I knew there was something special about this place at our first candlelit dinner in the hotel’s spectacular “tree-house” dining room. An older waspy woman in needlepoint flats and gigantic pearls came by my table and whispered in my ear: “Now we have been here for an entire week and because it is a very small hotel, I know that you just arrived today. I want you to understand something and I need you to make me a promise. Don’t tell anyone about this place. Okay, missy?” I looked back at her with a face full of confusion. She continued: “See, this place is magical. It’s relatively new so not that many people know about it quite yet and I think it’s heaven on earth. I don’t want anyone to find out about it. It will become tainted and touristy, someday overrun. Let’s keep it out little secret.” I winked at this crazy woman and kept on savoring my mozzarella chased down with Tuscan’s finest wine.
Well despite this selfish lady’s request, my passion for sharing the best of travel experiences won’t stop me from reviewing one of Tuscany’s most precious treasures. Not to mention, I’m terrible at secrets. So here goes my “tell all” insider experience for the ultimate place to rest your head when in the Italian countryside.
The Borgo Santo Pietro hotel in Tuscany captures all that is good and great about the Italian way of life: refined furnishings in a restored 13th-century period property, gorgeous grounds punctuated by cypress trees and stone fountains, fabulous food and wine served on fireplace filled terraces, an onsite farm and garden producing all the ingredients for homemade meals, world famous cooking classes, relaxing spa treatments, painting with a resident artist… yeah, you name it and the Borgo has it! Located about an hour and a half southwest of Florence, an easy and scenic drive through untouched countryside will guide you fairly easily to this hidden gem.
Being that there are just too many things that I loved about my stay at this hotel, I have created a highlights list with my favorite features of the Borgo accompanied with personal photographs taken from the lens of yours truly, Ladyhattan. I hope you enjoy my photographs and commentary on some of the fabulous highlights of this one of a kind villa!
Blast From the Past
Step back in time as you enter the restored 13th Century villa. The decor, design and immaculate details of the restoration bring you right back in time. The hotel space and rooms are incredibly intimate, breathtaking and yes, oh so romantic. But the smell – yum, that Tuscan smell can only be described as a combination of the wood burning fireplaces throughout the property, fresh produce, pours of delicious wine and sun filled air, it has to be one of the best smells in the world, ladies.
I entered my the hotel, which is basically a giant private villa and cheerfully laughed with the perfection of the delicate details. A bottle of prosecco, fruit and chocolate, an assortment of fresh flowers waiting by the balcony window, my heart melted. Fantastico! I thought it couldn’t get any better. But wait, the high definition flat screen television on the wall – yes, it hides behind a 14th Century Italian Painting placed in an ornate gold frame. Only at the Borgo, I thought. Supposedly the fabulous owner’s wife is a famed interior designer and preservationist, so it was no surprise that this hotel was decked out to perfection. Even the bathrooms took my breath away – giant soaking tubs with large clay pots of the finest Italian bath products – Santa Maria Novella.
In my library reading area stood a giant chest of antique books. My ears starting ringing with the Hallelujah hymn – how glorious. All the classics were there, to ancient biblical books and Italian favorites. The gentleman giving me a tour exclaimed, “take, take, whatever you like, bella, it’s a souvenir from your time with us.” I thought there was perhaps a miscommunication here – maybe it was the language barrier and I didn’t quite understand him. I responded politely, “oh great, books, yes, I love books. To borrow while at the hotel, thank you.” And then he snapped back nicely, “no, bella, I said take the books – as many as you would like – take them back to New York with you as souvenirs and memories from your stay with us.” I laughed hysterically. My Manhattan coffee table now boasts a few gorgeous antique books from this very armoire. It gives me such joy to gaze at the books and remember the moment when he offered me as many as I would like. But maybe even more joy when guests to my home ask me where I found such treasured antique books, and I snobbishly respond (in a joking manner), “oh I found them in an antique villa while visiting Italy...”
Breakfast on the Patio
Following a dreamy sleep, I grabbed the latest copy of Italian Vogue and filled a plate of freshly made goodies – frittata, caprese salad, homemade pastries and more, including fresh fruits from Patricia’s garden next-door. Each morning the open kitchen area of the villa serves an exquisite breakfast – it’s might be the best meal of the day, with an endless sections of things to taste. Being so delicious, I often felt like August Gloop inhaling candy at Wonka’s factory.
You can enjoy your meal on the patio overlooking Tuscan hills or sit cozily by the fireplace on a chillier day. Enjoying a delicious breakfast with a mimosa each morning was the highlight of my Italian trip. One morning the chef kindly offered to make me his specialty lemon ricotta pancakes. Che bello, I screamed. What brought an even bigger smile to my face was when he showed me that the lemons used in the recipe were taken right from the lemon tree beside my morning table. Does it get any fresher than this?
Books & Wine Under Tuscan Sun
While there are endless activities in Tuscany to consider for a busy day of jam packed fun, the Borgo Santo Pietro makes it too hard to leave or for that matter, do anything at all. I passed on exploring local villages for a few days and resorted to the routine I love best – read, relax, unwind and unplug. In such a magical setting boasting an infinity pool, jacuzzi, and private cabanas all to the backdrop of natural serenity, you can make yourself pretty comfortable for a day best spent lounging around. And lounging is what I did. Look at my personal photographs of the outdoor amenities and picture yourself relaxing, reading and gazing out under the Tuscan sun – looks pretty good right? Peak season for the resort is during the late spring and early summer. In my honest opinion, the fall is a superb time for visiting Tuscany. While it might feel a bit chillier at this time of the year, you can still enjoy all the perks Tuscany has to offer – and do so with fewer crowds. I should also mention that all of the hotel grounds are equipped with outdoor firepits and space heaters keeping you nice and cozy on those chillier nights, so don’t be afraid to book in early spring or late fall.
As if the dreamy pools, ponds and ancient architecture of the villa are not enough… the Borgo Santo Pietro also boasts its very own private farm and garden grounds that produce all of the ingredients necessary to perfect the meals served daily at this Italian oasis. The resident gardener of the resort, Patricia, took us on a private tour to see what the saying “farm to table” is all about. From sweet kale, to ripe heirloom tomatoes, a pack of sheep, a house full of chickens and even some lamas, we spent hours exploring the expansive natural grounds of the Borgo. Colorful flowers bloomed brightly and will be picked daily by the resident florist who creates personalized arrangements for the rooms of each guest. If you want to unleash your creative side, book a lesson with the florist to learn the art of floral arrangements or do a private painting class with the resident artist. With bright yellow lemons hanging from the trees, to dancing animals on the farm, there will never be a shortage of fascinating subjects to leisurely paint at the Borgo.
Foodie and Peacock Paradise
We all know that with travel, comes culture, and with culture comes food. Italian culture is spirited and centered around what they know best – food. Put your diet on hold, ladies, and pack the spanx, because travel in Italy is all about the sense of taste. Here at the Borgo we enjoyed some of the finest Italian food of our lives – cooked fresh and prepared with ingredients right from the farmland and gardens you see photographed above. From fine wine, to salads, savory pasta dishes, and even an Italian style “burger” – we tried it all. For your stay at the Borgo, I highly recommend the classic caprese style salad, a smoke lemon martini and the house duck ragu pasta. Delizioso! Of course I mentioned the food, but I can’t forget to tell you about the peacock. Yes, there I am chasing down the villa’s very own peacock. He was gorgeous and prances around freely all throughout the grounds of the hotel. It’s pretty amusing to find yourself sipping a drink or reading a book quietly, and then all of the sudden, there he is, proudly flocking those brilliant blue feathers. The presence of the wandering peacock just adds to character of the villa and peaceful way of life – for both humans and animals of course.
At dusk hotel staff runs around frantically. My first day at the Borgo I was confused and wondered what they were in such a rush to accomplish as the sun slowly set over the Tuscan hills. One man sprinted from the patio, to the dining room, and then back again to the patio with matches in hand. The candles – they are everywhere – and they are real wax burning candles. Ah-ha! On day two this blonde finally figured it out.
At dusk, the staff works together to set the stage for one of the most romantic experiences imaginable by lighting over 500 wax candles each evening. Yes, 500, I asked to verify my facts. From the patio, to the main dining room and to the tree-house restaurant, the hotel is illuminated by hundreds of old fashioned wax candles held in antique candelabras. While difficult to photograph with the dim lighting, these images do not do this magnificent site justice. Glowing from the flickering flames, the space transforms into a spiritual and tranquil setting to enjoy a late dinner, dessert cocktail and of course, dreamy sleep of a lifetime. As a guest, I truly appreciated the extra effort made by the hotel staff in ensuring everyone’s visit with the Borgo was intimate and special.
If you are interested in booking a vacation at the Borgo Santo Pietro, I suggest contacting reservations directly for the best rate. As mentioned above, getting here is easy – fly to Florence, rent a car or book a shuttle company to take you about 1.5 hours southwest toward the heart of Tuscany where the villa is located. If you have any specific questions on staying with this hotel, feel free to contact me directly for pointers and further insight. I hope you enjoyed my personal glimpse inside one of Tuscany’s finest places to stay! Until the next sweet escape.