Fragrant herbs and roses surround this authentic and beautifully restored farm building
A Gonzola lies in the middle of open farmland, surrounded by fields of wheat and sunflowers on one side and a small wood and the strange shapes of the distinctive clay hillocks and scrub which characterize the local landscape on the other. A winding gravel road lined with oak trees running along a little stream anticipates the peaceful bucolic spirit that pervades the house.
Gonzola is a large sunny house built in the local stone, overgrown with rambling roses, honeysuckle and ivy, and surrounded by a garden where Mediterranean aromatic plants such as rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme flourish. The pool is set against a backdrop of the typical Siena clay hillocks; wild rose and broom bushes growing in the garden blend into the surrounding countryside.
On one side of the house lies the pool house, which also contains a garden kitchen for outdoor meals. A pergola covered in vines and wisteria provides shade over a large table.
The main living quarters are on the first floor, which is reached by an external staircase leading into a large living room with an open fireplace. The walls have been lime-washed in a sunny light shade. The adjacent kitchen has a typically Tuscan kitchen range and hood, with a fireplace at the same level to make cooking over the fire easier. The walls have been painted a stunning blue lime wash, in the characteristic style of old kitchens in peasant farms, as blue was supposed to keep the flies away in the summer. The cow-shed on the ground floor has been converted into a large summer room which looks out onto the garden. A double room with 2 original antique beds and its en-suite bathroom are also on the ground floor.
Amenities and services
- Pool: 12 x 6m
- Internet access
- Wheelchair adapted
- Hifi stereo
- Satellite TV
- Maid service
- Bed & bath linens
- Midweek change of towels
- Baby equipment
- Final cleaning
- First shopping
- Arrival dinner
- Maid service
Floorplan of the villa
Very large summer room with ping-pong table
1 twin bedroom with en-suite bathroom
Large living room with open fireplace
Large kitchen with dining table
2 doubles with en-suite bathrooms
1 further double
1 further bathroom
Pool house with summer kitchen
Spacious pergola for al fresco meals
WC and changing room
Pool 6 x 12m
Covered parking space
ESTATE: La Foce
Hospitality and Tradition
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 Two great treasures are housed in the abbey. Lining the main cloister is a fresco cycle of the life of St Benedict by Luca Signorelli and Il Sodoma. Less famous, less sensational, but perhaps of finer quality, are the wooden intarsia choir stalls by Fra’ Giovanni da Verona. 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 15 minutes
- Pienza 20 minutes
- Cetona 30 minutes
- Montalcino 40 minutes
- Arezzo 50 minutes
- Orvieto 50 minutes
- Siena 1 hour
- Cortona 1 hour
- Florence 1 ½ hour
- Rome 2 hours