Along a pilgrim route off the out-of-the-way traversa Maremmana, not far from where a certain sword got stuck in a rock at San Galgano, is a paradisiacal retreat called Borgo Santo Pietro. The creation of Jeanette and Claus Thøttrup – Danes living in London who found they had a passion for Tuscany, Borgo became a Relais Chateau last year and lives up to its five star rating. It’s a rare occasion that I write an article just about a hotel – without the art nearby or some historical or cultural aspect of it – but the effects of this place on one’s well-being deserve note. It’s not just me – everyone I spoke to there agreed that Borgo has just the pefect mix of je-ne-sais-quoi to make you utterly relaxed. I think I know it’s secret. It’s the five senses, and the perfect satisfaction of each.
Green, bright green: the perfectly manicured hedges contrast with the hand-built stone walls. The dark green cypresses jot up to the sky from gravel walkways. Pink roses bushes, purple lavendar, every colour of hydrangea. A restored farmhouse from the 13th century, and outbuildings newly created in the same style, surrounded by gardens that harmoniously create a visual and virtual maze. A tall wooden door, an ornate metal gate, and you step into another world.
Interiors, darker, more intimate, dominated by ornate patterns, damasks, dark couches, but with shots of light from the windows. Every item in its place.
Perhaps even more than the beauty of the spot, for I’m rather spoiled by Tuscany at this point, what struck me right away was the incredible fragrances at Borgo that seem to follow you as you move through the spaces. Jasmine! says the outdoor dining space. Roses! says the formal rose garden. Lavendar! says the purple-lined paths through some of the garden spaces. And again, medicinal and edible herbs, fruit trees and everything that has been planted here contribute to this odorous itinerary. Lacking sense of sight, smell would do just fine here.
Smell also accompanies you in every space in the villa and in the guest rooms. An on-site florist arranges bunches to be found literally everywhere you look. The head gardener, Peter, tries to plant items that she will need and that match the colour schemes she likes to use.
And where flowers are not enough, lavendar room fragrance from the Officina Profumeria Santa Maria Novella add a discreet signature smell. The same Florentine company provides the fantastic pomegranite line of bath products.
Seated in a beautiful loggia at generously proportioned tables, on comfortable padded seats, we tucked in for the five course gourmet taster menu. It will be next to impossible to return to eating food from the supermarket after this experience. I saw a cook lovingly choosing items from the orto just hours before. Hand picked, 0 kilometres, inventive pairings, delightful textures, artful arrangements, yet lacking pretense of language. The best of Tuscany is given international flair and presented in the best possible form.
If there is one sound that relaxes me and makes me happy, it is the sound of birds chirping like crazy in the morning. This is one of the things I love about Sticciano in Maremma, where we spend every possible weekend. Being awoken by birds at Borgo Santo Pietro had the same effect (click here to hear that, with fountain noise too). But being crooned to bed at night by frogs was new to me. As was the periodic punctuation of a jealous male peacock guarding his three females and dozen eggs. Other sounds follow you as you move around the space. In the rose garden, a loud fountain. Duck through a doorway and you hear it no longer, just the gravel crunching under your feet. Delicate running water of a waterfall or another fountain here and there. Very zen.
For the owner, Jeanette, no detail is too small. She and Claus are world travelers and wherever they go, they collect things for their home, or search for the best whatever – towel, tap, soap holder. Three soft sensations made me purr: the woven cashmere blanket provided to cold dinner guests, the Italian-made linen and cotton bathrobe (for sale at the gift shop, I bought one), and the cotton and bamboo towels made in Belgium.
As the evening closes on such an experience, it’s impossible not to wish that it could never end.
Borgo Santo Pietro