At Follonico hotel in Tuscany, an ancient typewriter graces a dressing table, a wedding dress hangs on a wall, crockery is playfully mismatched, and shots of vivid colour vie with the green, green countryside.
Double rooms from £278.95 (€325), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.00 per person per night on check-out.
At the hotel
Gardens and free WiFi. In rooms: organic Biofficina Toscana bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Stake out Rosso Tramonto for inspiring views from its three windows. Alternatively, if you crave space, spread yourselves across Verde Intenso’s three rooms, each on a separate level, with an original stone staircase.
The large saltwater pool looks out over the rolling Tuscan countryside; swim up to the infinity edge to soak in the scene, or warm up under the sun on the stone-lined terrace.
Wellington boots for Follonico farm life; Giambattista Basile’s Italian fairy tales, known as the Pentamerone; a shirt or dress in one of the hotel’s intense Crayola colours, such as aquamarine, rose or violet.
In the summer months (from 15 May to 31 August), the hotel is only open to infants (12 months and younger) and older children (ages twelve and above). Otherwise, all ages are welcome, you'll just need to let the hotel know you're toting little Smiths.
With these views, you’ll be enjoying breakfast outside in summer; at a table by the patio windows in the breakfast room, come winter.
Be inspired by the suites’ shots of vivid colour and the beautiful frocks (hand-picked by owner Suzanne) that hang on the rails in rooms. Channel your inner prince and princess with a silk shirt or dreamy dress.
There’s no restaurant – all the more reason to explore the area’s bounty of dining options – but cooking classes can be arranged for a minimum of two people (€150 a person for four courses and wine) and cold meals of meat, cheese and garden-grown veg are available between April and October. Breakfast is pretty special, though – all the bread, pastries and jams are home-made.
There’s an honesty bar in the hall, stocked with local red wines: Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti
None, so raid the delis in Montefollonico and Montepulciano for supplies. (Panforte, cantucci and orange-infused riciarelli biscuits, or local cheeses and cured meats will whet your appetite.)
Perugia is the closest airport, a 65-minute drive from the hotel. Ryanair offers flights from Stansted; you can also fly in from Milan or Barcelona (Girona). Alternatively, fly into Florence, about an hour and a half away.
Torrita di Siena is 10 minutes away by car, connecting to Siena and Chiusa.
The hotel is 5km from Montepulciano and Montefollonico. There is plenty of free parking for guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
Impress the folks back home by taking a cookery class (ask the owners to organise). Suzanne and Fabio are also more than happy to help arrange an impromptu picnic in the grounds, and will provide cutlery and crockery. The Val D’Orcia region contains the hill town of Montalcino (renowned for its Brunello wine) and Pienza, a World Heritage Cultural Landscape and impressively preserved Renaissance town. Montepulciano has won global acclaim for its wonderful red wines; Montefollonico is worth exploring for its mediaeval architecture. Siena is only 30–45 minutes away, and is famous for its art galleries, museums, restaurants, historic architecture, and palio (horse race) held on 2 July and 16 August.
La Chiusa, at 88 via della Madonnina, Montefollonico, is another picturesque Tuscan farmhouse, serving local specialities in its rustic restaurant. Try traditional dishes such as duck with wild fennel, potato pie, and marinated goose. (If you walk here from Follonico, you might have room for pannacotta. Might.) Sample home-made pasta at Osteria del Conteat 19 via di San Donato, Montepulciano. Pici – a sort of fat spaghetti – is the area’s most renowned variety; team your pici con ragu or tagliata con rosmarino with a glass of Rosso di Montepulciano. Ristorante 13 Gobbi at 5 via Lando has perfected pici in duck sauce. Food is the focus; decor and service are casual and frill-free. Osteria La Botte Piena at 12 piazza Dionisa Cinughi, Montefollonico, is popular for its pecorino-laden cuisine. Even the bruschette are impressive: toppings include truffled lardo, livers, pecorino with spicy pear jam, and pecorino with anchovies. You’ll be vying with the locals to eat here, so be sure to book.
It’s good to suffer hardships: they make rewards feel more deserved. If someone had uttered those words to me, as I sat in the hospital waiting room in Florence, I would have told them to rot in hell, in all the languages at my command. So, in one language.
Mrs Smith and I were on a run of bad luck. While running for a train, that morning, in oh-so-glamorous central Hackney, Mrs Smith had leapt down the stairs, knee-first. The cracking noise as she landed had made the station master turn pale. Only adrenalin carried Mrs Smith, limping, on to our flight, and by the time we’d landed, her leg had expanded to resemble a joint of prosciutto. She couldn’t walk. Of our two-day holiday, we spent most of the first day in L’Ospedale di Firenze, getting X-rays. In other news, I’d lost my wallet and my driving licence, but that didn’t matter that much, since there were no hire cars left anyway.
Like I said, it’s good to suffer hardships. Well, it’s good, as long as your reward is getting to spend time at Follonico: a beautifully restored 200-year-old farmhouse hidden away in a Tuscan valley with panoramic views of astonishing countryside. Hobbling out of our taxi, we were greeted by the warm welcome of Follonico’s lovely owners – Suzanne and Fabio.
They considerately offered us the ground-floor Alba Chiara suite – a delightful double room and bathroom separated by an adjoining gallery or loggia with stone floors and exposed beams. The suite is decorated sparely and elegantly, in keeping with all the rooms in the house. A vintage dress and hat hang beside an antique day-bed, there’s an ancient wooden chest for our belongings, and walls and surfaces are adorned with photos of the stars of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, a film we’d watched for the first time – and loved – just a few days before.
With Mrs Smith’s leg iced and propped up on two plump cushions, we relaxed into a stupendous night’s sleep. The bedlinen is apparently hand-woven by a family one village over, and the mattress and pillows were made not of feathers, nor foam, but of an unknown material that we were too busy peacefully sleeping on to bother accurately identifying. (Later, we’re told the mattress is a ‘spring-independent’ one, though we’re none the wiser.)
Pushing open our French windows in the morning, we saw Follonico in full daylight for the first time. In every direction were vineyards and olive groves dotted with bushy cypresses. The picturesque hilltop villages of Montefollonico and Montepulciano perched alluringly on the horizon.
Follonico, as Suzanne was careful to point out, is a home, not a hotel. There are just six guest rooms, and all visitors eat a simple breakfast together in the family dining room with Suzanne, Fabio and their three adorable children. There was wildlife everywhere. That morning, the family cat had brought in a tiny baby bunny rabbit. Several guests had brought their dogs with them, and the polite breakfast conversation was matched with the strange gurglings of the frogs in the pond just outside. It is also apparently not uncommon to see deer, wild boar and porcupines roaming freely.
After breakfast, as we contemplated our immobility, basking in the deck chairs on the terrace outside our room, we were approached by two thoughtful visitors from NYC who took pity on Mrs Smith and offered to take us on a day of adventure in their hire car.
We drove through hills so green and skies so blue that it brought to mind – for any person who has spent too long in front of their laptop – the Windows XP screen saver. When we stopped in Pienza, a sweet eighth-century town, groups of Italian teenagers took time out from snogging sessions to gawp at Mrs Smith’s ‘ham leg’. In Bagno Vignoni – a tiny spa town – the highlight of our exceptional lunch was a dish of warm figs, covered in thinly sliced lardo (that’s ham fat, in Italian) and drizzled in honey.
Getting lost a few times along the way was, as Suzanne correctly pointed out, a joy in itself. We ended the afternoon in the enchanting company of Katya, an expat Londoner who had settled in Tuscany to make wine: the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino. As she took us around her organic farm, San Polino, her passion and charm were enough to convince us each to buy several bottles of the 2006 vintage.
That evening, on Fabio’s recommendation, we ate at another Montefollonico establishment – Ristorante 13 Gobbi. In the middle of the restaurant was an immense, open-topped wheel of pecorino cheese with a glass dome suspended above it. Should you order the tagliatelle with pecorino (and you’d be foolish not to), the waiter brings out a serving of steaming home-made pasta and tosses it directly in the round of cheese before serving it to you. At the end of the night, the glass cloche is gently lowered. It was so simple yet so ingenious; much the same appeal at Follonico. There is flair and imagination everywhere, but nothing is overdone. It was perfect. Indeed, if you have any hardships that need rewarding – a paper cut, say, or a slightly delayed bus – then I wholeheartedly recommend you spend a curative stay in the care of Suzanne and Fabio.