Tag Archives: Tuscany

Ancient baths – renewed spirits: at Hotel Posta Marcucci

pm 5

Albergo Posta Marcucci
Via Ara Urcea 43
I-53027 Bagno Vignoni (SIENA)
39-0577-887112
http://www.postamarcucci.it
albergo@postamarcucci.it

My eyes are closed and I am melding into a lounge chair, the gentle May sunshine warming my shoulders. The sounds of silence contain a quiet concert of birdsong, of glasses being clinked at the bar counter, of a murmur of hushed voices, pierced by the occasional burst of a child’s laughter. With eyes closed I could be in a sanctuary, a refuge infused with reverence. Resting. Peaceful. I am in the garden of the Hotel Posta Marcucci, having just enjoyed a dip into their thermal pool.

The thermal baths of Bagno Vignoni, enjoyed by the Romans who consecrated these waters to the Nymphs, became even more popular during the Middle Ages, thanks to their proximity to Via Francigena, an important thoroughfare connecting Northern Europe to the Italian Peninsula. From the 12th century and throughout the 13th century, Bagno Vignoni became a stopover point for Christian pilgrims traveling this route on their way to Rome. Bagno Vignoni is described in a document dating back to 1334 as a “thermal spa arranged and surrounded by buildings and taverns with a chapel in the middle. It has a very beautiful square layout, with the spring divided in two parts and a roof for protecting the infirm…” This pool, no longer used by the public, is a massive basin of steamy water, which forms the main piazza, creating an element of pleasurable surprise. Warm reflections of stone buildings, tiled roofs and potted geraniums dance across its surface to delight the visitor.

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When I first visited this hotel, nearly 14 years ago, I was intrigued by its history of hospitality and by the surrounding landscape. In the 1800’s, the Marcucci family operated a small inn with ten rooms and a tiny store. Then in the 1950’s, Grandpa Marcucci dug up his vineyard and began construction of what is now the main hotel. Grandma’s cooking drew guests from the area and eventually from afar. It was Aunt Licia’s idea to create the swimming pool using the mildly sulfurous geothermal waters of Bagno Vignoni. The large pool was dug from the hillside and became a major attraction to their hotel. Guests could swim in the comforting waters, bask in the warmth of the sun and look out over a captivating landscape, a magic potion of beauty and silence that heals the soul.

Ownership has changed and the hotel has been renovated, with interior improvements to the rooms and the spa. There are now ten suites and 26 double rooms, spacious lounges filled with cherished family furnishings and artwork and a terrace where breakfast is served in the summer. The Water Rooms bring the thermal waters into a smaller pool inside the building. A Jacuzzi, a sauna and a Turkish bath complete this complex where various types of massage are offered. The restaurant walls were opened up to accommodate panoramic windows, allowing diners to never be far from the breath-taking views. The half-board plan includes a dinner that reflects a refined cuisine of Tuscan specialties, accompanied by an extensive wine list.

The “cure” begins with the journey itself – the road to Bagno Vignoni traverses the Val d’Orcia, past undulating fields of wheat, vineyards, olive groves and verdant hills where green-black cypresses stand tall. It is a visual treasure chest accentuated by dazzling yellow broom and brilliant red poppies scattered along the roadside like precious gems dropped extravagantly by some benevolent prince. This exquisite landscape accompanies you to the nearby towns of Pienza, San Quirico, and Siena. Ancient baths – renewed spirits…

Tuscany 10

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Eating good in the neighborhood – Cortona’s Ristorante La Bucaccia

 

La Bucaccia

 

Ristorante La Bucaccia
Via Ghibellina, 17
Cortona
0575-606-039
info@labucaccia.it
www.labucaccia.it
Owner: Romano Magi
Chef: Agostina Magi

From Cortona’s main square, it is a steep descent down Via Ghibellina to La Bucaccia, a uniquely charming local restaurant. It is well worth the effort, because here the cuisine of Tuscany rises to unbelievable heights. This cozy restaurant was carved out of the ruins of a 12th-century palazzo, a painstaking restoration that took the owners, Romano and Agostina Magi, almost two years to complete. The stone walls resonate with history and with the Magi’s passion for preserving that history and its architecture.  They have incorporated the remnants of the old well, the cellars, the animal feeding trough and the old camino, into the décor of the intimate dining room which seats no more than thirty people.

Romano Magi is justifiably proud of this multi-tiered accomplishment and of his wife, the chef responsible for La Bucaccia’s famed cuisine.  One is not likely to meet a man more passionate about Tuscan cooking or cheese-making, in particular, so it was with immense pleasure that we got to know Romano over a lunch that literally burst forth with flavor, one course after another.  Romano entertained and educated us as he made fresh cheese at our table, one of several cheese offerings that he produced and presented throughout our meal.   There is nothing like newly made ricotta drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and cracked peppercorns.  Or a plate of cheese arranged in a circle, that invites one to taste in clockwise fashion the stages of its aging, each accompanied by a different garnish or marmalade.

But, oh, the pastas!  Romano introduced us to a sampling of three different kinds – boasting that over the course of the seasons, they alternate between no less that 67 pasta dishes.  The pici, made green with fresh herbs rather than spinach, topped with porcini mushrooms, was the stuff of celestial banquets.  We were content, but Romano insisted we sample Agostina’s bistecca of the local chianina beef.  Mamma mia!

Agostina and Romano’s daughter, Francesca, has been learning on the job since she was six.  She smiles an angelic smile from behind the bar; she de-corks the wine, and can explain anything on the menu.  She is as sweet as any dessert Agostina can create!

copyright – Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com

Frances’ Lodge – A Tuscan Treasure

2006c View from the garden - Frances Lodge 2

Frances’ Lodge Relais
Str. Di Valdipugna, 2
53100 Siena
0577-281-061
booking@franceslodge.it
http://www.franceslodge.it

We meander today throughout the countryside of Tuscany, a rich farmland of olive groves, wheat fields and sunny vineyards. The leaves of timeless olive trees glint silver in the shimmering light, their gnarled trunks casting deep purple shadows on the sun-baked earth. Row after row of verdant vines bursting with the sweet promise of wine, march across the gentle hills. This region of Italy is known for its excellent wines. It is a landscape of dreams, laden with blessings, exquisite, nourishing. We are headed towards a Tuscan farmhouse, now a Bed & Breakfast, on the outskirts of Siena.

Every house has a history, every family a story. And so it is with this old farmhouse. There are many good reasons to stay with Franco and Franca (hence the name, Frances’ Lodge). Our accommodations in the portion of the building that once housed the rabbits and pigeons are quite comfortable. As a matter of fact, all the rooms once provided shelter for farm animals. Now converted into living space for guests, the décor of each of the rooms is tasteful, whimsical, inviting – delightful reflections of Franca’s artistic talents. Indeed, our hostess says, “Nothing bothers me more than to see something unappealing to the eye. Why should anything be unattractive when it could be beautiful?”

“So tell me, Franca, your story and the story of the house,” I ask. “That story begins with the villa, then,” she commences. “It has been in Franco’s family for three hundred years. Built in 1729 as a casa padronale, it was used as a summer residence for the Pippi family. The family would relocate from the city of Siena to their country estate during the growing season, a move that enabled them to oversee the various harvests, beginning with the early summer crops of fruit and wheat, followed by the autumn grape harvest and lastly the picking of the olives. They would arrive with a retinue of seven servants,” Franca lets out a sign of envy and longing. “It was a time for the family to enjoy the wholesome freshness of the country air. Going to one’s summer villa was known as “villeggiatura,” a term still used today when referring to a summer holiday.”

Locals often referred to Villa Pippo as “La Cappella,” a name derived from a small shrine or chapel that once existed on the property. It is difficult to date the adjacent farm building because structures of lesser importance were seldom dated. However, records from around 1820 show that an L-shaped structure existed as a casa colonica for the contadino family who worked the land. Besides functioning as a home for the peasant farmer, it housed the granaio, the granaries in the upper story and animal stalls below (cows, mules, chickens, rabbits and pigeons). To house the lemon trees during the winter months, the lovely limonaia with its huge arched windows was added in 1853. This section filled in the L-shape creating the rectangular building we see today.

Farm activities ceased after the war and the villa and farm buildings were all but abandoned except for the casa colonica where the farmer remained to look after the land, until his death in 1984. His wife, Pierina stayed on in the house she had come to as a bride in 1945. She remained another twenty years and not a day went by that she didn’t wrap her black shawl around her shoulders and walk to the cemetery of S. Regina to visit and place fresh flowers on her husband’s grave.

Franco and his Florentine wife decided to move to the family estate after twenty years of working in Florence and living in rented apartments. It was time to search for a home with a little plot of earth but the only affordable properties involved traveling quite a distance from Florence. So why not return to the land that belonged to his family? His parents live in the villa, but the farmhouse, abandoned for decades and in disrepair fired up their hearts and their imaginations. So they set to the task of restoration. Today it is their cherished home and a lovely B&B.

2005c Frances' LodgeI watch Franco who, with a warm smile and friendly handshake, wins over his guests the minute they arrive, immediately making them feel at home. He graciously sees to their comfort, while generously sharing his knowledge of and love for his native city. “And,” he invites each of us, “enjoy a last swim on this unseasonably warm afternooon.” Where else can one dip into a swimming pool and gaze at a panoramic view of Siena spread out before them like a master’s painting; its colors ever-changing with that special Tuscan light? Before leaving for the city, Mike and I stroll in the garden outside the limonaia. The glossy leaves of a magnolia tree glint in the sun and a rose, the color of coral, catches my eye. Beyond the garden walls, where wisteria and jasmine climb with abandon, another spectacular view greets me. I close my eyes to see more clearly and it’s easy to imagine the Pippi family here in villeggiatura. How did they ever manage to pack up their trunks at the end of the season and move back to the city? How do Franco and Franca get any of their guests to leave?

Read more about my books featuring this and other lovely restaurants and hotels, Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my books.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Villa Le Barone – where poetry and purpose meet

2013c - Villa Le BaroneVilla Le Barone
Panzano in Chianti
Florence
39-055-852-621
http://www.villalebarone.com
info@villalebarone.com

“When we fix our gaze on the distant horizon, so contained and tranquil, the vexations and discord of the present are forgotten and when the sweetness of the reawakening earth takes us by surprise each year all discouragement melts away and we are inundated by the love which binds us to the land.”                                                                        Maria-Bianca Viviani Della Robbia – A Farm in Chianti

These words, written over five decades ago by the woman who owned Villa Le Barone, speak of her passion and commitment to this land. It was her love and relentless dedication to modernizing, while preserving, an agricultural way of life that was in peril of disappearing from the Tuscan landscape that gifts us today with an unforgettable country experience. As I sit in this tranquil garden, amid the scent of laurel, rosemary and flowering rose bushes, I am filled with admiration for a woman I did not know, and with gratitude for her unflinching courage in meeting the challenges of a farming life in a changing world.

There is no doubt that Ville Le Barone has always been a special place, but it is wasn’t always an inn. In 1974, Duchess Franca Visconti who inherited the property from her mother, made the difficult decision to sell the farm and most of the land to undertake a project that would carry the villa into the next century. Like her mother, Duchess Visconti was a woman of vision and dedicated passion. She saw the potential for tourism to the region and in 1976 she opened Villa le Barone as a hotel. The original inn consisted of nine bedrooms and five bathrooms. Over the following decades, the other farm buildings were transformed, creating a total of 28 rooms, all with en suite bathrooms, numerous intimate sitting rooms, a delightful restaurant, and multiple garden terraces and a swimming pool. There are no televisions.

And as we enjoy the fruits of Franca’s vision and limitless efforts in transforming the “farm” into an elegant inn, we owe thanks to the current heirs, Count and Countess Aloisi de Larderel, who maintain her dream of hospitality while always expanding and improving. With equal amounts of poetry and purpose, three women have made of Villa Le Barone a “home” and a landscape that embraces the soul.

“But here, in the slow rhythm of hours spent alone, we may unhurriedly re-assess and fairly examine past and present and thus seek balance and proportion in our lives.”                                                         Maria-Bianca Viviani Della Robbia – A Farm in Chianti

Read more about other lovely hotels and restaurants in Italy,  Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Rest and Relaxation at Hotel Posta Marcucci

2003c Hotel Posta Marcucci

Hotel Posta Marcucci
original watercolor – copyright Ginda Simpson

Hotel Posta Marcucci
Bagno Vignoni (Siena)
39-0577-887-112
http://www.hotelpostamarcucci.it
info@hotelpostamarcucci.it

For those in quest of rest and relaxation, the Hotel Posta Marcucci offers unparalleled hospitality. The Marcucci family have been inhabitants of Bagno Vignoni since the 1700’s, a claim made that much more meaningful by the fact that the population of the town is only 36!

In the 1800’s, the Marcucci family operated a small inn with ten rooms and a tiny store. Then in the 1950’s, Grandpa Marcucci dug up his vineyard and began construction of what is now the main hotel. Grandma’s cooking drew guests from the area and eventually from afar. It was Aunt Licia’s idea to create the swimming pool using the mildly sulfurous geothermal waters of Bagno Vignoni. The large pool was dug from the hillside and has always been a major attraction of their hotel. Guests can swim in the comforting waters, bask in the warmth of the sun and look out over a captivating landscape, a magic potion of beauty and silence that heals the soul. And because the waters are warm, swimmers indulge during the winter months even when snow blankets the land.

There are now ten suites and 25 double rooms, spacious lounges filled with cherished family furnishings and artwork, a panoramic restaurant, and a terrace where breakfast is served in the summer. Recently, The Water Rooms have been added, bringing the thermal waters into a smaller pool inside the building. A Jacuzzi, a sauna and a Turkish bath complete this complex where various types of massage are offered. Dedicated to making his guests feel at home, in his home, Riccardo is pleased that many return year after year.

Read more about other lovely hotels and restaurants in Italy,  Rooms with a View and Italian Wanderlust, by clicking on their covers:

Rooms cover      italian wanderlust 2

More about my other books.

********************************************************************************
All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Locanda La Pieve – Life is slow and gentle here

2013c Locanda La Pieve

Locanda La Pieve
original watercolor painting – copyright Ginda Simpson

Locanda La Pieve
Via della Società Operaia, 3
58055 Semproniano – Saturnia (GR)
39-0564-987-252
http://www.locandalapieve.com
info@locandalapieve.com

When owners, Enrico and Angela, left the big city in search of a hotel of their own, they came armed with a wealth of hotel experience and a dream. They found what they were looking for in Semproniano, in the Maremma region of Tuscany. Locanda La Pieve sits in the shadow of the 12th century Pieve church in the heart of this small town and was already a small hotel, but one in need of fresh energy and new love. Enrico and Angela infused it with both, turning it into a truly lovely country inn, where the memory of a stay here will linger.

The eight rooms are each uniquely furnished and include all the expected comforts and services of a much larger hotel. The difference lies in the intimacy of the overall atmosphere and the welcoming hospitality of the owners. And this is where their vision and personal dream have been satisfied. They had envisioned a hotel where they could devote themselves to their guests, offering a place where visitors could simply relax in an unhurried atmosphere, leaving their everyday cares behind.

Enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine in their cozy sitting room is a good place to start, or perhaps a good book in hands while sitting on their sunlit, flower-bedecked terrace. Breakfast is simple, wholesome and inviting with freshly made ricotta and honey or preserves, a colorful fruit salad, cereals and pastries. Our dinner, expertly prepared by Enrico, included a trio of Tuscan appetizers, a pasta course, main course, and dessert. The typical pici all’aglione, with its flavorful sauce won out, but the whole meal, from start to finish, was superb. Their wine list is generous and made up of wines from small local producers.

Semproniano makes a good base for exploring the diverse Maremma countryside: in Saturnia, take a dip in the natural sulphur springs that maintain a 37° temperature year round, or drive along the sun-dappled road through chestnut groves that line the drive to the summit of Monte Amiata. Admire the della Robbia works in the church in Santa Flora, or visit Pitigliano, where a vibrant Jewish community once flourished.

Then come home to Locanda La Pieve. Life is slow and gentle here. Take your time.

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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Hostaria del Ceccottino – a Tuscan cuisine with a Jewish past

Hostaria del Ceccottino WEBHostaria del Ceccottino
Piazza San Gregorio VII, 64
58017 Pitigliano (GR)
0564-614-069
http://www.ceccottino.com
info@ceccottino.com
Owner: Alessandro & Chiarra Francardi
Chef: Carla

A meandering walk through the town of Pitigliano will bring you sooner or later to the lovely Piazza di San Gregorio, and if you are lucky to find a table outdoors, grab it and have lunch (or dinner) at Hostaria del Ceccottino.  Large white canopies shade tables set in off-white linens, skirted in a rich slate color that compliments the tufa stone that surrounds us in the buildings of this hilltop town known as “Little Jerusalem.”  The cuisine blends Pitigliano’s Jewish past with the traditions of Nonna’s Tuscan cooking in a most satisfying way, thanks to Carla, a very talented chef.

Ceccottino - wine WEBCeccottino - crostini WEBCeccottino - lamb shanks WEBCeccottino - ricotta mousse WEB

There is a pleasant breeze as we start our lunch with crostini with savory toppings accompanied by a chilled white wine.  Ravioli nudi are just that – they are naked, missing their outer covering of pasta – a dish created when housewives ran out of dough and had to do something with the remaining stuffing…  Another wonderful Italian dish was invented and today’s nudi consist of ricotta and spinach with a butter-sage sauce.  The shining star of our lunch was a plate of lamb shanks, simmered slowly in a tomato sauce and served over day-old bread – another thrifty and very tasty use of leftovers.  Back in the days when frugality was the rule, Jewish homemakers would make this dish using up lots of their stale bread, owner Alessandro explains.  His version of this dish includes more lamb than bread, but we would not have complained either way.  A full-bodied DOC red wine from nearby Sovana paired well with this hearty dish.

And then there was dessert – a bavarese cream flavored with vin santo and topped with slivered almonds was my husband’s choice.  I selected the ricotta mousse drizzled with caramel and a dusting of powdered sugar – as light and fluffy as a cloud, and quite “heavenly.”

Young and passionate, Alessandro and Chiarra Francardi have owned and successfully managed this hostaria for over a decade now and their expertise now flows into new ventures:  a beautiful, characteristic enoteca, or wine bar.  They also offer exquisitely decorated rooms to let.  So, no need to go any farther.  You have found what you need here to make a stay in Pitigliano just about perfect!

Ceccottino - Chiarra & Carla WEB

Owner Chiarra & Chef Carla

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All content on artfulroomswithaview.wordpress.com/, both images and writing, is copyrighted material © Ginda Simpson unless otherwise indicated. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this content without express and written permission from Ginda Simpson is prohibited.

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