It’s not the first ancient abbey to be reincarnated as a boutique hotel in Tuscany, but Badia di Pomaio might just be one of the most stylish. Sequestered high in the hills over Arezzo, this gently landscaped estate looks suitably timeless (if you ignore the sleek valley-viewing infinity pool) but step inside the sandstone building and you’ll be wowed by how designer Ilaria Miani tempers its rustic materials with stark statement features. The restaurant refreshes traditional Tuscan fare, the bar serves with invention and rooms are as restful as they are refined. Those who delight in detail will find themselves right at home here. (Oh, and don’t miss the wine cellar).
Get this when you book through us:
An edible souvenir of your stay in the form of home-made honey or olive oil, presented the night before you check out
Noon, but flexible (subject to availability). Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £428.75 (€500), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a bountiful breakfast buffet.
All rooms are reachable by lift and have specially configured bathrooms.
At the hotel
Kitchen gardens, outdoor bar and grill, woodland walking trails, on-site boutique, wine cellar and dining space, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, air-conditioning, minibar with local snacks and drinks, Grown Alchemist bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The two rooms in the old annexe are the smallest of the few but they are secluded, quiet and quite perfectly formed. In the main building, as noted bath tub fans, we were rather partial to the Junior Suite Double which allows for restorative soakings under dramatic beams with an eyeful of olive-grove greenery beyond.
Shielded by shrubs, infinity-edged and with widescreen valley views, the pool commands a prime location among the well-tended grounds. There's a shallow end if you're splashing about <i>con la famiglia</i> (it's heated, too) and plenty of shade-dappled loungers for daytime napping/spritz sipping.
A quick primer on early Renaissance art will make for useful in-flight reading and those partial to pottery might want to bring a few extra layers to use for packaging – the on-site boutique might be small but it stocks some very covetable items.
Be prepared to fall for the hotel's three resident felines; the staff became so smitten they built them their own two-storey cat house on the grounds.
Children are warmly welcomed and there are grounds to roam, extra beds to be added and adapted menu items but not much more in the way of kid-specific arrangements. Please note, from 2021, the hotel will only allow children over 12 to stay.
The building was respectfully renovated using only natural materials and local craftsmen. Fruit and vegetables are grown in the tiered kitchen gardens and honey and olive oil are produced on site. Low-consumption LED lighting is used throughout the hotel and grounds and plastic straws have been banished from the bar.
Take an evening table on the terrace's front row and settle in for a memorable light show – spectacular sunsets give way to the twinkling lights of the city in the valley.
Channel your surroundings in simple fabrics spruced up with statement modernist accessories.
This being Tuscany, there seems little use in pointing out the fresh, homegrown, locally sourced, seasonal produce used throughout chef Davide Canella's moreish menu of updated regional fare. It's best experienced degustazione style – choose from three, four, five or seven beautifully presented courses (from simple antipasti and rich ravioli to succulent steak and decadent desserts) depending on your appetite; the wine-pairing option is a good way to open your palate to the fine array of local blends. Breakfast is a bountiful buffet of fresh-pressed juices, pastries, muesli, cold cuts, eggs and bacon. If you're still full from the previous night's feasting, go simple with homemade honey on toast – it doesn't disappoint.
Bar Serra is the most contemporary part of the hotel; a glass-panelled, iron-girdered space that fuses the old farm cottage with the main building. Inside, its more modern materials are softened with jute ceiling hangings, low-lit lanterns and simple pottery to make for a restful retreat from the afternoon sun. Convivial bar staff serve a well-chosen list of regional wines, beers and cocktails both classic and contemporary (we were rather partial to the spritz with a pomegranate twist). If you take your wines seriously, ask sommelier Mario about a sampling session in the impressively stocked cellar.
Breakfast is served from 7.30 to 10.30am, lunch from noon until 2pm and dinner from 7.30 to 10.30pm. The bar serves its last digestivo at midnight.
A full room service menu is on offer during restaurant hours and you can summon snacks, sandwiches and drinks all day.
Badia di Pomaio sits high on a hill overlooking the city of Arezzo and its surrounding verdant valley.
The closest airport is Florence, about an hour and a half by car (the hotel can arrange transfers for around €290 per car and €330 for a van). Pisa is the next closest option, a two-hour drive from the hotel (transfers from here are around €380 per car and €430 for a van).
Arezzo's train station is a 15-minute drive away where some connections from Florence take less than half an hour. It's also well served from Rome, too. The hotel will happily arrange transfers from the station for €50.
If you're planning to do anything more than pool lounging and pasta slurping, a car is pretty essential in these parts. Follow directions to Arezzo where you'll see signs pointing you hillawards to Pomaio and the hotel itself. Follow the winding Via delle Conserve until you pass another property called Podere di Pomaio, then a small church. The hotel entrance will be on your right about 50 metres after that.
Worth getting out of bed for
With the hotel neighbouring a fertile forest, there are plenty of trails for exploring on foot, by bike or even on a quad bike tour for two. In a clearing alongside a small river, you'll find the hotel's own beehives where guests can learn about the honey production – and even help out. For a gentler stroll, have a nose around the sweetly scented kitchen gardens where there's a prime picnicking spot. Nearby Arezzo might be less well known than its fellow Tuscan cities, but it's no less rich in charm. Not least in the Basilica of San Francesco where Piero della Francesca's jaw-dropping 15th-century frescoes The History of the True Cross dazzle in their detail. Explore the home of literal Renaissance Man Francesco Petrarca in the north of the city – it still houses thousands of priceless tomes, early 20th-century letters, 17th-century paintings and coins dating back to the 4th century BC. If you're serious about your souvenirs, Arezzo also happens to be one of the gold capitals of the world; a browse of its boutiques – many of them with centuries of history – is window shopping at its finest. Tuscany wouldn't be Tuscany without some road-tripping, though, and here you're well placed for wine tours around Chianti, Montepulciano and Montalcino, and city jaunts to Siena, Perugia, even Florence.
If you go to Italy and don’t dine in a town square did you even go to Italy? Get your piazza fix at La Lancia d’Oro under the Logge Vasari in the centre of Arezzo where cucina classics are served with flair – on white tablecloths, naturalmente. For something much more modest, set aside some time and settle in for some home cooked heroics at Vineria Ciao dal Chiodo, a family-run, oh-so-Tuscan taverna. If you tire of pasta come dinner time, make a reservation at Saffron for first-class Japanese fare in contemporary surroundings.
Arriving in Florence and stepping out onto the tarmac, the heat of midday June wrapping around us, myself and Mr Smith jump into our rented Fiat 500 and make our way to Arezzo – and past it, up through the labyrinth turns of the Tuscan hills, framed by forests either side to arrive at our final stop.
A monastery in the 17th century, Badia di Pomaio is now a 14-roomed boutique hotel that sits high in the hills, 15 minutes up from the town. There’s a bit of that monastic serenity still there: the moment we step out the car, myself and Mr Smith are enveloped in an otherworldly calm. Making our way to the hotel – accompanied by a louche cat named Leopold, one of the hotel’s full-time residents – we are greeted by friendly staff and taken to our room.
A jug of freshly made lemonade and welcome treats are laid out and are so quickly eaten, I have no recollection of what they were, other than ‘delicious’. The birdsong outside invites us to open our shutters. We booked a Superior room with a view: a painterly one which extends out beyond the manicured garden and sweeps down into the valley.
Badia di Pomaio’s design feels connected to the nature that surrounds it; renovated using only natural materials and local craftsmen. Our room is beautifully furnished in calm neutral hues accented with Italian cotton bedding, high vaulted ceilings, clean modern pieces, and a vase of Dahlias from the garden. Every item feels considered and with purpose.
For our first evening we decide to dine at the hotel’s restaurant which is led by a Michelin-starred chef. Sitting under an awning enclosed by wrappings of wisteria and jasmine vines, lively Italian chatter acts as the backdrop to the menu of locally sourced, seasonal produce.
There are a few guests who aren’t staying at the hotel but have travelled here just for the food, which Mr Smith and I agree is always a good sign. We survey the menu of inventive Tuscan fare, excited for our first Italian meal.
Spring salad from the garden, so fresh and flavourful (no wonder, given the ingredients had only travelled around 20 meters to my plate). A starter of smoked burrata follows, arriving hiding under a glass bell jar, which, when removed reveals a hazy plume of smoke that evaporates into the evening’s air.
We order gnudi with yellowtail carpaccio, I mean pasta is a must in Tuscany, no? It is so good that Mr Smith ends up ordering it again the next day. I opt for the all’aneto – a pastrami of wild red tuna, so beautifully presented it looks like a work of art.
For a nightcap we order Americanos and walk through the gardens to laze in some lounge chairs that overlook the city below, entranced by the dancing lights of Arezzo gleaming in the distance.
The gardens themselves are beautiful but not just for show, flowers, berries, tomatoes, all are waiting to be picked and used in the kitchen. At breakfast in the morning, Mr Smith seems to have a new found love of condiments, perhaps it's because they are made from their ingredients. The honey comes from the beehives kept in the grounds who share their land with the hotel’s goats and chickens.
We wander down to the pool, where visiting butterflies are flitting in and out of lavender bushes that outline the sun-bathed slope. The infinity edged pool sits in prime location with wrap-around valley views. After a hearty swim and a few chapters of my book I decide to order a spritz and, looking out at the view, feel utterly at peace.
Hard as it is to leave such tranquillity, we decide to head down into Arezzo and see what the city has to offer, exploring the vaulted ceilings of Arezzo’s cathedral with its 15th-century fresco of Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca.
We stroll through the piazza grande, an iconic backdrop in the film Life is Beautiful. Arezzo is also home to the oldest antiques fair in Italy (which, sadly, does not coincide with our stay). I peer through a number of beautiful stores closed during our visit and vow to come back again to see the market in full swing.
After a lunch of wine and pasta at the delightful Antica Osteria L’Agania we make our way back to our tranquil hideaway. Sad to depart the next morning, we leave with a gift of honey left by our hosts: a sweet reminder of our time in the clouds.