Set in the picturesque landscape of a UNESCO World Heritage site, a restored farmhouse of golden local stone has generous spaces reflecting the wide Val d'Orcia valley just outside its doors.
This makes it the ideal location for relaxed family reunions or a holiday retreat for friends happy to eschew snarled traffic in favor of uncluttered hillsides and willing to leave full agendas behind. Owned previously by a local cheesemaker, the house sits easily amongst the cultivated hills and towns perched on rocky outcrops which have been captured by artists since the Renaissance. It was certainly not chance that brought the Sienese Pope Pius II to build his Ideal City in this valley, though these days, the area is feted more perhaps for its Brunello wine and pecorino cheese for which the area is famous.
One enters the house directly into the large country kitchen. The dimensions are generous, with modern appliances, travertine countertops and a wooden table good for preparation. A furnished patio just outside is perfect for eating alfresco.
A doorway from the kitchen leads to a games room with table soccer and a door to the front garden. To the right of this room is the dining room with a table for 8, while to the left is a room set up with a ping pong table. This room connects through a doorway cut in the house's thick walls to the main hall that runs deep from the wide glass doors to the garden to the corner fireplace at the end of the room. With its original beamed ceiling, terracotta flooring, comfy sofas and golden walls, this is a room that will draw the crowd.
The top floor is reach either by doors from the front garden to an internal staircase or a hallway from the dining room that accesses the same stairway through a room with the original bread oven and a handy washing machine.
From a landing near the top of the stairs a glass door leads to the first of four bedroom suites, this one with twin beds under the eaves, the same view enjoyed from the pool and an ensuite shower room. A long hallway with arched brick ceiling leads to three further suites - two doubles and one twin/double bedroom, all with ensuite shower rooms. All the bedrooms are very spacious and furnished with country antiques suiting the style of the house.
A sweet outdoor breakfast spot near the kitchen in Casa del Pastore. There is a much larger table under a pergola at the other end of the house for family dinners.
The heart of the house, this large room has plenty of space to relax, amazing views and the rooms next door have fussball table and table tennis too.
An early outing may be to Castiglioncello di Trinoro, the 12th century village that crowns the hill behind the house and offers restaurants, an art gallery and summer concerts. The Jazz and Blues Festival takes place in August in the nearest town, Sarteano. Dominated by its 15th century castle, this lively town has been inhabited for thousands of years. The Etruscan 'Tomb of the Chariot from Hell', unearthed only in 2001, merits a visit. A half-hour's drive leads to Bagno Vignoni, whose underground acquifer made the small village the spa of choice for popes, saints, and politicians, or to Iris Origo's beautiful villa 'La Foce' and its famed gardens designed by English architect Cecil Pinsent, both venues for concerts throughout the summer. The restaurant Dopolavoro is nearby the Foce gardens and an excellent choice for drinks or dinner after you visit to the gardens. For wine tasting try to local producer of the excellent Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Boscarelli.
An easy day trip could take in one of the cultural and artistic centers of the Val di Chiana: Cortona, of 'Under the Tuscan Sun' fame, which spills down the hillside and offers stunning views over its medieval walls or Arezzo, whose Piazza Grande fills with jousting knights for the Giostra del Saracino or with bargain hunters at its monthly Antiques Fair. With the medieval gems Siena and Perugia only slightly further, it will simply be a choice of where to head next. Of course, if contemplation of this happens while lying in the sun near the long pool or tucking into a Tuscan meal under the furnished pergola, the option of staying put may take the day.
People have been enjoying the hot waters of Bagno Vignoni since before Roman times - the village square is one enormous hat water pool.
The local town of Sarteano has a museum dedicated to the recently discovered tomb with amazingly fresh 2000 year old paintings.
This charming recently restored hamlet is a short drive or a walk away from Casa del Pastore
Close to Casa del Pastore, these stunning formal gardens designed by Cecil Pinsent for Iris Origo are well worth a visit.
Jazz and Blues in the square of Sarteano - normally in the third week of August. Image © Mauro Sini
Siena, with its famous Piazza del campo, Cathedral, Pinacoteca and other museums and sights, is only a short drive away
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