Pump your breaks, Cupid: Lupaia, a bodice-ripper of a stay, deep in the Val d’Orcia, might even be too romantic. The flowers and intertwining greenery, the landscape-painting views of vines, cypress alleys and time-unchanged hilltop towns – we’re a little overcome… A small village of charming farm buildings, some dating as far back as 1622, passionately renovated by the still-besotted owners, it holds all of Tuscany’s strongest cards: daily-changing dinners straight from the kitchen garden, tale-as-old-as-time rusticana, a bacchanal’s worth of wine (and negronis), and beamed and frescoed suites. So it’s no wonder that cheeky little cherub’s pinging off love-inspiring arrows all over the place here, because Lupaia has us all a’quiver.
Noon. Earliest check-in, from 3.30pm, but flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £450.76 (€525), 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.
Rates include a hearty country breakfast with garden produce and local delicacies (homemade bread and cakes, cold cuts, cheese, fruit and veg, granola, pastries, pancakes and more). A city tax of €1 a day will be added at check-out.
A stay here can only make your relationship stronger, but you’ll connect with the staff too – after all, they make it easier by being just a message away over Whatsapp for whatever you need. Another cocktail by the pool, candlelight dinner in the wine room, birthday cake and candles, apéritifs in a secret pergola for two, a rose-petal turndown: they can make it all happen.
The hotel stays open throughout Tuscany’s salad months (and a little beyond) from the middle of March to early December.
At the hotel
Tuscan gardens with private and sociable lounging spaces, salon with a selection of books, magazines and board games, wine cellar, gym, kitchen garden, free-to-hire bikes and e-bikes (€20 an hour, €60 a day), small boutique, plug adaptors to borrow, charged laundry service (from €4 a piece), free WiFi. In rooms: Satellite TV, Bluetooth sound-system, free minibar with non-alcoholic drinks, Nespresso machine, free bottled water, heating and air-conditioning, pool bags, L:A Bruket bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each uniquely decorated room has something special to offer, but all have wood beams, vintage brickwork, heirloom statement pieces, sprays of flowers and views to sigh for. We like Standard Bassa for its gauzy four-poster, flowery frescoes and intimate feel (although, tall people take note, the sloped ceiling is a little low in places). Sage-hued Deluxe Alma has money-shot views of Montepulciano and lots of heartstring-tugging trappings; Suite San Biagio has a cushioned reading nook and Victorian bath tub big enough for two; and Junior Suite Serra’s living room is extra cosy with its stone fireplace, and we’re very taken with its dramatic iron chandelier.
In terms of pool placement, the hotel owners nailed it. Of course, they had a lot to work with (the immensely photogenic Val d’Orcia, hilltop town Montefollonico and general Tuscan loveliness), but swim up to the edge of the large tiered infinity pool (open 9am to 7pm), facing out to the west, and you’ll feel as if a Renaissance master’s brush has been busy, especially as the sky turns hues during the day. Set into the deck beside the main pool is a smaller Jacuzzi, and there are shaded sunloungers from which to gawp, plus a small beachy bar where you can order up various negronis (we like the mouthy coffee and vintage iterations), refreshing spritzes, and pick-of-the-region wines – just ding for service.
There’s no spa on site, but there is a small fitness room with a treadmill, elliptical and kettle bells. If that sounds like far too much effort, a masseuse can be summoned for in-room pampering, and the hotel has links with Adler Spa Resort Thermae if you need more me time.
Pack the clothes you can see yourself in for countryside picnicking, candlelight dining, zipping about on a Vespa laughing – that sort of thing. And Lupaia’s something of a moment-maker, so pocket a ring just in case.
Lupaia means ‘she-wolf’, but its emblem is a bright red lantern inspired by one found in the barn and restored during the hotel’s remodelling.
The Italian largesse for little ones is evident here – baby cots are free for kids up to two, and many rooms take extra beds (€65 a night for three to 16 year olds; €95 for over-16s). But this swoonsome hideaway is more about baby-making.
Austrian owners Heidi and Christopher Mueller have restored the five buildings on this expansive Tuscan estate – including two that date back to 1622 – into one of the most rip-roaringly romantic stays you could dream of. The grounds are bursting forth with flowering bushes, cypress trees, rambling ivy and more lush leafiness, but there’s also olive and fruit groves, wild herbs and a kitchen garden from which the chef picks and chooses the produce for that day’s meal. Whatever can’t be grown is sourced from very close by.
For romantic drinks find a private nook in the garden with hammock or a petite pergola to cuddle up in. For big-gesture nights, a candlelit dinner can be set up in the garden with flowers, or in the intimate wine room.
Here’s where you can go full fairy-tale.
Lupaia’s open kitchen is the warm heart of the hotel – wood-beamed, tiled in red-and-white check, and strung with copper pans, its island groans with breakfast goodies in the morning and beckons guests forth for cookery lessons. Across from it, under a sturdy brick arch, the dining room is where each day’s new four-course meal is served, beside an inglenook fireplace lit with trays of pillar candles at tables dressed with jugs of flowers from the garden. So far, so sigh-worthy; however, the terrace is even comelier, with its greenery of all genres (flowering bushes, trailing ivy, olive trees) and twinkling lanterns. Many ingredients come straight from the gardens and groves, and classic Italian fare is largely on the menu. You might have gnocchi all'aglione one evening, sautéed sirloin the next, an eggplant parmigiana, or tagliolini with burrata, and a three-chocolate mousse to finish. And, light lunches of salads, paninis, pastas and cold cuts can be ordered to be devoured anywhere at Lupaia (your terrace, beside the pool, in the grounds).
Drinking works on a whim here – there’s a sort of assigned bar area by the restaurant with a communal table and comfy chairs, a wine room lined with bottles (mostly used for tastings or romantic dinners) and a small bar counter by the pool, but otherwise you’re free to roam glass in hand. Vino is the done thing here, of course, but the cocktail list has some sound choices too: a vintage negroni, local gin and campari; a fruity-toned Grappa di Brunello; a mint julep. Or take a shot of homemade limoncello.
The bar runs from 11am to 9pm, the pool bar hours change with the season (1pm to 7pm in summer).
Dine in-room for breakfast (8.30am to 10.30am), lunch (from 11am), and dinner (7pm to 9pm). There’s a tray charge of €30.
A stay at Lupaia hotel might be the closest you come to feeling like a Tuscan king of old – set on a hilltop in the Val d’Orcia (the ‘face’ of the region), in the Siena province, it has 360-degree views of classic countryside and hilltop towns.
Perugia’s San Francesco d'Assisi Airport and Florence are both about a 90-minute drive away from the stay. Or Pisa International, and Rome’s Fiumicino and Ciampino are each about two-and-a-half hours by car. All are well-connected across Europe, but for further-flung arrivals, Pisa and Fiumicino are the easiest to reach. Transfers can be arranged from Florence and Rome from €390 for up to two guests, and €460 for more guests.
Torrita di Siena train station is around a 25-minute drive from the hotel; direct routes run to most major Italian cities: Florence, Rome, Orvieto… Or ride to the equally well-connected Chiusi-chianciano, a 45-minute drive away, from which the hotel will pick you up for €120 one way.
It’s a good sign in Tuscany when you type the address into the GPS and you see wide unoccupied expanses around the map marker – it means serious views and pristine countryside. Lupaia is essentially a small village in the middle of nowhere – in the best possible way – so to reach it requires some hunting down and a little off-roading. First head towards Montepulciano and turn off at 24 Via dei Canneti, the last house before you hit the unpaved road to Lupaia. The hotel signs will take you along a rugged yet picturesque route (roughly two miles), past wineries, vineyards and olive groves before you reach the house. And, there’s free parking onsite. It’s an excellent stopping off point if you’ve embarked on an Italian road trip, with Perugia an hour’s drive away, Florence, 90 minutes and Rome around two hours.
Permission can be obtained to land helicopters on the estate.
Worth getting out of bed for
You could say the Val d’Orcia (and Tuscany at large) is Italy’s heartland – not just because God was having a good day when he landscaped it, but because its undulating greenery and neatly sown vines are synonymous with la bella vita, and well it’s just so darn romantic too. Lupaia is in the sweet spot between historic towns Pienza, Montepulciano and Montefollonico, and its rural locale seems far removed, but there’s a wide range of (charged) experiences to try. Follow the chef to the vegetable garden to pick up some fresh herbs and vegetables, then gather round the island in the kitchen for a cooking class, where you’ll make pasta, ragù and cantucci biscuits (and take home your own apron). Hop on a bike (or e-bike) for a spin through more than 1,000 olive trees aged up to 125 (guided tours can be arranged too); or dress up for a two-hour photoshoot with talented snapper Alfredo Falvo in scenic sites on the estate. Is it wine o’clock? We hear you ask. If it’s 5pm then yes – well, you could start earlier, but this is when the hotel kicks off private wine tastings in their cantina, where you’ll try five picks (a formidable brunello, an elegant rosso…) from the slopes of Montepulciano, Montalcino and Chianti. Still thirsty? The hotel can lay on a chauffeur to whisk you around the region’s cellars without drawing straws for the designated driver. But, before you set about drinking Tuscany dry, pause for a picnic in the grounds. Or, team up with a local expert and his dog to snuffle out truffles (what you find will depend on the time of year you’re looking) and have the chef cook your bounty with pasta. Sweet tooths can hang out with honeybees at organic farm Podere Trafonti, learn about their role in our ecosystem and try honey from the comb. Then you’re ready for cocktails: over the Sunset Negroni Hour, you’ll cosy up in a secret pergola and a barkeep will mix up drinks while you watch the show. The constellation of small towns circling Lupaia all shine in their own way. Montepulciano’s Piazza Grande is surrounded by long-standing buildings, including the Comune with breathtaking views from its tower, and a painting-clad cathedral. It’s famed for its red wine, Il Vino Nobile, and the annual Bravìo delle Botti, a barrel race around town. A farmers’ market takes place on Wednesday, you can pick up artisan copperware at Bottega del Rame, and just south of the town is the 16th-century Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio. Montalcino is the birthplace of Brunello wine, and in Pienza, you can pick up some pecorino to pair it with; get a wedge at La Taverna del Pecorino, or go to the source – Cugusi Farm is alleged to make the best, and the farmer will happily assemble a lunch for you. Etrsucan town Cortona was the inspiration for Under the Tuscan Sun and still has cinematic looks, as does Arezzo, where Roberto Benigni’s filmed Life is Beautiful. It’s rich antique-hunting territory too, with a huge market on the first weekend of each month and mid-century pieces at family-run Sestini & Corti. Siena’s appeal is evergreen, but visit in August and you can see the thrilling Palio horse race, then – after all the excitement – cool off in beauty spot Bagni San Filippo’s waterfalls and hot springs.
You’ll eagerly await chef Andrea’s new daily menu, but as enamoured as you might be you’ll find your eye roving to other menus over your stay – there’s excellent dining to be had in all directions. In Montepulciano, Osmosi La Botte Piena has a wine cellar full of little-known wonders, and a playful modern menu serving Chianina steak with peach and foie gras; ravioli stuffed with kefir, vanilla and tomato; and Cinta Senese pork marinating in chamomile and ginger. La Grotta has a 16th-century dining room and leafy terrace, and food tends towards the traditional, say poached egg snowy with pecorino and summer truffle; or pappardelle tossed with guinea fowl and prunes. While Porta di Bacco is a chic vaulted osteria where Cinzia Sorlini Bio Farm brings food to the table: nettle gnocchi with saffron cream and bacon, or suckling pig glazed with apple and mustard. For pasta prepped in a huge wheel of pecorino cheese, book at 13 Gobbi in Montefollonico, and pizzas by a Neapolitan with a championship title, go to Rosso Vivo in Chianciano Terme. And, Cortona’s Organika Restaurant has three artful tasting menus: a five-course with meat and fish, a veggie-focused feast, and a 10-dish journey with a little bit of everything. Or brunch, for those who can’t stay the course(s).
It’s near illegal to come to Italy and skip a gelato stop, so make yours count with a trip to Gelateria Buon Gusto, an artisanal shop selling scoops of ‘drunk cantucci cream’, ricotta with figs and balsamic vinegar, and fior di latte with candied lemon and pistachio.
Guests at Lupaia get 15 per cent off any wines they buy onsite, which gives you a generous head start, but there’s a veritable sea of wines to dive into in the immediate surrounds. Cantina Boscarelli is a well-established third-generation winery whose Vino Nobile productions have won plaudits. An easy stagger from there, close to Monteulciano’s Piazza Grande, in a 16th-century palazzo is De’ Ricci. Its cellar, dug into tufa soil and well ventilated, meets the ideal conditions for barrel storage, and – with its enormous casks and brick vaults – it’s an atmospheric space for tastings. Owned by the Ferragamo family (of shoe fame), Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco is a rarefied country estate with huge cellars and a spectacular circular tasting room, and at Podere Le Ripi wines get biodynamic, and the cellar’s spiral architecture is an eye-catching counterpoint to crumbling villas. And, for a little break from wine, Idyllium is where Pienza’s hipsters hang; set in the Palazzo Piccolomini’s former stables, and its Milanese mixologist duo make seriously stylish drinks, such as the Terrapille with vodka, chartreuse, mastika, lime and cypress leaf.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this fairy-tale hotel in the Val d’Orcia and unpacked their wedge of Pienza pecorino and tapped-from-the-tree olive oil, a full account of their totally smitten stay will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Lupaia in Tuscany…
It’s hard not to get swept up in Tuscany’s romance – Etruscan farmers of old probably weren’t thinking about honeymooners’ bragging rights as they sowed the vineyards, sunflower fields, olive groves and cypresses that make the region so bloody charming, but they certainly set the scene for millions of amorous minibreaks. And, Lupaia – a toy village of a stay with five lovingly renovated farm buildings, some dating back to 1622 – takes all this swoonsome-ness to another level (the top tier, where you find the little plastic bride-and-groom). Each unique suite has beams and an array of antiques, frescoes, an intimate outdoor space and something special (a lofted cubby, cushioned window nook, platform bed, fireplace…); flowers spray forth from all corners and greenery intertwines with tucked-away pergolas; negronis come out with sundown as couples scurry off to hidden beauty spots; and each day the chef crafts a new dinner to be served under softly glowing lanterns (the hotel’s emblem). Of course, there’s plenty of Italian gusto to go with that: gathering round the kitchen’s huge island to cook traditional dishes or heading off into the wilds to track down truffles, and diving headfirst into Italy’s wine region. But, at heart, this is a down-on-one-knee, kiss-in-the-rain, play-Whitney-Houston-on-repeat sort of stay – a classic Tuscan love story for the ages.