On a hilltop that figured in maps drawn by Leonardo da Vinci and which held an observation point from which he studied the wide Chiana valley, there exists a property that has watched Arezzo grow throughout the centuries. San Michele, the large house now providing comfort and the ideal place for friends to holiday together, was once the home of the priest for the adjacent church of the same name, which, like many fortified villages, took higher refuge from the inconveniences of the marshy floodplain below. Long drained and now fertile farmland, the valley is still a wonderful panorama enjoyed by the large fenced estate made up of San Michele and the large farmhouse belonging to the owners' small family. The young couple, who have taken meticulous care in the long restoration of a property that dates back to the 7th century and that suffered wartime bombing, originally set the house up to accommodate four separate families. Happily, interconnecting doors and a change of heart meant they were able to easily open the house up to one group - a large multigenerational family or friends who enjoy each others company but like a bit of personal space.
On the left at the end of the entrance drive, San Michele has a furnished portico the length of the house with four doors that access its ground floor. The door to the right leads into the main dining room with a table for 8 and a corner kitchen, while the two central doors access the sitting room, which has comfortable sofas, a corner fireplace, a galley kitchen and a nearby staircase to the upper floor. A short corridor off this sitting room leads past a small utility room with a washing machine to the only ground floor bedroom suite - a double bedroom with independent access and an adjacent shower room. The last door off the portico opens to an additional kitchen/dining room, though here the table for 4 might well serve for an evening card game or a place to catch up on the journal. This room has a second laundry room and stairs leading up to another double bedroom suite with a view towards the pool and an ensuite shower room. The remaining two double bedroom suites are accessed from the central staircase and on opposite sides of the landing. While that on the right consists of a spacious bedroom and rosy shower room, the suite on the left also has a large sitting/dining room furnished with a table for 6, an attractive hutch, the ubiquitous kitchen and a single sofa-bed equipped with a trundle bed. From this room there are stairs leading down to the back of the house and very near the entrance to the church, no doubt very handy for the priest of earlier days. All of the bedrooms and shower rooms in San Michele are beautifully finished with authentic materials befitting the style of the house and sparkle with the added light of small chandeliers. The handcrafted vintage beds are queen size and made up with linens from well-known artisans from Anghiari.
While the wide portico has a lovely view of the grounds and its gas barbecue and outdoor table and chairs make it a delightful place for dining al fresco, there are other options that make 'going out to dinner' an easy and very local affair. Taking the path down to the large panoramically placed pool with its adjacent Jacuzzi also brings you to the pool house whose covered terrace is furnished for outdoor meals, all made easier since the pool house has a handy kitchen as well as a WC and changing/shower facilities. The pool itself is part of the view from the glass-fronted dining hall in the owner's home, itself a venue for dinners, pizza evenings and cooking classes they can arrange for guests on request.
When one decides come down from the hilltop, the obvious destination is the famous city whose medieval towers they have spotted from on high. One of the 12 most important Etruscan cities, Arezzo remained prominent in Roman times for its fine pottery and important throughout the Middle Ages thanks to powerful bishops and its artisans who excelled in goldsmithing and textiles. Piero della Francesca captured part of the city's history in his famous frescoes, scenes of which are easily imagined in the city's beautiful Piazza Grande. Arezzo hosts both the Saracen Joust in late June and early September as well as monthly Antiquarian Fairs that fill the streets with fascinating pickings. Yet there are other worthwhile places to visit nearby. A short drive brings you to the charm of the Cortona of 'Under the Tuscan Sun' fame, to the shores of Tuscany's 'inland sea' Lake Trasimeno, or even to the delight of bargains at nearby outlet shopping. Excellent access to major motorways and delightful country roads also place the ancient cities of Siena and Florence within easy reach, but what a pleasure to know that a quiet terrace and a hilltop view await your return....Read more
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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