A classic Tuscan farmhouse and pool with inspiring views and tended grounds
2 double bedrooms, 3 twin/double bedrooms, 1 single bedroom. 3 shower rooms, 2 of which ensuite, 1 bathroom with extra shower and 1 WC
Location: Val d'Orcia and Amiata
This property rents Saturday to Saturday
Classically Tuscan, Valdorcia is set high above the Orcia valley, looking out over magnificent views towards Mont'Amiata. The house is made for outdoors living, with a large downstairs kitchen and dining area, and the remaining rooms and bedrooms upstairs. The living, dining, talking will all take place outside, sitting at the old table looking at the view, or lying on the green lawn or by the swimming pool, set further down the slope, below the house. The house itself is lived in and loved, with family heirlooms and antique furniture - this is no slick designer villa but a living, breathing layered property to relax into and enjoy.
Entrance to the large farmhouse is from the wide gravelled patio at the front. While a central arched door leads into a short entryway with a staircase to the upper floor and doorway to ground floor living areas, guests may find they prefer the direct access from the patio to the large open space that includes kitchen and dining areas. To the right the kitchen built-ins include a raised fireplace perfect for grilling while on the left there is both a breakfast nook for 6 and a central dining table for 8. A generous brick archway leads to a small sitting room with sofa and armchairs, a natural venue for a pre-diner cocktail or a quiet moment with a journal. One door off this room leads to a workshop in which a ping pong table is set up for in-house tournaments, while another opens to a twin/double bedroom with an ensuite shower room. All other bedrooms are on the upper floor and feature two with double beds, two with twin beds that can be set up as doubles on request and one with a single bed. The bedrooms are all spacious and furnished with country antiques; while the two double bedrooms have en suite shower rooms, the others share a large bathroom with separate shower, whose anteroom has both a extra sink and small washing machine. Also on this floor is a very large living room, laced with light and filled with comfortable furniture, an open fireplace, satellite TV and rising chestnut beams which catch the eye.
A Tuscan home positioned to take advantage of the view will naturally extend that opportunity to the outdoors. Consequently, the front patio has a large table for meals al fresco while on a slightly lower level the swimming pool sits framed in a green lawn, and both have the sweeping vista of the gentle valley of the Orcia river and hills which rise to mountain height before them. Part of the hill on which the property itself sits is beautifully planted with roses, lavender and camellia bushes amidst flowering trees and a backdrop of cypresses - all of which are cared for by the family's groundskeeper who has his own apartment on the property.
Just up the road, the 12th century village of Castiglioncello di Trinoro offers restaurants, an art gallery and summer concerts. Nearby Sarteano, dominated by its 15th century castle, provides all services necessary and celebrates both the old and the new - the old in the form of the 'Chariot from Hell' Etruscan tomb only unearthed in 2001 and the new in the Jazz and Blues Festival that enlivens the town in August. Within a half hour's drive are 'La Foce', Iris Origo's famed villa and gardens and Bagno Vignoni, a spa village whose historic central pool is fed by a subterranean aquifer - both are venues for summer concerts with worthy restaurants nearby.
Easy day trips could include visits to historic cities perched on panoramic heights - Pienza, Pope Pius II's ideal Renaissance city, or Montalcino, the home of the famed, though not inexpensive, Brunello wine - or those that spread on a wide valley floor, such as Arezzo, whose Piazza Grande fills with jousting knights for the Giostra del Saracino or with bargain hunters at its monthly Antiques Fair. Cortona of 'Under the Tuscan Sun' fame and the medieval gem Siena, whose shell-shaped piazza becomes the track of the Palio horserace held for over seven centuries, can be reached in just over an hour. So the question is not whether there are interesting visits to make, but which direction to take. Whichever direction, the road back to the comfortable Valdorcia farmhouse and its sweeping panorama will feel like coming home.
Valdorcia is a beautiful old stone farmhouse sitting high up on a sloping property overlooking the valley of the same name. Access is partly via a bumpy, unpaved road for just over a kilometre, which some may find challenging but we found added to the charm and deterred unnecessary traffic. The house is quite remote with no neighbours close by. Because of the altitude of the property, we found it breezy when we were there in September, but that didn’t stop us enjoying the magnificent view from the front of the house.
Rooms are large with high ceilings. Downstairs is an enormous kitchen/dining room with a large table seating eight, as well as a small area with a table for four. The kitchen is “rustic” but well equipped with six gas rings, a wall oven, a large old fireplace for grilling, and a new dishwasher. The pantry, which contains the fridge/freezer (and adjacent powder (cloak) room) is around 15 paces from the kitchen sink which makes for lots of walking. However, given the quality and quantity of Tuscan food, lots of walking is a good thing.
The main floor also has a small sitting area at the end of the dining/kitchen and a bedroom with en suite bathroom.
Upstairs there are five bedrooms, two with en suite bathrooms, and one particularly charming “library” bedroom. The communal bathroom is enormous and its anteroom has a washbasin and a washing machine. There is a lovely sitting room with comfortable sofas and chairs and a huge stone fireplace. A good place to sip Limoncello after dinner.
The caretaker lives on the property with his two friendly dogs. He brought us fresh figs, huge fresh eggs from his chickens, dark red, sweet tomatoes from the garden, as well as lettuces and onions. He is a real asset to the property, putting out garden chairs in the morning and maintaining the grounds beautifully, including the large swimming pool.
Sarteano, the local town, has a small but well-stocked supermarket, as well as some superb restaurants. We were given a list of recommended restaurants in the area by the owner of the farmhouse and every one was wonderful. On two occasions, Rita from Sarteano arrived with her bags and made three-course dinners of typical Tuscan food – enough for the eight of us for lunch next day as well.
The autostrada was fairly close (20 minutes drive) so visiting other areas from this property is relatively easy.
We loved Valdorcia – the house and grounds had the most wonderful atmosphere which we fell in love with as soon as we arrived and met the owner. So many glorious things about it but perhaps above all the view from the property which is stunning whether sitting under the big oak tree in front of the house which provides such marvellous shade or from down at the pool. I absolutely loved early morning walks up to Castligioncello del Trinoro where the staff were always very friendly and it was possible to get coffee and a pastry on the terrace with the spectacular view back down over the house. We were also fortunate enough to catch one of the concerts there – quite amazing – such an astonishing quality of musician performing without charge to the audience and in such an intimate venue.
One of our guests and myself are keen walkers so we also enjoyed walking through the woods above the property to La Foce (War in Val D’Orcia is such an interesting read if you have visited the area).
The house itself was very comfortable and we all loved the fact that it felt like such a home – several of us are avid readers and would have loved to be able to read Italian as just seeing the depth and range of books was amazing. The kitchen was very well equipped and we ate in a great deal but we had a good dinner at Santa Chiara in Sarteano, a wonderful lunch at Osteria La Porta in Monticchiello and a very good casual lunch in Radicofani.
Above all though we would all like to say a huge thank you to Gelasio who was such a kindly and humble presence throughout the week – our Italian was almost non-existent as is his English so I was constantly anxious that when we tried to ask him something we sent him to a paroxysm of anxiety, however, he communicated particularly well with one of our number who is a wonderful listener and a great gardener and I will never forget him bringing her a wonderful basket of figs – so beautifully presented with the basket all lined with fig leaves.
We would love to come again!
We had a great time at Valdorcia, and could not fault the house. In particular, the owner Matteo and his wife were very helpful in showing us around on arrival. The housekeeper, Gelasio, was around most of the time but we didn’t find this intrusive. Despite the language barrier, we were just about able to communicate with Gelasio when needed. The gardens were really well kept and the views across the valley were fantastic.
The house is along a rough steep track, about 1 mile off the main road. This was not an issue for us but might be worth warning people about this.
We ate out at Ristorante Santa Chiara in nearby Sarteano which we would recommend. Good food and service in an interesting location of an ex convent.
We have just returned from a wonderful visit to Valdorcia. This lovely house sits high up, with a magnificent view over the Val d’Orcia, which was a constant source of pleasure and inspiration. The house is large, with six bedrooms, but occupancy is limited to 8 people, which means that there is plenty of room for all. There are four shower rooms (two en suite, and one of the others has a bathtub too), and there is the added convenience of a separate toilet on the ground floor.
The kitchen is large and exceptionally well equipped, with more than enough pots and pans to satisfy even the most ardent cook. The dining table seats eight comfortably, and there is a very convenient seating area just off the kitchen, ideally placed so that those not involved in meal preparation can provide a stream of advice. The living room, on the first floor, has comfortable seating for at least eight people, with plenty of light and a fireplace for cooler evenings.
We were welcomed to Valdorcia by charming owners Matteo and his wife. They are justifiably proud of their house, and pay guests the compliment of furnishing it with family possessions. However, as beautiful and comfortable as the house and surroundings are, most the best thing about our stay was Gelasio, the caretaker. He lives on the premises, and has the knack of being totally unobtrusive unless needed. It seems that he can turn his hand to anything, but we particularly appreciated the way he produced fresh eggs, salad greens and figs almost before we knew that we needed them. Under his care the grounds and pool are kept immaculate.
We had two excellent meals prepared for us by Rita, who came in to cook, and also enjoyed several restaurants in the area. It is true that it is difficult to find a substandard meal in Italy, but we would like to say that the restaurants recommended in the house notes were outstanding. Other reviewers have rightly praised Ristorante Santa Chiara in Sarteano, but good as it is, we felt that Osteria da Gagliano also in Sarteano, is even better. All credit to Matteo for these recommendations, and also for sending us to Zi’ Pina in Fiumicino, where we spent our last night in Italy before returning (reluctantly) to Canada.
Overall, Valdorcia is a place to be treasured, and returned to as often as possible.