There are not many hotels that can lay claim to a nod in a work of fiction, but the Tuscan villa portrayed in Titania Hardie's 2011 novel House of The Wind was inspired by the author's stay at the Borgo Santo Pietro. Arriving at this super-stylish Tuscan bolthole, it's easy to see why she felt so at home. A set of elaborate, wrought iron gates slowly open and then close behind us with a definitive clunk before you reach a picturesque honey hued stone villa via a short drive lined with symmetrical plumes of cypress.
Its Danish owners discovered the 13th-century borgo, which was once a stopping-off point for pilgrims on their way to Rome, in a pitiful state of repair 12 years ago. A painstaking renovation followed, with architectural details such as the reception hall's fabulous yawning fireplace and the twisting stone staircase returning to their former glory, before the hotel opened five years ago.
There are 15 rooms; eight in the main house, three garden cottages and three rooms and a suite arranged around a courtyard garden a short crunch across the gravel from the villa. The guestrooms in the main house have an elegant, traditional feel taking their decorative cues from the Empire-style and Tuscany. There are grand carved beds, twinkling chandeliers, heavy brocade curtains and richly toned velvets, delicately painted murals, wooden floors and claw-foot baths. The newest rooms have a lighter feel with pale stone floors, whitewashed beams, billowing linen curtains, glass chandeliers and a peppering of well-chosen antiques.
There are fabulous views of the aptly named Valle Serena from several vantage points — namely from the infinity edged swimming pool, or you can lose yourself along gravel paths that thread through 13 acres of immaculate ornamental gardens. These are heady with the scent of blooms and with paths shaded from the Tuscan sun by lime trees as well as herb and vegetable gardens, swaying grasses and orchards.
This being Italy, food is given top billing. Dinner is served on the Valle Serena restaurant's fabulous arcaded loggia with its vistas out over the wooded valley. Chef Stefano Santo worked all over the world including at London's The Square, before returning to his native Italy and serves a sophisticated twist on Tuscan-style dishes. Everything is sourced as locally as possible with much of the produce grown in the hotel's vegetable gardens. Even the olive oil is the highly prized Manni, the Cristal of oils. The Treehouse bar next to the pool has a more rustic slant with casual food such as pizzas and pastas.
The hotel's diminutive spa set in an 800-year-old bake house is where therapist, Tracey Mallalieu, works her magic with the help of handmade potions from centuries old Florentine institution, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. If you do manage to drag yourself away, the hotel is well placed for exploring further afield. The haunting remains of the San Galgano abbey are a pleasant ramble or cycle from the hotel through a forest, while Siena is only a 30-minute drive away.
Borgo Santo Pietro is sophisticated but refreshingly informal.
Family friendly — there's a playground in the gardens, a trampoline plus pizza-making classes, dogs to walk and hunting for wild strawberries in the gardens.
The not so good:
The hotel is understandably popular with honeymooners, so anyone not sporting a wedding band may feel a little left out.
This is the Tuscan idyll perfected — most people dream of unearthing a place like this with all the five-star flourishes.
Double rooms from £299. Relais Borgo Santo Pietro, Loc Palazetto, Chiusdino (SI) (+39 0577 751 222; borgosantopietro.com)