This impressive house belongs to a a large property which extends over the hills overlooking the Val d'Orcia, an enchanting and miraculously unspoilt valley in southern Tuscany, listed as UNESCO world heritage in 2004. Midway between Florence and Rome, the estate is also within easy reach of Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, Assisi and Orvieto. Renaissance and medieval gems such as Pienza, Montepulciano, Monticchiello and Montalcino and the Abbey of Sant'Antimo are only a few miles away from the houses you can rent at the property.
The countryside around the estate abounds in lovely walks in the woods and the typical "crete senesi" (clay hills) o...f the region. The food is considered the best in Tuscany and famous wines such as the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino can be sampled in the local cellars.
La Chiara was once a medieval fortress and has been 'de-gentrified' over the centuries, becoming one of the main farm buildings on the extensive 900 hectares property. The 6 apartments for rent are still named after the peasant families who last lived here. The square building surrounds a large, shady courtyard planted with climbing roses, lavender and a deliciously scented lime tree. The arched entrance admits a cool breeze and leads out into the wide landscaped garden with a pool and a tennis court. The view from the garden is spectacular and surveys the entire valley, but your eye will finally settle on the dominating Monte Amiata, Tuscany's highest mountain. The lower parts of the valley consist of wheatfields and olive groves, woodland covering the upper reaches. Many walks have been signposted over the last years by the local trekking association.
Great care has been taken to turn the different apartments into welcoming and attractive places. The walls have been washed in a light terracotta, the furniture is mainly antique. During the summer months you will be able to have your meals outside. The garden is furnished with tables and chairs for all apartments, each far enough from the other to guarantee each party sufficient privacy. Children are welcome to La Chiara, in fact at the far end of the garden there is a playground with swing, see-saw and slide.
Places of interest
The property's location makes excursions to Siena, Assisi, Orvieto, Perugia, Arezzo and Florence an easy day trip. But the area below Siena, stretching from the monastery of Monte Oliveto to Montalcino and Montepulciano offers some rewarding sites that are well worth a visit.
In San Quirico d'Orcia make sure you see the Horti Leonini, an early Renaissance garden, as well as the western door in the city wall and the Collegiata (main church).
Montalcino is beautifully situated on a hill inhabited since Etruscan times, swathed in vineyards and olive groves. It is a quiet, affluent, attractive town with pretty buildings and flower-filled squares, and many shops selling the Brunello di Montalcino.
Montepulcino is a graceful Tuscan hill town, best known for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which was being praised by connoisseurs over 200 years ago and can certainly contend with Italy's best today.
Pienza, the unfinished 'utopian' city, was commissioned by Pope Pius II in 1459.
Chiusi is one of our favourites because of its unpretentious liveliness. Compared to Montepulciano it is uncontaminated by tourism. Chiusi has a railway station - from here it is a quick ride to the city center of Rome.
Monticchiello is a pleasant walled village, whose crooked watch-tower is visible from afar. Next to the church is a small shop which sells local linens (towels, bedspreads) and materials in pure linen. They use traditional methods and patterns and the results are extremely attractive.
Visit the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and the semi-derelict monastery of Sant'Anna in Camprena - a very romantic setting which served as location for the film The English Patient.
Sant'Antimo is surely one of the loveliest Romanesque buildings in all of Italy. It is hard to imagine a more sympathetic combination of architectural grace and natural setting.
Sarteano fits our picture of an unspoilt Italian village. The main square has a nice bar where you can sit outside. On the square below, in the afternoon a different bar serves excellent take away pizza.
And last but not least the landscape in this region of Tuscany is spectacular: The Crete Senesi are the eroded clay hills in the Orcia valley. These strange, pale, barren looking slopes, with their bare cliffs, broken gullies and white Jurassic limestone, look altogehter more lunar than terrestial.
Pool in winter?
Tuscany is famous for its Hot springs, belonging to a geothermical system that more or less encircles Monte Amiata, the most spectacular being Saturnia in the south west of the region. Steaming water collects in a number of white limestone basins - a rare natural spectacle and great fun to bathe in! Swimming possible both in the natural basins and in smart thermal baths. Saturnia offers a wide range of comforts and even a sauna.
Close to the property is Bagno Vignoni which has been popular since Etruscan times. St. Catherine of Siena is said to have appreciated its thearpeutic qualities, as is Lorenzo the Magnificent, whose family built the splendid arcaded pool - a kind of flooded, bubbling piazza, famously used by Tarkowsky for some of the more surreal passages of his film Nolstalgia. Not far from this antique piazza there is a hotel with a lovely open air swimming pool, fed from hot springs. This is also available to external guests.
Bagni San Filippo may go into the books as the world's smallest thermal spa - a telephone booth, a few old houses, outdoor spring in the middle of the woods with glistening limestone formations and one small hotel with a public pool.
The Montepulciano thermal springs can also be enjoyed in an indoor thermal swimming pool.
Just 10 km from the property you will find the thermal spa Terme di Chianciano with a highly modern health and thermal centre. Those wanting to combine holidays with a wellness break can enjoy fango baths, cosmetic and therapeutic treatments, solarium, massages and hydromassages. Have yourself thoroughly pampered! Just relax here!Read more
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