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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public