OVERVIEW Casa di Donata
Donata’s house offers all the special charm, character and seclusion of a private home and garden, with the additional advantage of having the restaurant, tennis, playground and other children’s activities within easy reach.
At the far corner of Chiarentana is the house lived in by Donata, one of the two Origo sisters. When, in the early eighties, Donata began to renovate the square fortified farmhouse for many centuries occupied by 7 peasant families, an open informal garden was designed to blend into the surrounding countryside, and rambling roses, shrubs and bulbs planted to soften the stone-flagged courtyard shaded by a large linden tree.
Recently Donata’s house has become available for rent. The house is on two levels with windows facing south over the Val d’Orcia, west beyond the horse paddocks to the sunset beyond the distant hills, and over the courtyard. From the front door steps lead down the lower garden level and an open living space with rattan sofas and armchairs and a with a spectacular view over the valley and beyond to the Monte Amiata. Large clumps of rosemary, lavender and thyme rise from the open lawn with areas where walnut, apricot, cherry, plum, quince and fig trees provide shade and seclusion. There is a rectangular swimming pool (15X5m), also looking out towards the view but tucked away where bathers cannot be seen, with a shower and changing room next door.
Doors from the courtyard and the main door on the west side lead into the ground floor. There is an entrance hall, a cloak room for guests, a library/study, a large sunny living room with windows looking out both ways over the courtyard and the valley, with a pretty fireplace with antique Neapolitan tiles. The dining room is a beautiful tiled kitchen with a raised fireplace, a large table extendable to 14 places, and a smaller kitchen next door where the cooking is actually done. Next to the dining room is a comfortable and informal living/playroom with satellite TV and an entire book-case with children’s books, some dating back to Donata’s childhood. French doors lead to a wisteria and rose-shaded pergola. This becomes the main dining space in summer, in the shade at lunch time and looking out towards the sunset in the evening. A wood oven in front of the pergola can be used to cook pizza and succulent roast meat. A guest room with twin queen-size beds and en suite bathroom is also on this floor.
A flight of stairs leads up to the first floor, where a suite with a room with a large double bed and another with twin beds sharing a bathroom and a smaller washroom with basin and toilet is ideal for a family. Two other large rooms with double beds, each with en suite bathroom are also on this floor. One is called the “African” room for its paintings and sculptures from Zimbabwe, the other the “yellow” room for its shades of wash on the walls, curtains and bedspread, carpets from Morocco, and sunny exposure. Both rooms look south over the valley. Antique family furniture, paintings, and objects can be found in all rooms in the house.
From 8.30 to 2.30 the services of a maid/cook who has been working for Donata for many years are included. She will prepare breakfast and lunches with fresh products from the vegetable garden and orchard, and leave dinner to be heated up on request. S/he can also be available to cook and serve evening meals at an additional cost.
Amenities and services
- Pool: 15 x 5m
- Internet access
- Hifi stereo
- Satellite TV
- Maid service
- Bed & bath linens
- Midweek change of towels
- Baby equipment
- Final cleaning
- First shopping
- Arrival dinner
- Maid service
ESTATE: La Foce
The property of La Foce extends over the hills overlooking the Val d'Orcia, an enchanting and miraculously unspoilt valley in southern Tuscany, listed as UNESCO world heritage in 2004. Midway between Florence and Rome, La Foce is also within easy reach of Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, Assisi and Orvieto. Renaissance and medieval gems such as Pienza, Montepulciano, Monticchiello and Montalcino and the abbey of Sant'Antimo are only a few miles away from the houses you can rent at La Foce.
In 1924 the Irish-American Iris Origo - the famous author - and her Italian husband, Marchese Antonio Origo, acquired the La Foce estate- a combination of olive groves, widespread cultivated fields and woodland. In those days, their management of La Foce brought prosperity and cultural and social changes to the poverty-ridden land it was then. Today their daughters, Benedetta and Donata, run the La Foce estate and their personality pervades in the hospitable atmosphere.
The garden at La Foce was designed by Iris Origo and the famous English landscape gardener Cecil Pinsent between 1925 and 1939.
La Foce's farmhouses have been luxuriously restored and provide wonderful holidays in this remarkably unspoilt valley.
The countryside around La Foce abounds in lovely walks in the woods and the typical "crete senesi" (clay hills) of the region. The food is considered the best in Tuscany and famous wines such as the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino can be sampled in the local cellars.
- After having bought the estate of La Foce in 1924, Antonio and Iris Origo commissioned the English architect Cecil Ross Pinsent, who had previously done extensive work on Bernard Berenson’s Villa I Tatti in Florence, to restructure the main buildings and create a large garden. The latter was conceived to enhance the Renaissance house, built in 1498 as an inn for the travellers to Rome on the Via Francigena. On Mondays guests at La Foce are invited to a private tour followed by a drink.
- Montepulciano is a graceful Tuscan hill town, best known for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which was being praised by connoisseurs over 200 years ago and can certainly contend with Italy’s best today. The many churches and handsome palazzi, the steep cobbled alleys and vine-trailing stone bastions are essential viewing for anyone venturing south of Siena. On a clear day from the top of the town you have tremendous panoramic views across the countryside, stretching towards Assisi’s Monte Subasio, Monte Amiata, the Val d’Orcia, Pienza, and even the towers of Siena.
- Montalcino is beautifully situated on a hill inhabited since Etruscan times, swathed in vineyards and olive groves. It is a quiet, affluent, attractive town with pretty buildings and flower-filled squares, and many shops selling the Brunello di Montalcino.
- Pienza, the unfinished “utopian” city, was commissioned by Pope Pius II in 1459. In just three years the cathedral, the papal and bishop’s palaces and the central part of the town were completed, but the extensive project ended abruptly when Pius died only two years after the consacration of the cathedral.
- The Val d’Orcia is a wide valley south of Siena through which the old Via Francigena (the chief route linking Rome with the north) used to lead, passing castles and fortified towns, some of them dating back as far as the eighth century. In San Quirico make sure you see the Horti Leonini, an early Renaissance garden, as well as the western door in the city wall and the Collegiata (main church).
- Florence et Rome can be reached by train in one and a half hours from the nearby station Chiusi.
Monte Oliveto Maggiore. This abbey was founded by three Sienese noblemen who left the city to live a life dedicated to prayer, religion, etc. and who founded the Olivetan order - an off-shoot of the Benedictines. The most important thing to see at this still active and working Monastery is the cycle of frescoes that decorate the monumental cloister. They describe the live of Saint Benedict and were painted by Signorelli and Sodoma. There are also some beautiful marquetry stalls in the church itself. It is a very magical and serene place set in the midst of exceptionally beautiful countryside.
It is home to a dozen monks who specialize in restoring old books, and make wine, honey and olive oil.
- Sant’Anna in Camprena is a rambling monastery on the road between Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. A very romantic setting which served as location for the film The English Patient. In the refectory there is a fresco by the renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, known as Il Sodoma.
- Sant’Antimo is surely one of the loveliest Romanesque buildings in all of Italy. It is hard to imagine a more sympathetic combination of architectural grace and natural setting. Originally founded by Charlemagne in 800, the abbey was once home to a prominent Benedictine community. Creamy stone bricks, luminous Volterran alabaster, playful carvings and frescoes of animals give it a peculiarly sunny air. A group of French Cistercian monks now runs the abbey, celebrating Mass with Gregorian chants several times a day.
- Tuscany is famous for its hot springs, belonging to a geothermical system that more or less encircles Monte Amiata, the most spectacular being Saturnia in the south west of the region. Close to La Foce is Bagno Vignoni which has been popular since Etruscan times. St Catherine of Siena is said to have appreciated its therapeutic qualities, as is Lorenzo the Magnificent, whose family built the splendid arcaded pool – a kind of flooded, bubbling piazza, famously used by Tarkovsky for some of the more surreal passages of his film Nostalgia. Bagni San Filippo may go into the books as the world’s smallest thermal spa – a telephone booth, a few old houses, an outdoor spring in the middle of the woods with glistening limestone formations, and one small hotel with a public pool.
- Fashion addicts can splurge out at the famous Prada factory outlet, which lies on to road to Florence.
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- Montepulciano 10 km - 15 min
- Pienza 20 km - 25 min
- Cetona 20 km - 30 min
- Montalcino 35 km - 40 min
- Arezzo 75 km - 55 min
- Orvieto 60 km - 50 min
- Siena 90 km - 1 hr
- Cortona 65 km - 1 hr
- Assisi 120 km - 1 hr 30 min
- Florence 140 km - 1 hr 30 min
- Rome 180 km - 2 hr