I think I may have discovered the most perfect place on earth…. although we spent time in Florence for our honeymoon in 2001, for some reason I cannot fathom, we didn’t return to Tuscany until this summer. It was a last minute booking, which naturally meant that most places were full. I stumbled across Borgo Pignano on the i-escape site and also Mr & Mrs Smith. It was fully booked, so I decided to email the hotel directly as sometimes a cancellation can come up. They immediately replied that they could put us up in their farmhouse down the road from the hotel so we grabbed the opportunity and booked.
Its not easy to journey to Tuscany in style from the UK. BA has odd flight times so we were left with little choice but Ryan Air or Easyjet. We chose Ryan Air as the times were slightly better and we could fly from Stansted which is easy for us. If the Minions designed an aircraft, this would be it. Bright yellow plastic seats, not dissimilar to a lifeboat, there is little luxury onboard a Ryan Air flight, but luckily the surprisingly chatty and enigmatic Italian pilot kept us fully entertained throughout the flight. After an incredibly windy landing at Pisa (which he talked us through in detail), we had a 500m walk in hot sunshine with all our luggage to the car hire, so by the time we eventually got en route to Volterra, we were in need of a drink.
We were in luck! Borgo Pignano has its very own mixologist in the form of the charming Fransesco, a handsome bearded chap with THE best cocktail bar I’ve ever encountered, perched on the edge of the manicured lawns with a view to die for across the hills of Tuscany to Volterra.
And so our holiday began…. (and continued like this with a Mediterraneo cocktail every evening at 7pm!).
Borgo Pignano is a special place. It’s unique in that it’s owned by an art collecting Welsh businessman and his writer wife who reside in California. It feels like their holiday home (which it is) and we felt quite privileged to be there (albeit at a price!). The team there are excellent, providing a perfect combination of service and friendliness, with a real family feel. An old hamlet set in a 750 acre estate, Borgo Pignano has a working farm producing wheat, vegetables, honey, herbs, cheese and its own range of handmade toiletries.
There is also an artist cottage (offering residencies via The Royal Drawing School in London) and a wonderful art collection which we were delighted to discover our family business had framed.
We spent the first few nights of our week stay in La Fonte, the farmhouse overlooking a small lake, 350m away from the main house. It’s a gorgeous rustic house with beautiful views across the countryside and crisp linen bedsheets. There’s a large kitchen and dining area should you wish to self cater (or even better hire a chef for a private party!).
Daytimes were mainly spent enjoying the hotel’s beautiful pools (the infinity pool is for over 12s, but there is a lovely, albeit small, pool for younger children).
Borgo Pignano has a particularly good stable of seven horses which really does cater for all levels of rider. Barbara, the manager, is an endurance rider in her spare time, taking her own Arabian horses on three day treks. As I am a horse owner, she gave me a younger horse who was quite fresh (definitely not a beginners horse), whereas Matt had a lovely steady horse who was happy to canter along and behave himself. Nina the pony is perfect for children and we all went on a fabulous early morning trek around the estate of Borgo Pignano.
Coco was very well looked after – Giulia, also an artist, runs childrens forest camps and craft workshops every morning from 10-12.30pm, and a dinner and film club from 6-10pm. Coco adored Giulia and came back each day buzzing with the creative activities that they’d enjoyed. They also visited the bees, fed the pigs, said hello to the horses. We left feeling like Giulia was part of our family!
My other great love is of course food, and Borgo Pignano delighted on this front too. Breakfasts were served in the main house courtyard – delicious homemade granola, yoghurt, honey and fruit, eggs, bread, cheeses and ham. Plus coffee made in a 1960s espresso machine from Mexican grown beans that are roasted locally in Tuscany. It felt like every detail had been carefully and lovingly considered.
Lunch was served in the Al Fresco terrace restaurant – wood fired pizzas, homemade pasta, farm grown salads and vegetables… washed down with a local wine from San Gimignano.
Perfection, followed by a snooze on a sunbed in the shade of an olive tree…
And as for dinner…. the gourmet restaurant was really rather special indeed. The most beautiful views, a thoughtful, relevant and utterly delicious menu, bursting with local ingredients and skilfully prepared by an expert team. Words can’t quite describe how wonderful it was!
We moved to a two floor maisonette for a couple of nights. Located in the main ‘hamlet’ next to the main house, it consisted of a small kitchen and dining area, two bedrooms and bathrooms and an incredible rooftop view.
Our final night was in a suite in the main house and this really was the icing on the cake…
The interior of the house is exquisite, in a way that feels relaxed and informal, yet elegant and refined all at once.
We had a couple of days out visiting the nearby medieval towns of San Gimignano and Volterra – both beautiful and we sampled delicious food and award winning Gelato.
Another highlight was the wonderful land art of local Volterra born artist Mauro Staciolli. He has large scale works dotted around the Tuscan hills – I’m working on a separate post about this, but had to include a couple of photos here!
Borgo Pignano also has a new spa which we didn’t get round to sampling (always need an excuse to return), plus a gym (which Mr Jones tells me was more than adequate), a yoga studio, an art gallery and a host of daily activities, including pasta making workshops and art classes.
I was in two minds whether to write a blog about this special place. Its the type of gem that I’d really like to keep to myself…. but we’ve already worked out the dates we’re going back next year (and the room we’re staying in), so if you’re there the same time as us, come and enjoy one of Francesco’s cocktails on the lawn!