Rustic countryside. Vineyards. Livestock. Dirt. It seems almost contradiction to claim elegance amidst this but believe me, if there is anyplace where this is possible, it’s Italy. Maybe it’s my preference for understated elegance, but some of the most perfect places I have stayed in Italy are country villas/farmhouses turned hotels or inns. Don’t get me wrong. The inns on this list are not rustic by any means. Nestled among olive groves and vineyards, you may hear the occasional gunshot of the wild boar hunters in the early morning. No two rooms are alike as they have been crafted from an original structure that was anything but homogeneous construction.
Don’t be fooled by rugged surroundings or dirt road leading to these properties. They are top notch when it comes to unique and fabulous Tuscan experiences. Here are my top four, in no particular order.
Villa Bordoni – If you want to know how much I love this place, check out this post on my blog from earlier this year. I have stayed at Villa Bordoni countless times and every time I leave, I find myself dreaming of when I will be able to come back. It is a stroke of true genius when a place can make you feel completely at home and pampered in luxury at the same time. I love the cozy bar at Villa Bordoni, softly lit in the evening with a door that leads out to the patio. I never miss a sunset in the garden. The light sinks behind the Tuscan hills, the glow of candles warms the table and there is a sense of peace and tranquility. The staff at Villa Bordoni cares for you like you have your own personal concierge. Clothes are picked up, folded and put away. There is always a bedside lamp illuminating your way into the room in the evening along with a pitcher of water. The dining room staff are genuinely concerned about your well-being and do all possible to make you welcome. And the owners are quite possibly the most hospitable couple you will encounter. They were meant to be in this business and their love of the property comes through loud and clear.
L’Andana – If you would like to get away and feel like you are to the manor born, stay at L’Andana for a few days. Everything about this property is perfect. Nestled in the countryside of the lesser known area of the Maremma in Tuscany, you approach the hotel on a long driveway lined with cypress trees while gorgeous birds (pheasants maybe) swoop in front of you, almost as if cued by a director on a film set. The atmosphere of elegance and hospitality are palpable from the minute you step foot in the lobby. As you wait for your room, you are welcomed with a glass of prosecco, there homemade cookies and hand written note in your room upon arrival and the manager makes it a point to know your name and your plans for the day, inquiring about specifics upon your return. Pair this attention to detail with an Alain Ducasse restaurant, a spectacular spa and surrounding property to make you swoon. L’Andana is perfection.
Siena House – While L’Andana is elegant, Siena House is funky and new with a priority to make the guests feel welcome that has long been missing in many of the smaller Tuscan properties. This labor of love is the creation of owners Malvin and Amanda who searched for the perfect villa for 10 years before finding this farmhouse in Southern Tuscany. I spent a glorious evening here, watching the sunset over the countryside while sipping prosecco, enjoying delightful conversation. I toured the property with Malvin. There are lounge chairs all around the house, inviting guests to slow down and be, even if for only an hour or so. There is a beautiful salt water pool, a vegetable garden (to which guests have access should they choose to prepare their own dinner on any given night) and a small outbuilding with a kitchen just for guests. The refrigerators in the kitchen are stocked with beer, wine and water for guests, reinforcing this idea that you should truly make yourself at home while staying here. This is how a day at Siena House should be planned: breakfast (more like a brunch feast) from 9:00 – 10:30; head out for a day of exploring the area – Pienza, Siena, Umbria, Montalcino. Lunch will not be necessary – perhaps a quick panino or gelato in the late afternoon will be all that you need. Spend the day out before returning to Siena House in the evening and then enjoy one of the great restaurants within 20 minutes from the property. This is vacation the way it should be.
La Bandita – This property near Pienza is in my opinion what may have started the revolution of really cool farmhouses being converted into ultra hip boutique hotels. John Voigtman and his wife Ondine own this beautiful home in the Val D’Orcia. Stunning views, a renovated farm house that is at the same time extremely comfortable and incredibly stylish and a true invitation to make yourself at home makes La Bandita a perfect spot for someone who wants a luxurious stay but does not need the attention of a full service resort.
The beauty of being in the countryside in Italy, is that there are endless opportunities for exploration – small villages, wineries, historic cities. This is the true Italy and getting off the beaten path is what travel in Tuscany is all about. And once you have traveled that path, what could be better than coming “home” to one of these perfect inns?