Chocolate box pretty Pienza, a small intimate hill town in the heart of the Val D’Orcia has always been famous for being the birthplace of Pope Pius II, who before becoming a priest busied himself as an author of mildly pornographic poetry. In a marvellously grandiose manner, Pius commissioned his chief architect Bernardo Rossellino to remodel this humble village and transform it into the model Renaissance hill town. Pienza mainly consists of one street, Corso Rossellino with narrow passages opening onto spectacular views on either side. At one end of the Corso, hidden behind a nondescript door, husband and wife team John Voigtmann and Ondine Cohane have created one of the chicest town hotels in all Italy. Following the huge success of their nearby country house hotel, La Bandita they’ve brought the same considered minimalist style to the Townhouse. And done it brilliantly.
Masterminded by Richard Rogers alumnus, Florentine architect Ernesto Bartolini, the 12 bedrooms have been cleverly planned to fit into a higgledy piggledy collection of medieval buildings. Bartolini has succeeded in creating large and luxurious spaces in what would otherwise seem an impossible venture. Expect the occasional curious angle, bare brick walls contrasting with white, contemporary furniture and bathrooms that are both chic and functional.
Ironically, in a town famous for its almost incomparable views, our favourite restaurant in Pienza is at the Townhouse which has almost no view at all. Glaswegian chef David, who trained under Italophile Jamie Oliver, has created an excellent menu consisting of local seasonal produce that is knocked up in the open kitchen. Owner John Voigtmann’s ever expanding knowledge of Tuscan reds means the cellar is superb.
Yes, there is no pool which admittedly means avoiding the hotel in the heat of the baking August sun, however we suggest flipping the coin and basing yourself at the Townhouse during the autumn for truffle hunting, long hikes and evenings by the wood fire or in the spring when the breath-taking countryside erupts in a carpet of wild flowers and bird song and nearby Montalcino celebrates the uncorking of the new Brunello vintages. Additionally, there could be nowhere better to experience a true Italian Christmas, in a small village still inhabited mainly by families who’ve been there for generations and pride themselves on decorating the main street with the chicest of decorations and a life size Nativity scene. Say no more.