Borgo Pignano, Volterra
With stunning views from a hilltop among 750-acres of picture perfect Tuscan countryside, Borgo Pignano, a magnificent 18th-century Etruscan villa with beautifully restored 12th-century ramparts, is an oasis.
Its ever-growing accommodation includes 14 elegant bedrooms and several exterior cottages with views off toward the neighbouring medieval town of Volterra. There’s also a gorgeous swimming pool cut into the remains of an old quarry.
What makes it special?
Stunning scenery aside, Borgo Pignano is an oasis of sustainable living. So what? It means homemade produce from a biodynamic garden. Everything they make – everything – is lactose-free and soon to be gluten-free. The estate makes its own honey, from bees kept on the grounds, its own conserves with homegrown fruit. A flour mill uses ancient grains for making flour for the bread – unrefined and low in gluten, as it was years ago – and a lab stands in the next room making fresh soap from ingredients found on the grounds. Even the wood chips are cut by the estate’s own saw mill. This is a luxury hotel, that’s also a working farm. Everything you see and eat is as fresh and natural as it gets.
Wining and dining
Dining at Borgo Pignano takes two forms; the seasonal al fresco terrace, overlooking those majestic Tuscan hills, or the more upscale, gourmet restaurant inside. I opted for the terrace.
Down in the terrace restaurant (I timed it so I got a sunset with the food, go for dinner about 8 pm) there is a wood burning pizza oven. Pizza is obviously far from the only thing on the menu but it’s a winning choice. The pizzas in Rome tend to be thin and crispy, with nearly no crust, but here in Tuscany, they’re slightly thicker, more doughy and with a crisp, chewy crust. Fresh, vibrant red tomato sauce, meaty sausage, creamy mozzarella; they are simply divine. Of course, the rest of the menu is delicious too.
Classically Tuscan, you’ll find dishes on the menu like wild boar ragu and homemade ‘gnudi’. Paired with one of the region’s local wines – there is even a vineyard across from the hotel – the food goes down very well indeed. For afters, some homemade ice cream, tiramisu or cakes and biscuits – simple, light and utterly delicious.
Things to do
There’s plenty going on. You can take an easel and go painting, visit the lab and try a soap-making workshop and walk to the stables for horse riding. Not your thing? Borrow a bicycle and cycle to San Gimignano, where centuries ago vying rich families built tall towers as a sign of wealth. The result is a medieval metropolis. If you’d rather just stay inside the hotel grounds you can go truffle hunting or harvest olives (in season) – or simply relax in the infinity pool carved out of a former limestone quarry.
Francesco’s al fresco aperitif bar deserves a special mention. Francesco is the hotel’s only bartender and when you’ve got someone as skilled as he is, why hire anyone else? Each evening (weather-dependent) he sets up an outdoor bar in the garden overlooking the valley below, stocked with an array of exotic and interesting spirits alongside the usual crowd of gins, vodkas and whisky. Choose a cocktail from the menu or simply ask Francesco to whip up a surprise, and take a seat looking out across the sun-kissed fields and green forest, with Volterra standing in the distance, as the sun sets.
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