We return to Italy for enlightenment, of course. For churches and squares, frescoes and portraits, Titian and Giotto. But we also return for reassurance, for straightforward pleasures refined over time that somehow feel a little bit better in Italy.
I thought of this while I was staying at the wonderful Borgo San Felice, which makes up sixteen restored 8th century stone buildings in its own little hamlet in the Tuscan countryside, thirty minutes outside of Siena.
I sat down to a late lunch (no need to rush!) on the terrace looking down into the valley below, lined with rows of vines that make the wine that you are more than encouraged to drink (and thoroughly taste it I did!). I wanted to keep it simple, some raw vegetables from the property’s garden with their own terrific olive oil. And fresh, house-made pasta with tomatoes and basil. What would be easier? It’s the execution of seemingly simple things that are the marks of excellence. That’s why sushi chefs are often most proud of their omelet.
This lunch couldn’t have been better—everything you love about Tuscany converged in one meal: tradition and taste, ease and light. This is standard procedure at Borgo San Felice, a very ambitious hotel. Under the expert guidance of director Danilo Guerrini, you are in position to enjoy wonderful meals, and the hours in between them. Would you like to sit by the pool with a cappuccino or maybe an aperitif? Certainly. There’s also a lovely spa that manages to be luxurious, understated and perfectly at home in one of the ancient, stately buildings. Relaxing will not be a problem.
If you want to eat more ambitiously there’s the gastronomic restaurant served at Il Poggio Rosso, for clean, beautifully executed meals by chef Fabrizio Borraccino. Even the breakfast seemed to have the best granola I’ve ever had—though that’s the effect that Borgo San Felice has on you. The details are there to help reward your senses. Honey at breakfast right from the honeycomb, at dinner a parade little surprises from the kitchen each one better than the last. They are fluent in the language of elevated hospitality that all great hotels have mastered, so it goes without saying there’s a master bartender who can make a perfect Negroni, offer a rare Islay whisky later in the evening, or the Cuban cigar you were dreaming about all day.
You can bicycle in the area, go on cultural outings, happily do something different every day for a week. Make a point to tour the vineyards and the wine cellar on the property, and to drive the point home you can taste quite a few wines made right there. Some older, some newer, all terrific. It’s an education, that leaves you feeling great.
The rooms? They’re just as you’d like in Tuscany, spacious, airy, lovely tiles and stone floors. While I was staying there, walking down a stone path flanked by rose bushes to admire the herb garden, I felt completely at home. I was making a list of all the people in my life who would love it here. The list grew longer and longer.