The hills of Siena roll among vineyards and olive groves along a section of the Via Cassia. While a forest of oak invades them.
The hills of Siena roll among vineyards and olive groves along a section of the Via Cassia. While a forest of oak invades them. Rows of cypress trees. Up and down. Not a single wild boar in sight. In the distance, the silhouettes of farmhouses hover in the mist. Silently, Val d’Orcia glows golden in the sunlight. In a flat area, halfway between the hills of Vignoni and the gully formed by the Orcia river, around a square pool dating from the 16th century, the Piazza delle Sorgenti defines the symmetry of Bagno Vignoni.
In 1677, the Grand Duke Cosimo III conceded this land to the fief of Cardinal Flavio Chigi, to whose descendants this land still belongs in part to this day: the thermal baths, three mills, eight houses, and a tavern. Earlier still it was the property of the parsonage of San Simeone in Rocca d’Orcia. Lorenzo the Magnificent used to stay here. As did Catherine of Siena, when she would visit with her mother who wished to distract her from her intention of becoming a nun. Pope Pius II Piccolomini hired Rossellino to build his thermal bathhouse here. “These baths are extremely noble,” wrote Michel de Montaigne.
Bagno Vignoni: there is a pool, with very little around it. A few inns, some houses, and the Loggiato di Santa Caterina. A bookseller, Simone; and a herbalist ‘witchdoctor’, Luigi. Ornella’s Bottega di Cacio. The water – it was once believed that nymphs wielded beneficial powers over it – flowed into the thermal baths, and then continued onward to the mills on the downward edge of the hill towards the river. In front, the Rocca di Tentennano provides reassurance and watches over the Posta Marcucci, a hotel since 1956. Simple, as free of pomp as Tuscan bread is of salt. A hotel that can be summed up as a home with thirty-six rooms and an emerald green lacquered Bar Verde, a pool filled with healing water and a beautiful garden. A bocce court and a tennis court. Luxury is defined by the reality and discretion that are found only in family-run hotels.
The Posta belonged to the Marcucci family, a family of hoteliers for the past four generations. Once a roadhouse that sold groceries and a post office for a vast area of the countryside along the Via Francigena, the first Albergo Posta opened in 1886. In the mid 1950s the main body of the hotel was transferred to an uncultivated vineyard. Bagno Vignoni had approximately 60 inhabitants – today thirty – when zia Licia had the idea to create a pool filled with the water from the Roman bath, inaugurated in July 1973. Thirty litres per second. Calcium, iron, and zinc. The hyper-thermal water that springs from underground at a temperature of 49°C cools down to between 28°C and 35°C inside the two therapeutic swimming pools, carved into the ‘spongy’ travertine. A night swim is something worth making the trip for.
In front, a staircase leads to another two-story house. The grandfather of the family bought the old primary school where, in 1989, Riccardo and Leonardo Marcucci – today producers of the Olio dei Fratelli Marcucci, Azienda Agricola San Francesco – opened the Barrino. Sage-coloured walls, bottles, and black and white photographs of clients when they were children. The bottiglieria is known throughout Tuscany. On Thursdays, live music only and the memory of a concert by Niccolò Fabi which couldn’t be kept secret.
One day, supposedly ‘by chance’, Michil stopped by – “Tuscan hills, Dolomites: landscape is a discipline in which poetry melts into the geography.” Michil Costa of Hotel La Perla in Corvara, who came down from the mountains with his ubiquitous coloured pencils in the pocket of his jacket and a unique philosophy of hospitality – from Val Badia to Val D’Orcia. After one hundred and fifty years, the Marcucci family sold the hotel to the Costa family. Thus, ownership of the hotel passed confidently to another family of professional hoteliers. And coincidentally. The two hotels, La Perla in Corvara (Badia) and Posta Marcucci in Bagno Vignoni, were founded in the same year: 1956. Just a stone’s throw away from Bagno Vignoni is the small town of Santa Caterina, while the small church in Corvara is dedicated to the very same saint. Maybe all of this was predestined: in a photograph hanging on the wall that, like a crescent, curves towards the bar, are zia Licia with Ernesto Costa when they used to go skiing in Val Badia.
Excellent food. The Pici pasta– water, flour, and salt kneaded by hand, chef Matteo can teach you if you like. Meat from the San Quirico butcher shop and oil from Pienza. We could have stayed there for hours listening to Marco, the maître, wax eloquent about the Riecine Super Tuscan wines descended from the Sangiovese tradition.
Via Ara Urcea, 43 Bagno Vignoni SI