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Our Home in San Gimignano

August 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Italy, Rome, tourism, Travel

We were going to Italy, from Abu Dhabi, to celebrate a significant birthday, and it seemed a perfect occasion to invite some of those near and dear to us to a sort of moveable feast. In Italy.

It began in Florence, moved to Siena for Il Palio and since Saturday night has continued at Villa La Porticciola, a few yards outside the San Gimignano city limits — but with wonderful views (over green hills) of the hilltop city and its famous towers.

The villa is a very fine place. All stone and brick, located on a dirt road, now known as Via Vecchio (Old Road).

It once was the primary thoroughfare from Rome to the north of Italy. No, really.

This would have been after the fall of the Roman Empire, which had numerous well constructed and maintained roads throughout Italy.

Medieval Italy, however, made do with far less impressive roads — often little more than a path over hills and through woods with the occasional road house for travelers.

Originally, the Villa La Porticciola was a toll house at a narrow spot in the road, according to the friendly man who manages the property. It was a tower where something like customs officials took cash from travelers.

Those who could not or would not pay were detained in an onsite jail, he said.

(And the kitchen here does, in fact, have a hinged metal door in the floor — the location, the manager said, of the jail.)

The structure, when it was built, was mostly just a tower, he said. For defense and to watch the road.

But a few hundred years ago, or sometime after the Black Death came through in 1348 and nearly depopulated San Gimignano, most of the tower was dismantled. The bricks and stone pulled down from the tower were then used to expand a two-story structure horizontally.

It now is a spacious and well-maintained B&B/rental home. We took all four bedrooms rooms of the place, each with en suite shower/bath. We also have the run of the sprawling ground floor — a den with TV, a living room with huge fireplace and library, a dining room for eight and a kitchen.

Also on the grounds … maybe 3,000 square feet of open space taken over by greenery (including wild berry bushes), with terraces and pathways, and a large patio with barbecue, swing and a trestle table that seats eight. And a swimming pool at the end of a lawn, where lying out in the Tuscan sun is a fine thing — as long as the mosquitoes don’t get you.

The pool was a bit chilly, but our late arrivals came with two children, and the bambini have spent hours in the pool over the past two days.

Here is a click-through series of photos, all from the exterior.

Here is a series of photos from the inside, showing the four themed bedrooms as well as some of the downstairs.

The place has enough windows — with screens! — that it is bright and airy in every room, but the thick walls of stone and brick keep the place quite cool, in anything but torrid heat. In a week here, only twice did we use the fans provided for each bedroom.

We wholeheartedly recommend the place. Single rooms can be reserved, too — each bedroom has its own door with lock and key.

It has been a great place to be based for our week here, and pretty much a unanimous “greatest rental we’ve ever stayed in” — among those kind enough to have joined us.


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