The sign said this way, but ‘this’, this narrow, pot-holed, cliff-hanging pathway could not be right. It is easier for me, as the passenger, to encourage the driver to continue, to ignore his white knuckles, and to make sudden gasps and exclamations at the surrounding landscape. My constant “look over there!” is met with “If I do, the car will fall off the cliff and we will BE over there. Are you sure this is right? This can’t be right.”
Alas we see a building and a small parking area, and my companion takes a few deep breaths after putting the car in park and scavenging for his water. Who knew Tuscany can be both a relaxing escape and an adventure travelers’ adrenaline land mine? We were quite determined to find Villa Bordoni. I had read that the 17th century structure was recently rebuilt with a great deal of taste, class, and love, and even upon circling around the side of the building, past a staircase covered in multi-hued autumn leaves, past a low fence gating a small garden of the last of the season’s buds, we knew the high accolades were well-deserved. Upon first glance, Villa Bordoni nails the Goldilocks complex: not too overdone, not too shabby, just the right amount of warm and charming. It falls in the nearly impossible to pinpoint pool of perfection: a small, luxury country property with an aura of class, humility, and genuineness. If only the heiress who last lived in Villa Bordoni could see it now; during her old age in the 1980s and 90s, she was known as a bit of a character, donning thick tweeds and hunting capes and finally confining herself to just one room. Surrounded by newspapers, cats, and her twenty tortoises, she was somehow finally coerced into a home in Florence. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the tortoises…
Certainly the Scottish restaurateur owners, Catherine and David Gardner, did immense research on the villa’s heyday, as it feels like we might be visiting the Bordoni family themselves, rather than a hotel. The french doors are open off of the garden courtyard, and we step into a light-filled breakfast room/bar. Hugo greets us with a smile and offers to show us the property as soon as he serves a few guests lunch outside. On this magnificent early November Sunday, Hugo is manager, server, and ubiquitous gracious host.He shares with us the story of the owners, a Scottish couple with sublime Tuscan style.
I follow my nose. Something smells divine- a stew perhaps. An espresso maker is the first thing we see upon stepping into the dining room, and we smile at the intimacy of the whole hotel. Hugo lets us step into the glass-encased kitchen where the UK-born chef is preparing a stock for that evening’s supper. A long wooden bar runs the length, acting as both the pass and the resting place for the leather-bound, vintage reservations book. The dining room, currently basking in noontime shadows, is an intimate, square room with french doors onto the courtyard and a photo-worthy stack of firewood. To arrive here for a fabulous dinner is akin to arriving at a friend’s home, one with exceptional service and decor and an original fireplace and oven, no less. During the season, guests can sit at candlelit tables in the garden overlooking ancient olive groves and the wistful Chianti hills, surrounded by palms and umbrella pines.
We follow Hugo up a wooden staircase with a fabric rail, where a comfortable, country-chic sitting room binds the few guest rooms together. This is a property for those who appreciate interiors; each room is a magazine photo-op in its Tuscan hues, lighthearted fabrics, vintage record player, lighting, faded wood, and subtle, yet irrepressible charm. On the third floor, Hugo shows us a bright, deluxe double room done in purple and yellow with views of the fig trees sloping up the hill. The yellow tiled bathroom reminds me of a bath you might see in Sicilia or the Amalfi Coast. Ortigia products are found throughout the property, and the scent of Ambra Nera lingers.
Outside, we mosey up to the pool, nestled into the olive groves and surrounded by grass and lounge chairs that have already been folded for the season. The vista is of Chianti below, and behind the pool, a few different levels of grassy patches allow for more privacy; two lounge chairs here, two over there. Exercise equipment is also up on the hill behind the pool, because what kind of cardio workout doesn’t have a Tuscan vineyard view?
I can’t imagine a more serene escape in the Chianti countryside, a more chic inn to call home for a few days or perhaps a week if you are looking to seriously unwind. Besides the harrowing driveway, (yes- we were on the correct road, which I can’t imagine doing in the pouring rain or in the pitch blackness of night), the location is ideal. Montefioralle and Greve are at the bottom of the hill, Florence is 40 minutes, and southern Tuscany is all but one hour’s drive. I imagine that Villa Bordoni will be the kind of property that books years in advance, with the same families returning year after year, and soon everyone will know one another like a big Tuscan family. I also imagine that many guests will model their homes after the property. ‘Who decorated’ must be one of the most-asked questions in the guestbook.
Great photos: the beauty is in the little details in each one.
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