Overview of the Chiarentana
The Chiarentana estate extends over 200 hectares in what is probably the most beautiful nook of the famous Val d’Orcia, a Unesco World Heritage site since 2002.
Chiarentana is the sister estate of the famous La Foce estate, legacy of the author Iris Origo and her husband Antonio.
This is a fascinating story: When Iris and Antonio Origo came to the Val d’Orcia, Chiarentana was one of the many farms on the La Foce estate, in fact certainly the largest, with over seven families and their livestock living around the large square building with a central courtyard.
Its history goes back to the early Middle Ages, when it was one of the many small castles where pilgrims would stop on their way to Rome on the via Francigena. Emperor Otto I is said to have stopped here himself on his way to visit the Pope in the second half of the10th century.
During the 14th century Chiarentana became one of the first Communes, with its own statute, complete with a set of laws and sanctions. Thereafter the fortunes of Chiarentana followed those of its neighbors – a downhill story of war and devastation, poverty and degradation.
In 1924 when the Origos bought the property it was in conditions of severe destitution. Through their lifelong and passionate joint efforts they succeeded in bringing progress and social change to this poverty-ridden land, leading to a miraculous transformation of the conditions of the people living on it. La Foce became a bustling prosperous farm, reforestation and water management prevented the erosion which had ravaged the land for centuries, farmland was reclaimed from the expanses of clay hillocks, dams were built for irrigation purposes, roads were made, schools annihilated the prevailing illiteracy, basic health services were provided to all. La Foce was considered a model estate, and as such was spared the land reform that broke up most large properties in the 50s. Upon their death La Foce was divided into two properties by the Origo daughters: the Chiarentana estate is run by their second daughter Donata.
The Chiarentana estate is made up of the main building and several free standing farms. In the main building 6 apartments surround a paved courtyard shaded by an old linden tree. There is a large garden with secluded corners for each apartment, a pool, a tennis court and a children’s playground.
Delicious freshly cooked meals are served on 2 evenings of the week, indoors during the colder months, in the candle-lit courtyard in summer. Oil-tasting dinners with specially paired recipes are served once a week. 3 freestanding farms which offer charm as well as comfort and a private pool can also be rented.
Chiarentana has focused on the production of the highest quality olive oil; olive groves with particular varieties of olive trees surround the main Chiarentana building, while extensive wheat and hay fields cover the rolling hills leading down to the bottom of the valley. In the midst of these hills are some of the few remaining wild areas of the “crete senesi”, the clay hills depicted in the Sienese paintings from the 13th and 14th centuries. These areas are now the home to wild boar, roebuck, porcupines and hares, as well as rare forms of orchids, dog-roses, prickly pear and broom.
HOUSES ON THIS ESTATE AVAILABLE FOR WEEKLY RENTAL
Number of beds : 6
Chiarentana - Beco
Number of beds : 4
Chiarentana - Bersagliere
Number of beds : 2
Chiarentana - Fonte
Number of beds : 2
Chiarentana - Ronda
Number of beds : 6
Chiarentana - Tiglio
Number of beds : 4
Chiarentana - Vespa
Number of beds : 4
Number of beds : 10
Number of beds : 14
Chiarentana lies south of Siena, overlooking the wide and open Orcia valley, close to Montalcino, Montepulciano and Pienza. The nearest village lies at a distance of 7 km.
- Montepulciano 13 km – 20 min
- Pienza 20 km – 30 min
- Cetona 23 km – 35 min
- Montalcino 35 km – 40 min
- Arezzo 80 km – 1 hr
- Orvieto 64 km – 1 hr
- Siena 70 km – 1 hr 15 min
- Cortona 43 km – 1 hr
- Assisi 95 km – 1 hr 40 min
- Florence 135 km – 1 hr 40 min
- Rome 170 km – 2 hr
Activities & Places of interest
- 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.The garden is open to the public on Wednesday afternoon.
- 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.
- All converted farmhouses have a private pool, and the apartments in Chiarentana share a pool.
- A tennis court on the estate, in the garden of Chiarentana, can be used by all guests.
- Guides are available to take you round the area. Hiking is wonderful here, especially in the Orcia Valley.