Siena is a lovely example of a medieval city with the famous ‘Campo’ at its centre, where the ‘Palio’ horse race takes place. I suggest calling in to the ‘Il Doccio’ bar on the way to the city to try one of the best porchetta rolls in Tuscany. Once at Siena head for the ‘Campo’ car park for reasonably priced parking near the centre. Podere Sant’Angelo is about 1.25 hours drive from Siena.
This lovely classic Renaissance garden was created in the late 16th century during rebuilding works after the damage caused to San Quirico by the war between Siena and Florence. Geometric box hedges merge into wilder home oak woods.
For garden lovers I recommend a visit to La Foce east of Monte Amiata. The garden here was designed in the 1930s for the Origo family by the English landscape gardener Cecil Pinsent. It is a mix of formal Italian style with box hedges and lemon trees and informal English style that blends into the surrounding countryside. There are spectacular views across the Val d’Orcia to Monte Amiata. When in flower (early spring) the over 100m long wisteria vine is a wonderful spectacle. From spring to autumn the garden is open on Wednesday afternoons.
A new car park just off the autostrada at Villa Costanza has made day trips to Florence easier. The parking costs €4.00 for 8 hours and it’s located at the end of the tram line into the centre (€1.20, 20 minutes). What’s more, there’s a fantastic bar near the car park. Podere Sant’Angelo is about 2.5 hours drive from Florence.
My name’s Graham Bradford. I grew up in the north west of England. After university studies in Scotland I left the UK to live and work in many different countries. I’ve been enjoying life here at Podere Sant’Angelo now for over ten years and enjoy sharing my experiences of Maremma, where to eat and lovely places to visit, with guests. I holidayed in this relatively undiscovered part of Tuscany while living in Milan. The Maremma has proved to be a great antidote to the stresses and strains of urban life. I still enjoy the opportunities the location offers for gardening, sailing and hiking. The great views from Podere Sant’Angelo make this a really special place. There’s the view down to the coast at Porto Santo Stefano, in the other direction there’s the oddly shaped Monte Labbro, in front of the house there are wonderful sunsets. The black night sky with the milky way stretching over the house is still a wonder to see. After enjoying urban life in several of the world’s largest cities I now appreciate the close contact with nature offered by life here at Podere Sant’Angelo.
At 1490m Monte Amiata is the highest point in southern Tuscany and is visible from miles around. On the lower slopes there are extensive chestnut woods (the chestnuts feature a lot in local dishes) higher up the chestnut trees are replaced by beech trees. Monte Amiata has one of the largest beech forests in Europe. It’s nice to visit at any time of year and it’s possible to reach the top of the mountain if you park near the top and walk the last 600m or so. The views aren’t great as there are so many trees but it’s lovely to walk here at any time of year. From Podere Sant’Angelo head towards Arcidosso, at Aiuole (the helicopter pad) take a right and then a left to drive up the mountain. The same road leads to Abbadia San Salvatore on the northern side of the mountain.
Castiglione della Pescaia is a traditional Italian seaside resort with a good selection of seafood restaurants and ice cream shops. Castiglione also has one of the cleanest beaches in the whole of Italy. My favourite restaurant is ‘Ristorante Molo Sedici‘ above the quay where the local fishing boats pull in. From Podere Sant’Angelo it takes about 75 minutes to get to Castiglione. Before you arrive in Grosseto take the Aurelia, direction Livorno, exit at Grossseto Nord, take a right along the old Aurelia after a few kilometres take a left towards Castiglione – this way saves you from going through Grosseto.
The Val d’Orcia is located to the east of Monte Amiata about 45 minutes from Podere Sant’Angelo. With its hilltop farmhouses and lines of cypress trees this is the place to enjoy the archetypal Tuscan landscape. My favourite places here are the amazing castle at Castiglione d’Orcia from the top of the castle there are stunning views across the whole of the valley, San Quirico d’Orcia with its lovely renaissance garden, the Horti Leonini, and the beautiful gardens at La Foce.
This lovely town on the slopes of Monte Amiata is famous for the renaissance ceramics by Andrea della Robbia. You can see these in the Pieve delle Sante Flora e Lucilla in the upper part of the town. The main square, again in the upper part of the town, is very charming. The medieval fishpool and surrounding park in the lower part of town is also worth a visit, especially on a hot summer’s afternoon.