Villa Fontelunga Hotel review: a thoroughly Tuscan hideaway
This contemporary boutique villa melds the Italian region’s romanticism with modern luxuries
Tuscany. It’s a truly evocative word, isn’t it? Whether you’re a native, a regular visitor or have only seen it used in rom-coms as visual shorthand for romantic perfection, Tuscany is a word that brings to mind all sorts of general loveliness, from rolling hills to stunning architecture, and works of art to pastoral joys, via, in my case, exquisite glasses of Chianti, scoops of pistachio gelato, piles of pecorino-dusted pici and slabs of Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Having honeymooned in Florence – yeah, go on, “aaah” if you must – I’ve got a distinct soft spot for the place (and not just the one around the midriff thanks to the Chianti, gelato, etc). There is genuinely something magical to the region and, in a quiet corner of the Arezzo province, in a small town called Foiano della Chiana it all comes together in one utterly charming property, Villa Fontelunga.
For those drawn to this part of Italy by Under The Tuscan Sun, the setting for that film – Cortona – is visible from Fontelunga. That’s probably the best place for it, in fact: close enough to serve as a reminder why you’re there, but far enough away to encourage your own adventure.
Although, to be fair, adventure might be pushing it. Fontelunga isn’t really about the rugged agricultural experience, it’s all about the downtime and the wonderful hospitality of owners Paolo and Philip – and the very pleasant (but optional) company of their small, unfeasibly cute dogs.
The property – at the time of writing – is made up of Villa Fontelunga - a nine bedroom, all en-suite, “hotel” plus, slightly further afield, two beautifully appointed, smartly designed, self-catering apartments. To be fair, “hotel” isn’t quite the right word. There’s an element of “bed and breakfast” to the place too, even a hint of (very) upscale Airbnb. It is, essentially, whatever you want it to be, and owner and/or staff (and/or canine) interaction is as involved or as minimal as you require.
It’s a beautiful, classically Tuscan villa, a beacon of burnt orange against that countryside and that blue sky. If you want to rent it all, you can – it would make a quite exceptional wedding location – but if you just want to enjoy a single room, that’s an option too. Unless, of course, some selfish, loved-up swine has booked the whole place for a wedding on the day you want.
Rooms are simple but stylish, and individually decorated – in Philip’s previous life, he was a set designer for film and TV, and has clearly cast a very dedicated, talented eye over everything within. It’s not necessarily lap-of-luxury, five-star-hotel stuff – although there is Molton Brown’s finest in the bathrooms – it’s just beautifully relaxed, simple and classic. And when that sun pours in of a morning, and you throw the shutters back to that view, it’s as close to perfect as you’ll find, and the perfect setting for a lie-in.
Mind you, then the smell of breakfast hits. Paolo is a light sleeper, so has a tendency to get up early and make a fresh cake for breakfast each day. Yes, exactly. Quite why Tom Ford is recreating leather, wood or tobacco in aroma-form when we’d all respond so much stronger to cake is an eternal mystery.
Breakfast is a beautiful spread of simple pleasures: the aforementioned, still-warm cake, eggs to order, freshly brewed coffee, proper juices, delicious fruit - it’s a great way to set up a day of exploring nearby towns and even those further afield: Florence is around an hour away, Pisa approximately two, Rome about the same.
Should you wish to just chill, however, that’s very much an option. There’s a secluded pool, beautiful grounds, and many places to lounge and read and sleep. Ask your hosts nicely and you may even be able to borrow a dog for a walk or for company by your chair – although If you’ve succumbed to the imploring eyes over breakfast, they’ll probably come and find you anyway. The dogs, I mean, not Philip and Paolo.
Dinner is not an option, per se but: a) it’s Tuscany, you’re not going to starve; and b) during busy periods, once or twice a week, Philip and Paolo bring in a local chef to cook a family-style feast for everyone who’s staying. It’s not compulsory – it’s a beautiful hotel in 21 st century Italy, not a 1950s B&B in Lancashire – but it is a lot of fun, particularly given the diverse group of backgrounds and nationalities that Fontelunga attracts.
To paraphrase those famed, star-crossed residents of Padua (about a three hour drive, if you’re interested), parting is genuinely such sweet sorrow, which is so often the point you realise you’ve crossed from temporary accommodation to a home from home. Fontelunga is a unique venue: charming, relaxing and genuinely original.