want to add too much to their waistline. Of course, if you take the whole villa, you can dine in as often as you want, with a cook available to buy and prepare the kind of meals you specify.

On other evenings, you can drive to nearby Marciano for supper in the excellent La Vecchia Rota restaurant – ask to sit in the upstairs room, with its lovely painted ceiling. Paolo also recommends a small restaurant called La Lodola (just 2 km away) and Pizzeria il Tempio in Pozzo (with al fresco seating in summer); and he is happy to book any of these for you.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Communal dining
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Within the villa’s grounds are a small unheated swimming pool (April – October), a new heated jacuzzi tub (complete with sound system) for year-round soaking, and an all-weather tennis court
  • There are mountain bikes available for guests’ use, and you can arrange a guided bike tour in the surrounding area
  • The hotel has teamed up with a local gym, and various spa treatments, yoga and pilates sessions can be arranged with advance notice
  • If you can stir yourself, Cortona (25km) is a wonderfully-preserved, art-rich medieval town spilling down a hillside above the Val di Chiana, with cathedral, Etruscan museum, and great eateries
  • Montepulciano and Pienza (25-30km) are classic medieval hilltowns crammed with art and architecture, not to mention vineyards where you can tour the cellars and taste (or buy) Brunello and Vino Nobile
  • Lake Trasimeno is just 30km away, a large, shallow, lake with Renaissance churches and medieval castles, boat-trips to Maggiore and Polvese islands, and sailing / windsurfing centres at Passignano and Castiglione
  • A little further are Siena (50km), Italy’s best-preserved medieval city, with its black-and-white marble duomo and buzzing Piazza del Campo; and Perugia (60km), a bustling city with stylish shops and jazz concerts (and home of those irresistible little Bacci chocolates)
  • Florence (100km), with its huge duomo, world-famous Uffizi and statue-laden piazzas, is also feasible as a day trip; and if you need retail therapy, Paolo can give directions to factory outlets for Armani, Gucci and Prada (all close to your route)
  • Golfers will find a 6-hole course and driving range near Bettolle (15 mins), and an 18-hole course in Siena (1 hr)
  • There are horse-riding stables at Farneta (20 mins)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome at this sociable property and will enjoy running around the gardens and splashing in the pool, though the vibe is more of a grown-up one. Couples with older children, or families wanting more space and privacy, may want to book one of the separate concierged villas.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

The Junior Suite is the best room for a family of four as it can take a fold-up bed (extra cost) and a cot (free), and is in a separate cottage. All Superior and Deluxe rooms can take a fold-up bed or cot

Babysitting:

Available on request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • Bedding
  • Potty
  • Changing mat

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

Children's meals:

  • Kids menu
  • High chairs
  • Plastic crockery and cutlery

Kids Activities on site:

  • Pool
  • Tennis court
  • Mountain bikes for guests

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Water Park
  • Horse riding
  • Guided mountain bike tour

Families Should Know:

The pool is unfenced and there's no lifeguard on duty at any time

Distances:

  • Airport: 55 minutes (Perugia) 70 minutes (Florence)
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
  • Shops: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Fontelunga