Where to base yourself in Tuscany
Wondering where to base yourself in Tuscany ? so did Malvin. A tip from an Italian he met in London found him basing himself in this location at the start of his search. 10 years later having stayed for months at a time all over the region – he agreed. If you want the best of both worlds: lots to do, (or not) easy exploration routes, lovely places to go to and blissful retreat at your actual base camp, this is where to base yourself in Tuscany.
We like to be ‘close to away from it all’ meaning not so isolated that we can’t get a great meal out within 2 km or find a great supermarket within 3 or 4. We enjoy being spoilt for choice for hill towns and wineries, get easy access to our favourite Tuscan cities and yet rural enough to feel the escape and peace of the Tuscan countryside.
We have enjoyed this location since 2004. The property is a luxurious panoramic Tuscan villa and now an accommodation. At our location, between Cortona & Montalcino, Florence & Rome, we are close to a host of interesting and beautiful towns with Etruscan roots; we see seven from the garden. The Val di Chiana, ‘wheat fields of the Etruscans’ undulates away from us out to the Apennine mountains, North – traversed by the ancient Roman route, the Via Cassia. To the East we see the city of Cortona. Facing South, Montepulciano and Montefollonico in Sienese countryside and facing west we look out to the forested hills of Trequanda countryside; where the Crete Senesi, Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia meet. What a location !
Whilst many locations in Tuscany can feel idyllic in the high Summer – this is a location that works brilliantly all year round. The weather is less reliable in Spring and Autumn for example and that’s when basing yourself at a spacious, comfortable and well equipped accommodation in a strategic touring location will enable you to get the best possible experience of Tuscany, even on a short stay.
From Siena House you will have easy access to the main North South route in central Italy, the A1 motorway, which is great for airport trips – the junction is 10 minutes drive away. The city of Rome is just over 2 hours away by car and the city of Florence is just over an hour. Fast train connections for these cities are to be found at 30 minutes drive from here at Arezzo (for Florence) and Chiusi – Chianciano Terme (for Rome) for guests who would prefer to take a train in to those cities for day trips – or for arriving guests who prefer to complete the majority of the journey from Florence or Rome by train, collecting their rental closer to here. Our proximity to these fast train connections also gives the opportunity to avoid motorway/highway driving for those who wish to avoid it completely. Read more about driving in Tuscany here
Another significant but quiet route close by is the Siena – Perugia highway, you will use it if travelling to Cortona, Assisi, Perugia – and indeed Siena. This road is so quiet and underused that it feels nothing like a highway, but it is a four lane road. There’s no airport at Siena, but at Perugia there is: Perugia Airport, Sant’Egidio, has a Ryanair flight connection to London. The journey to the airport is easy and comfortable – at about an hour. Once you are here it’s easy to hit some top Tuscany destinations and discover some authentic hidden gems with short or relatively short trips by car. This list of visits in our local area says it all.
At our position we are in Chianti ‘Sienese Hills’ wine zone – Chianti Classico begins at 20 minutes away. We are close to the province of Arezzo, indeed we can see large parts of it from the garden at the house; Cortona, Lucignano, Monte San Savino and Arezzo City are all easy visits from our location. It’s about 40 mins to either Arezzo or Cortona. Lucignano is much closer at about 20 mins and it’s a favourite spot for an evening stroll in summer – and a great Gelato. Monte San Savino is a little further at around 25/30 minutes away.
Within Arezzo province is the Prada Factory Outlet at Levanella near Montevarchi and The Mall big names designer outlet at Incisa. Prada and The Mall are 45 and 55 minutes away respectively, one motorway exit apart. Closer to home at Foiano della Chiana find the Val di Chiana Outlet Village 15 minutes away, with many Italian tailors as well as bigger names such as Calvin Klein, Nike & Tommy Hilfiger.
Arezzo Province includes some of Chianti – Castelnuovo Berardenga and Bucine are pretty Chianti towns in the province of Arezzo and not far from the house. To get deep into Chianti Classico for Gaiole, Radda & Castellina in Chianti you’ll need to travel for over an hour – but the Chianti Classico region begins only 25 minutes away. San Gusme is very pretty – and about half an hour’s drive.
Siena House is situated within the province of Siena, our commune is Torrita di Siena – but we’re closer to Sinalunga, in the Orcia Chiana Ridge. Siena Historic Centre is 35 minutes away by the faster route and about an hour by more scenic routes. En route to Siena City are natural thermal springs at Rapolano Terme. Beyond Siena City – at a total journey of just over an hour – the famous hill town San Gimignano.
Close to Siena but just beyond it and towards Florence is Monteriggioni, a little further again towards Florence find the spectacular winery Antinori in Chianti Classico Cross country – taking the scenic route from Siena to Siena House – will probably see you crossing the dramatic scenery of the Crete Senesi and possibly stopping at Buonconvento, Asciano or Trequanda. The Abbey Monte Uliveto Maggiore near Chiusure in the Crete Senesi, and well worth a visit
Much closer to the house, the wine city Montepulciano (which is the highest point in the Val di Chiana) is an essential visit and is under 20 minutes away.
Trequanda village and commune begins only a few minutes from Siena House. Trequanda the town is the first in a sequence of gorgeous lesser-known and authentic hill towns to explore in an olive oil producing range of hills that we call the Orcia Chiana Ridge. Travelling the road between these hill top villages is one of our favourite drives – it’s scenic, curvy and quiet. The Orcia Chiana Ridge is visible from the house – it is a ‘spine’ of hills that separates two valleys: Val d’Orcia and Val di Chiana. Villages in the ridge include Trequanda, Lucignanello, Montefollonico, Sinalunga, Scrofiano, Montisi, Castelmuzio, Petroio. A little beyond, en route from the ridge to Montalcino: San Giovanni d’Asso & Lucignano d’Asso in the Val d’Orcia are both very worth a stop.
Montalcino is a beautiful city and home to the world famous Brunello wines. No matter which route you choose (there are several) from Siena House the ride to Montalcino is spectacular. About 45 minutes’ drive, always allow plenty of time to really enjoy the trip – it’s really tough not to stop for photo breaks. Between Siena House and Montalcino you will traverse parts of the Val d’Orcia – which begins about 20 minutes away from the house roughly at the monastery Santa Anna in Camprena whilst just outside Montalcino city centre find the abbey Sant’Antimo situated close to some of the finest Brunello producers.
Unmissable in the Val d’Orcia: Pienza – a perfect little city with long long views about 25 minutes from Siena House and it’s neighbour Montichiello. Spa Town Bagno Vignone and the little town of San Quirico d’Orcia which is about 35 minutes away are also must – sees. For garden lovers a trip to La Foce historic gardens in the Val d’Orcia is essential – but also Shepherd Craig’s Spider Wood at San Giovanni d’Asso.
A must for Archaeology-lovers is the Etruscan Museum at Chiusi – but also the Etruscan Tombs. Chiusi is half an hour away from the house in the Rome direction. The old town centre of Chiusi is pretty and remains authentic, and Chiusi can combine well with a visit to La Foce or Montepulciano.
Still heading in Rome direction Orvieto is a wonderful city – in Umbria. Famous for its white wines and Splendid Duomo. Orvieto is about 45-50 minutes from Siena House. Many guests can’t resist a trip to Assisi – which is beyond Perugia – when they are staying with us, the journey time around an hour and a half.
The Province of Siena is a large zone in Tuscany that includes Siena historic centre. The fact that the whole province as well as the capital city both take the same name and spelling is confusing for non Italians. Internationally the spelling Sienna is sometimes used in attempt to differentiate, but the confusion remains…is ‘Sienna’ the province or it is the city where the famous ‘Palio’ is run?
This place – Siena House – is in Siena Province – closer to Montepulciano, Pienza and even Cortona than to Siena city. When we opened a few years back we just went for a name that was easy to remember, unaware of the issues mentioned above…
ABOUT THE PROVINCE OF SIENA The province of Siena has borders with the provinces of AREZZO, PISA, FLORENCE, PERUGIA, GROSSETTO & VITERBO and with the regions UMBRIA and LAZIO.
In WINE terms the province includes large parts of CHIANTI CLASSICO & CHIANTI COLLE SENESE, the terretory of VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO and BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO and ORCIA , Bordering with Grossetto gives us fairly easy access to one of my favorite wines MONTECUCCO – and other SUPERTUSCAN (IGT) wine zones (excellent wines being produced ‘super’ or outside of the longer established DOCG zones – BOLGHERI for example. Famous for the reds and above all the Sangiovese grape there are few well known whites around these parts, the most famous being SAN GIMIGNANO’S VERNACCIA. Bordering with Arezzo – and close to Cortona where we find some excellent VIOGNIER and SYRAH. All over Tuscany find VIN SANTO dessert wine.
The province includes the CHIANTI SENESE the CRETE SENESE, the VAL D’ORCIA and the VAL DI CHIANA SENESE. Commune’s (think Parish Councils) TREQUANDA, MONTEPULCIANO, MONTALCINO, MONTERIGGIONI, SAN GIMIGNANO, MURLO, BUONCONVENTO, CASTIGLION D’ORCIA, RADICOFANI, CHIUSDINO, ASCIANO, SAN GIOVANNI D’ASSO, SAN QUIRICO D’ORCIA, CHIUSI, SARTEANO, CETONA, GAIOLE, MONTEPULCIANO, PIENZA, RADDA, SINALUNGA, CASTELLINA IN CHIANTI, MONTICIANO…
Popular hill towns in the province of Siena (above are listed some of the better known Communi) MONTEPULCIANO, MONTEFOLLONICO, PIENZA, MONTICHIELLO, MONTISI, TREQUANDA, BAGNO VIGNONE, PETROIO, SAN GIOVANNI D’ASSO, SAN QUIRICO D’ORCIA, CASTIGLION D’ORCIA, SINALUNGA, CHIUSI, CETONA, SAN GIMIGNANO, SARTEANO, CETONA, TORRITA DI SIENA, CHIUSI…
Siena House is a boutique hotel in Tuscany writing about Tuscany