A Gorgeous Renaissance Villa for the Holidays
We recently had the pleasure to take a day off from work and head into Chianti, for a day of meandering around the Chianti area around San Casciano. Our destination for the night was Villa Il Poggiale, an inviting county resort in a villa from the early 1400s and, thus, characterized as a “historic residence”. The villa originally belonged to the noble Corsini family from Florence before being sold and passed on through the centuries until it was purchased by the Vitta family at the end of World War II.
Over the years, the villa was the site of long summer vacations and happy times spent with family, relatives and friends of the Vittas. Around 14 years ago the two brothers, Johanan and Tinto, decided they wanted to share their family home in Chianti with others. Renovation work got started to convert the villa into a hotel, which has now been open for about 11 years.
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The philosophy of Villa Il Poggiale has always been to maintain the serenity and elegance of the relaxing Tuscan country, family home and, while we certainly found that, I also feel it offers more than just that.
We arrived in the late afternoon and were enchanted by the beautiful entrance into the villa. We saw cars across the entrance and parked there, realizing only after that we could have driven into the garden to drop off luggage and then parked outside. We recommend anyone staying here to do that ;).
A Review of Villa Il Poggiale
We loved: the very spacious rooms and bathrooms, the main sitting room, the large gardens and, most of all, the warm hospitality.
Ideal for: a romantic vacation, a very relaxing experience in the heart of Chianti wine country and anyone looking for a central location to explore Tuscany.
As you walk to the villa, we enjoyed the great view over the Chianti hills covered in vineyards and silver leafed olive trees off to the left side of the villa. Right below the wall, trees offer protection and privacy for anyone relaxing around the pool. The day is sunny and a bit windy; even if we brought our bathing suits, it is not warm enough for a dip in the pool for us, but it looks perfect for relaxing by. Along this wall, tables and chairs invite guests to sit down and admire the view with a glass of Chianti at hand. We decide we want to do just that as soon as we settle in!
The warm welcome of a family home
We're greeted by Michele right under the main villa portico, set up with several more tables and chairs, perfect for an afternoon tea or for reading a book. I sincerely start wishing we had more than a day to be here, as the atmosphere definitely invites you to just sit, relax and enjoy the quiet, the views and atmosphere of this home. We are given our room key as well as the key to the villa and front gate. The reception and main gate are closed after 8pm so you have to let yourself in if you return late in the evening, just like at home!
The relais hotel is small, with just over 20 rooms, every one of them with its own particular furnishings. As you enter, you're greeted with portraits of Vitta ancestors in the small entryway which opens up into the beautiful sitting room with a stunning, glass chandelier at its center and classical music in the background. It was very inviting and the groups of couches and chairs draws one to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere. A corner has an honesty bar, with plenty of choices.
We pass through as we're led by Monica, director of the hotel, to the second floor (there are a lot of stairs and no elevator) and to our room, one of the junior suites. Our room, Monica tells us is known by them as uncle Nardo's room, as it was the room the relative always asked to stay in when he visited. All of the rooms, in fact, are numbered but Monica also refers to them by their past use as we chat: the parents bedroom or the professor's studio as we pass by, the rooms used by the brother Tinto by the reception and so on. It is quite charming to hear some of the history of the villa through these anecdotes of the family that lived here. We are sure uncle Nardo loved about the room is how spacious it is, thinking he also must have admired the beautiful and large exposed wooden beams that cross over our heads. We study them and find them simply marvelous as we drift off to sleep a few hours later.
We settle in into our room, enjoying the large, long bathroom as well. I appreciate that the room is very spacious and that the bathroom here, which didn't all exist up to a few years ago, was carved out of the hallway that ran outside the room. It kept the room very open and comfortable, with a sitting area in one corner and a writing table in front of another window. I loved the rustic yet elegant style of the furnishings, yet if I have to be picky about one thing, I'd say the bed coverlet seemed a bit worn out and thus a bit at contrast with the rest of the fine furnishings. Overall, it was a beautiful, comfortable room to stay in.
Gorgeous views and a dinner “at home”
We then headed downstairs to enjoy the sitting room and then back onto the back garden to take a look at the pool and garden. We sit and enjoy the quiet and the view, enjoying a lovely sunset and the chance to chat with the gardener, Leonardo, who is busy planting and pruning the colorful flowers across the main lawn and side gardens. Everything is well-kept and chatting with him gives us a sense of the pride he feels for the garden. His talk reminds me of something Monica mentioned earlier, when she said that most of the staff, including herself and Leonardo, have been working at Poggiale for years so that the atmosphere is truly that of an extended family who opens up their home to guests from all over the world. We eventually head back to our room to prepare for dinner.
During the summer months, when the villa's garden is bountiful, the lower floor of the villa hosts a dining room where guests can enjoy a buffet dinner starting at 8pm. While most might not be prepared for that, it actually fits in with Villa Il Poggiale and its philosophy. It isn't really a restaurant: it is the chance for guests to come back at the end of long day of sightseeing and enjoy a dinner “at home”.
Villa Il Poggiale in a Glance:
Type: Hotel / B&B
Location: San Casciano Val di Pesa (10 minutes)
Distance: Florence or San Gimignano (40 min), Siena (50 min)
Transport: a car is necessary
Type of board: Breakfast, meals upon request
Prepared with organic produce grown in the villa's back garden and with other local ingredients, the offerings are actually quite varied and delicious. Some of the dishes are simple but the same you find offered at local restaurants, while some are a bit more complex. We decide to taste a little bit of everything! We enjoy some a bit more than others, there is a mix of warm and cold dishes, and the buffet style lets us taste things we normally don't order out at a restaurant, as we can't order everything. If you come and visit at times of the year when dinner isn't offered, Monica and the rest of the staff have a long list of recommended restaurants in the area: remember, in Tuscany and Chianti, you will always enjoy great meals no matter where you end up at.
A note about the dining room: the lower floor is a bit of a maze to navigate, the breakfast room is clearly marked but among the corridors you'll find the kitchen and several guest rooms before arriving at the dining hall. Since we weren't the first to arrive, we followed the sound of conversation to find it but a sign or two along the corridors would likely be useful.
A chance to relax and recharge
Right next to the dining room, we discover some stairs that go down into the cellar where the wellness center is located. While we knew it existed, we were resigned to the fact that we didn't have enough time on this short visit to use it and, thus, had not asked where it was. We head down to snoop and find a treasure: a spacious, well-lit environment dedicated to relaxing, recharging and renewing your body and spirit. While the center closes before dinner, we wander in and admire the general open area as well as the private massage and sauna rooms. Around the corner we find a hot tub/hydro-massage pool – very inviting! We view the list of offered massages and treatments and make a note to return in the off-season to be able to stay for at least 3 days to fully enjoy a relaxing vacation ;).
A home away from home
The next morning was a beautiful day so we took advantage to have breakfast in the garden. There was a little of everything in the buffet breakfast, from sweet to savory, with fresh baked bread and cake, warm croissants, homemade jams and coffee and cappuccinos made to order. Our day started off well with a delicious breakfast and a great view!
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While the feel is that of a country home, our short stay at Villa Il Poggiale showed us that it is much more. More of an elegant, luxury bed and breakfast than a traditional hotel, with its spa area and many services for guests, including the gardens, buffet dinner, cooking lessons and help with touring Tuscany in special ways. But what makes it particularly unique from other country resorts or hotels is that at the very heart of the property is the family: the one composed of all the helpful, friendly staff members that make the place run so well that you truly end up feeling as if you're enjoying a holiday visiting relatives or friends that own a country home in Tuscany. We hope to return soon!
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