Join the beekeeper, the soap-maker and the lucky resident horses at Borgo Pignano, which sits at the heart of an eye-poppingly scenic 750-acre organic estate in Tuscany, lorded over by a majestic 18th-century villa and a hamlet that was first settled by the Etruscans. You’re likely to find leaving the hotel difficult, especially come check-out, but if you can be convinced, you’re just a short drive from the historic hill towns of Volterra and San Gimignano and within easy reach of the mediaeval cities of Florence and Siena and the vineyards of Chianti.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of organic wine and a small selection of Pignano Organic products in your room on arrival
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £431.48 (€480), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates usually include buffet breakfast (à la carte options cost extra), WiFi and taxes.
The hotel has an artsy side: there’s a little on-site gallery; rooms are packed with art and antiques; the summer kids’ programme includes painting and crafts sessions.
At the hotel
Extensive grounds; stables with resident horses; art gallery; gym, spa and yoga room; parking spaces; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: desk, free bottled water, black-out curtains, air-conditioning, organic bath products, fresh fruit on arrival. The Maisonettes and Cottages have a mini fridge and tea- and coffee-making facilities. Cottages come with working fireplaces and kitchenettes.
Our favourite rooms
The Villa Suite with Breathtaking Views are knee-weakeningly lovely, thanks to their winsome views, polished piano (go on, have a tinkle) and fresco-adorned bathroom.
The picturesque heated pool was carved from an ancient limestone quarry. A cluster of sunloungers and parasols dot the surrounding limestone terrace; adjacent to the pool area, there’s a pop-up bar and a manicured lawn where guests can flop and relax. Smiths aged 14 and above can use the main pool; there's a family-friendly pool for younger Smiths.
Borgo Pignano Spa has a hammam, sauna, gym, and fitness classes, including pilates and yoga. Treatments champion organic ingredients that are grown on the estate; a trained herbalist uses flowers, herbs, plant extracts, oils and honeys. Relax with a home-made herbal tisane post-treatment and admire the setting: a converted medieaval well-house.
Bring something you can hike a forest or ride a horse in.
The hotel’s public areas are suited to wheelchair-users but its bedrooms are not. Spa treatments can be enjoyed in-room. Borgo Pignano has a stash of plug adaptors and Wellies for guests to borrow.
Pooches weighing in at 10kg or less can come too, as long as you book a Maisonnette or Cottage. Pets have restricted access to public areas, restaurants and pools (there’s buckets of space for them, though). See more pet-friendly hotels in Tuscany.
Little Smiths aged between three and 14 are welcome. Extra beds (€70 a night) can be added to rooms (on request, for Signature Suites) and cots can be added to select Villas. Babysitting is available for €25 a night; book a day ahead.
Little Smiths aged three and over can come too (the hotel reckons it’s best for children aged six and above).
Families with little ones should book a Maisonnette or Cottage for maximum space. The Borgo Maisonnettes have two comfortable bedrooms with separate bathrooms and a handy living area with a kitchen corner. The Cottages have a similar layout.
None, but special ‘Kids Agents’ are on hand from June until early September. They organise a free activities programme from 9.30am until 12.30pm, then from 6.30pm until 10pm.
Little Smiths can play on the lawn and in the gardens and grounds; there’s also an indoor play area by the main pool called the Little Wooden Hut. Art and education play an important part in Borgo’s seasonal activities. In the summer months, staff work to foster little ones’ creative impulses through outdoor painting, coloring and creating dyes with flowers and spices, clay modelling and creating sculptures from natural materials.
There's a small children's pool designed with splashing about in mind.
The main restaurant has an adjacent dining room designed for families with Smiths aged six and under. There’s a kids menu and a stash of highchairs. When the Kids Agents are around (June–September), they can arrange a Kids’ Table dinner at 7pm (for an extra charge). A trattoria is being built; this will welcome little Smiths at all times.
No need to pack
For very little Smiths, the hotel can provide travel or foldaway cots/crib, changing mats, bottle sterilising kit, stair gates, high chairs, puzzles, crayons/paints and paper, U-rated DVDs, baby swing, arm bands/swimming aids for infants and bicycles.
For less little Smiths, the hotel has arm bands/swimming aids, children's books, U-rated DVDs, PG or 12-rated DVDs, board games, puzzles, bicycles and bike helmets.
Eco-conscious concerns shaped this hotel, whose villa, farmhouses and apartments have been restored and decorated using locally sourced stone and slate, organic plasters and eco paint. Traditional farming methods are used as much as possible. The team are working to improve the soil conditions; they’ve also successfully experimented with swales: a natural system for retaining rainwater and preventing soil erosion, which has never been used before in Tuscany. The villa’s heating and hot water are fuelled by solar panels and wood-fired boilers, fed by wood harvested from the estate’s forest. Filtered harvested rainwater is used in the gardens; natural and manmade lakes supply irrigation for the farmland and other areas of the estate. The restaurant relies on seasonal, organic produce, much of which is grown on site.
The standard rules apply: sit outside if it’s warm (very likely); inside, by a window, if it’s not (unlikely). In summer months, breakfast is served in the villa’s peaceful inner courtyard.
Off-duty Tuscan gentry.
Fresh from a stint at our other Tuscan favourite, Borgo Egnazia, chef Vincenzo Martella is a dazzling presence in Pignano’s kitchens. He excels at inventive Italian dishes featuring hyper-local produce (described by the hotel as ‘0km cuisine’) and is particularly creative when it comes to desserts, many of which star vegetables (trust us). The restaurant is an elegant space, decorated with paintings by notable turn-of-the-century British artists, Cassina armchairs and enticing views. In summer, the restaurant is set up in the Belvedere, with breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside and the medieaval city of Volterra. During the summer months, make a beeline for relaxed garden-set trattoria Restaurant Al Fresco to savour authentic Tuscan recipes, including stone-baked pizzas (which we’d recommend pairing with a homemade organic beer or wine).
Although Borgo Pignano doesn’t have a formal bar, drinks aren’t neglected: a bar of sorts is set up in the gardens in summer, by the ornate antique fireplace in the lounge in winter. It’s called the Gin Corner and it has an expert in-house mixologist; try a Fancy Free: vanilla- and ginger-infused rum, maraschino, Pignano’s honey, orange and Amarena cherries. Many of the drinks’ garnishes are plucked from the gardens.
Breakfast is served until 10am; dinner until 10pm.
There’s no room service as such; make the most of mealtimes. Obliging staff will always fix you a drink if you’re thirsty.
Borgo Pignano comes with its own patch of Tuscan paradise: 350 acres of bucolic beauty, a 20-minute drive from the town of Volterra.
Pisa International Airport is a 75-minute drive away. Call our Smith24 team of travel experts to book your flight and arrange transfers from €137 each way, for two people in a Sedan. You could also fly into Florence, 80 kilometres away (hotel transfers start from €162 each way, for two people in a Sedan).
Poggibonsi-San Gimignano station is a 35-minute drive away, with Trenitalia services connecting to Florence, Siena, Empoli and Pisa (www.trenitalia.com).
Pignano is one hour and 15 minutes from Florence, 40 minutes from Siena, one hour from Pisa and one hour from the coast. Volterra is the closest town, a 20-minute drive away. There’s on-site and valet parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Soak up life on an organic farm: learn how to make organic soap under herbalist and soap-pro Lisabetta’s expert guidance. Meet the bee-whisperer, Antonio, who will take you to the hotel’s beehives, and explain how the bees are looked after and how honey is made. Taste Tuscan wine in Borgo Pignano’s atmospheric cellar with help from the restaurant manager (and resident wine buff) Francesco. Pick from the Tuscan Wine Road experience (€40 a person) or the Grand Masters D.O.C.G. (€60 a person). Visit the on-site art gallery and sign up for a class in the painting room. Yoga and Pilates sessions are held in Borgo’s fitness area twice a week. Have a horse-riding lesson or join a guided horse-riding excursion through the woods and fields of the Estate.
Borgo Pignano borders a large natural reservoir (Castelvecchio); guests can cross it and reach San Gimignano in three hours on foot. Take a trip to nearby Volterra, the city of alabaster, and visit its famous church and the Etruscan Guarnacci Museum, one of the earliest public museums in Europe, home to amazing Etruscan and Roman collections. The hotel can arrange guided tours on request, tailored to a variety of interests including art, history, culture and cuisine. Venture to Siena and explore the Palazzo Salimbeni, a striking Gothic-style palace on Piazza Salimbeni.
Lucca, Arezzo and Pisa are also within driving distance, as are the wine regions of Montepulciano, Montalcino, Castellina in Chianti, Radda and Giaole. The medieaval hill towns in the vicinity of Borgo Pignano have churches and monuments of note and many have small museums and frescoed cloisters. There are thermal springs, Etruscan ruins and tombs, Renaissance palaces, museums and weekly markets to explore.
Family-run Trattoria da Badòat Borgo San Lazzaro in Volterra serves delicious, authentic Tuscan cuisine in a cosy setting, graced with Chianti-coloured table linens and traditional architecture. Mama Lucia is in charge of the kitchen, rustling up antipasti, zuppa volterrana (bread and vegetable soup), baccalà rifatto (pan-fried salted codfish stewed with tomatoes) and homemade desserts starring her own jams and preserves. Over in Siena, talented chef Gaetano Trovato runs the show at the dazzling Ristorante Arnolfo on Via XX Settembre. Arnolfo shines a spotlight on produce from Siena and Tuscany; previous dishes include red mullet, cuttlefish, green peas and quinoa, sea bass with citrus fruits, turnips and ginger, and a dessert of exotic fruit with cocoa and salted caramel. You might recognise Trattoria Albana in Mazzolla from its star turn on Trip to Italy with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon; the two actors were lucky enough to taste a variety of regional dishes, guided by expert host Giuseppe Cassarà. Follow in their footsteps and try pasta with wild boar, tripe, pheasant and more.
This was the last stop on our Italian honeymoon and after 10 days in coastal towns – feasting on fresh seafood and soaking up sea views – we were a little forlorn at the idea of putting our beach gear away. Little did we know…
We drove from Pisa, stopping in the small seaside town of Forte dei Marmi, where the people watching, shopping (Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada), and outdoor dining reminded us of an Italian Hamptons. Then it was back on the road, progressively hillier and greener as we neared Volterra.
We reached a sign pointing us to the orchard- and olive-grove-lined entrance to our destination and eventually pulled up to a gravel parking area surrounded by Borgo Pignano’s main buildings: a villa with courtyard, a church, and a number of outbuildings. I couldn’t put my camera down: the Borgo has been so exquisitely restored, yet still seemed to have a foot in a different era. Periwinkle-hued doors on the cottage buildings, faded peach facades, and long stone walls all seem to have been plucked from a different time and exude charm and elegance.
Check-in was seamless, and the staff incredibly helpful, knowledgeable and abundant (though not in an overbearing way). We were given a brief tour and shown to our room. We’d upgraded ourselves to a suite (given the honeymoon), but did not realise this consisted of two gorgeous bedrooms, both with queen beds and connected by a hallway and massive bathroom. The bathroom, it should be mentioned, was stunning with a freestanding tub and tall windows overlooking a garden. We joked that if we got tired of each other we’d each have a massive room to ourselves. Like the rest of the place, the rooms are beautifully appointed: period furniture and gorgeous rugs. I fell in love with the wall treatments: a blue ‘wash’ on the walls and pink ‘wash’ on the ceiling – Mr Smith couldn’t understand the need for 20 photos of this but it was worth it.
The décor throughout the rest of the property followed suit: great wall treatments, overstuffed sofas in the common areas where we spent time reading books and sipping cocktails, along with walls full of artwork and a library, where I could have spent days. My only regret? Not finding the frescoes that I saw on the website prior to my arrival. I presume these are in one of the homes or cottages (for group rentals) but I’ll be asking to see them when I return…
On our first afternoon we lounged by the pool and as soon as we saw it we realised we needn’t pine for any of our previous beach locales. An infinity pool carved out of an ancient limestone quarry transported us to a different world and the picture-perfect lawn and gardens just above the pool had me thinking we should start planning an anniversary party.
The ‘quintessentially Tuscan’ property does seem to be popular for honeymooners – we met a few couples, one of which we dined with at our first evening around the more casual ‘communal table’. This is a gigantic wood farm table in a beautiful room off the kitchen equipped with a massive fireplace and hearth where my steak was cooked. We were a little wary of the communal aspect at first (especially because of some noisy kids at one end of the table), but hit it off with our neighbors and the food was stellar. The following evenings we ate in the more formal dining room, where the food is creative, delicious and anything but casual, and the service impeccable.
Just a few steps away from our villa there was a stone building where we could retreat for spa treatments. Mr Smith had a massage while I opted for a massage/facial combo. Terry cloth robes, herbal potions and a steam at the end had us on cloud nine – well deserved after we hiked and mountain biked around the estate that morning. It’s large and the trails are extensive, giving the more active traveler plenty to keep them busy. They’re not always well marked and the hills were steep, so occasionally we were walking our bikes – but that could have been the duck and all those cocktails from the night before…
Twice during our stay I had to retrieve my belongings from the front desk, after having left them behind on lawn chairs and sofas in my utterly relaxed stupor. I guess that’s what happens when you feel at home (and your home happens to be gorgeous), and you have so many people looking after you. In fact, I’d be more than happy to be left behind here…