Thursday, May 13, 2021

Relais Borgo Santo Pietro – Palazzetto

This 13th-century villa pretty much typifies the tranquil Tuscan way of life

A SLICE OF MAGIC

Borgo Santo Pietro is a wonderful example of a dream come true. The enigmatic Danish owners, Claus and Jeanette Thottrup, have not only realized their dream, but they have also allowed us to share it. They are passionate Italophiles with a penchant for the relaxed vibe of Southern Europe. This eclectic gathering of interests has allowed them to create an exclusive Tuscan retreat that offers the covetable trappings of a pristine palazzo, immaculately decorated down to the finest detail, though the atmosphere that flows throughout is wonderfully relaxed and unpretentious.

Borgo Santo Pietro dates back to the 13th century; however, after hundreds of years of life, it lay derelict by 2001. I believe it took one visit by the Thottrups to realize that this would make an outstanding residence. After several months and years of needle-fine restoration, trawling antique markets, planting thousands of trees and plant varieties, reproducing the original where the real thing could not be found; they have created something very special indeed.

There is that 'no expenses spared' feeling with the quality being sumptuously superior: Venice's finest Fortuny fabrics on cushions and bedspreads, luxuriant Rubelli velvets, Danish antiques passed down through their own families, French wall hangings, 19th-century oil paintings besides convincing Italian reproductions. The luxury list is endless. However, the overall effect is a truly tasteful take on an opulent aristocratic abode, but with an atmosphere perfectly suited to sandals and kaftans.

We stayed here in late September, just as the days were shortening and Tuscany were taking on a hint of color-change. With October looming, the large open fireplace on the shabby-chic terrace, decked out with oversized weathered cane armchairs were crackling out a romantic glow and warmth – a perfect place to enjoy after a stroll around the exquisite zen-inspired gardens.

GLORIOUS GROUNDS

They are extremely proud of their gardens here, and with good reason. When they first acquired the property the land was barren and unkempt and after seeking the expertise of an award-winning landscape designer they have gardens flourishing with fruit trees, roses, privet hedges, lavender, citrus, pine, and tropical specimens, with many streamlined and gurgling water features. The grounds are glorious and intimate, allowing guests to indulge their senses from scent to sight and, in many cases, in romantic seclusion.

There are well-thought-out exclusive zones in and around the hotel's grounds that will suit all the family, though Borgo Santo Pietro is also a wonderful retreat for couples. There are many private areas around the property, with subtle nuance changes, while a little further away there is a sunken trampoline for you and your bouncy tots.

RUSTIC R&R

The infinity pool is designed to blend in seamlessly with its surroundings. This pool not only looks sensual and organic but, being sourced by natural spring water, a swim feels blissfully authentic. Cocktails can be enjoyed at a bar set within the pool's cooling water – not particularly Tuscan, but it's these little details that make this place so alluring. A short pitter-patter from the pool nestles a rustic bar room – a little Ibiza or St Tropez-esque, in an outdoor room that feels like an African look-out hide, complete with aged leather sofas, a large flat screen, low tables sprawled with backgammon sets, comfy armchairs, and mini-me rattan furniture for young ones.

However, what makes this place so special for me is that every room, grande or petite, is absolutely gorgeous. No two rooms are the same, as indeed would be the case in your own home, though each room or suite has an extraordinary level of luxury, all decorated with real flair. The en-suite bathrooms are opulent and richly supplied with amenities, though some suites, like ours, have a scroll-top ball-and-claw bath in the main bedroom.

The standard in-room or suite facilities are quite exceptional, which means that no matter which room you have, you will be more than satisfied. However, I had to nip suite-envy in the bud after a peek at the Grand Suite, which my friends had stayed in a few weeks before. It luxuriates in splendid grandeur over an entire floor of the south wing with a terrace offering views of the valley and mountains beyond.

BED HEAVEN

Our ground level suite, the only one in the hotel, was inspired by its namesake Rinaldo Peivano di Sorciano, who was famed for selling the property's church, St Pietro e Cellole, to the Abbey Sar Galgano. This all took place in 1252 but the eminence of such an occasion created a landmark suite that is truly outstanding. Take this one if you can because it has everything romantic, alluring, luxurious, grand, and state-of-the-art that you could possibly yearn for.

In the morning and evening, we had our black antique fireplace lit by the butler. We not only slept to the primal sound of the comforting fire, but we also relaxed nearby in our gilded claw-and-ball bath. It's pure luxury in here, oozing with a richness that feels authentic while at the same time the 21st century is tucked in with refined subtlety, down to dim the light from the crystal chandelier overhead. The staggering gilt Rococco styled bed felt large enough for an entire royal family with butter-soft bedding and dreamy down pillows.

Being on the ground floor worked well with our little one, who had a wooden crib at the foot of bed heaven. Breakfast was laid out for us in-suite, on the circular fruitwood table. We sat on our Regency chairs covered in a fine needlework fabric while the sun streamed in through the French windows, lighting up the stained oak floor beneath our embroidered slippers.

THE SEASON'S FINEST

You can choose your venue in and around the property for fine dining, as well as lighter menus. The main Meo Modo restaurant is now Michelin starred and features chef Andrea Mattei's mouthwatering farm-to-table approach, benefitting from the estate's organic produce. The dining room is relaxed with a grandiose touch while the food is excellent, focusing on seasonal dishes prepared with herbs and vegetables from their organic garden. We had the best end of lamb with crisp polenta accompanied by a rare, mature 1998 red pinot noir from the Veneto region chosen for us by the charming sommelier.

The Trattoria Sull'Albero has a more relaxed vibe with local Tuscan dishes, a wood-burning oven with pizzas, pasta, and grills all enjoyed in a rustic setting overlooking the valley.

Borgo Santo Pietro is not just a luxury retreat, or villa, or five-star hotel. It is far more; an experience within an experience of Tuscany. It is truly a slice of Tuscan magic.

Hotel website

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