B&B and beyond: Doors open on to an Italian dream

Il Fienile Boccagnano, Tuscany: A medieval barn is the sumptuous setting for a stylish hideaway in the Arezzo hills, says Christina Patterson

There are an awful lot of medieval barns in Tuscany, but there aren't many like this. Il Fienile Boccagnano was bought as a dream home by a British-based couple who work in fashion, and it shows. Everything about it is gorgeous: the setting, in beautifully verdant landscaped gardens on a Tuscan hillside; the old stone of its carefully restored exterior; its 20m pool, which looks more like something you'd see in the gardens of the Alhambra; and the carefully chosen furniture inside. It's the kind of place you might expect to see in the pages of a lifestyle magazine, and it recently was: in Bravacasa, an Italian equivalent of Ideal Home.

A 10-minute drive from the main motorway between Florence and Rome, and a five-minute drive from the nearest town, Montevarchi, it's well placed for visits to Florence, Arezzo and Siena, and for exploring the countryside of nearby Chianti.

The Bed

There's just one room available for B&B, with its own shower room and front door. Painted in soft pinks and greys, it's comfortable and cosy. It has a very big bed, dressed with pretty cushions and vintage linen, a walnut wardrobe and a quirky selection of pictures, artefacts and hats. Thick velvet drapes and white muslin shade the glass doors that open on to a vegetable patch.

The shower has one of those massive heads that make the water feel like a fresh blast of rain. A mural in it (a copy of a painting by the Tuscan artist Brenti) of nude women bathing adds to the visual feast.

What the bedroom isn't is particularly spacious. The very beautiful room next to it, with a double-height ceiling and the same Moorish tiled floors you see in the bedroom and shower, is the owners' private living room and kitchen. We were served breakfast in it one day, but if you were planning an evening in, you might have to choose between a bed and a chair.

The Breakfast

Breakfast is served, if the weather allows, on the outside dining terrace, fringed by herbs and lavender, near the beautiful stone-edged pool. It's simple but tasty: fresh bread and croissants with home-made jams, yoghurt, orange juice and fruit. Some guests might find themselves hoping for something – cheese? eggs? prosciutto? – a bit more substantial, but this is Italy, and Italians, like the French (and our French host), aren't big on breakfast. Most just grab a coffee and perhaps a brioche at a bar.

The Hosts

We didn't meet Gabriela Ligenza, the Polish-born milliner who bought and converted Il Fienile Boccagnano with her French husband, Jean-Jacques Lassabe. The couple split their time between here and London, and it's no great surprise to hear that Gabriela trained as an interior designer and architect before moving on to the hats that she now sells to royals and film stars. But we did meet Jean-Jacques, who works with fabric and shoes. Running their home as a B&B is a new project for them and one that he, at least, does with great charm. But it's very clearly a home and not a hotel.

The Weekend

If you want to go to Florence or Siena, it's much less stressful to leave the car at Montevarchi and get a train. Both cities have the kind of congestions charges that mean a small mistake can lead to a hefty fine. Arezzo, which is a 20-minute drive away, is easy to reach and easy to park in. It's very pretty and feels less like a tourist hot spot and more like a proper town. On the way, you should stop at Il Borro, a tiny medieval village full of artisan workshops that have been beautifully restored. You can also visit the sculpture museum at Montevarchi (00 39 055 910 8230; arezzo.intoscana.it) or, if visiting in spring, the rose garden at Cavriglia, which has 7,000 varieties of rose (00 39 366 206 3941; rosetofineschi.it; open May-June only).

The Pit stop

We had very good, very thin pizzas at the local pizzeria, Pitena (00 39 055 966 016; ristorantepitena.it; closed Monday), but the best meal of our holiday was at Papposileno (00 39 347 475 8003; papposileno.com; closed Sunday) in Cavriglia. Set in the vaults of an old monastery, it serves both Tuscan and international cuisine, made with fresh, local ingredients and served with a choice of more than 400 wines. My black rice and pecorino risotto, followed by a Tuscan veal stew, was delicious. A meal for two with wine will cost about €70 (£56).

THE ESSENTIALS

Il Fienile Boccagnano, Via Borro al Quercio 35C, San Giovanni Valdarno, Tuscany, Italy (00 39 334 581 6065; bookings via welcomebeyond.com). Double from €120 (£96), including breakfast; minimum stay two nights.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement