In Search of Tranquility
The panoramic views from this Tuscan vacation residence are what legends are made of. As I parked the car and my eyes began to roam the stone Tuscan farmhouse, the rich green gardens and the wide open spaces, I was captured by the quiet and beauty of Borgo Sicelle.
Just about 10 km from Castellina in Chianti, with is busy little city center and cantinas, and I find myself pulled into a silent and magical world. Franco and Silvia, the owners, approached me in a relaxed and calm manner, giving me a hint to the laid back atmosphere to be found at the 10 self catering apartments.
Borgo Sicelle & It’s Place in History
Delving through the documentation of the area Franco and Silvia learned that Borgo Sicelle has always enjoyed a prime position looming over the borders of Florence and Siena. And those same documents show how the trade between these two rival areas is exactly what gave this little borgo a name on the map.
The word "sicelle" appears to be a transformation of the Italian word sigillo which means seal - as in the seal placed on important documents to testify that the goods have crossed borders and paid taxes. The stem is a mix of half Florence (the giglio flower) and half Siena (the white over black).
The Panorama is Singular
- stretch from east to west,
- cover sunrise to sunset,
- expose the vineyards of Panzano and the olive groves in San Donato
- and - these very same views include the northernmost points in the province of Siena and one of the more southern points in the province of Florence....
These 4 reasons are not open to speculation. They are simply a breathtaking fact.
One that you will enjoy every time you go down to the pool, picnic on the terracotta terrace, sun in one of the little alcoves with chaise lounge chairs or prepare your BBQ dinner.
Another fun fact: the two buildings which hold the one and two bedroom holiday apartments are in the province of Siena, near the famous town of Castellina in Chianti while the parking area in front of the reception is in the province of Florence, near the quaint little town San Donato in Poggio and not too far from the superstrada that span part of Tuscany.
Just a quick step and you can be standing in Florence or Siena...
A Family Business
A Review of Borgo Sicelle
We loved: the simple yet pristine accommodations
Ideal for: from families or groups, perfect for exploring Chianti, Siena and Florence
But this fun game of boundaries only adds to the natural and simple charm of the spacious self catering apartments. The structure has been fully restored (and there are a few exciting ideas on the horizon.) The apartments are divided between what is believed to be the “casa padronale” or the owner's house and other buildings which once served as the barn. Franco told me how they had “discovered” the house while doing repair work on the parish church which stands in front of the residence. “My father and I thought it a good investment, in a beautiful position and as time went on, we no longer thought of reselling but living the house.”
The idea to turn it into 10 self catering apartments for visiting tourists was not an easy first step; they started with just a few apartments. Watched and learned how their guests used the space that was restored and then modified the new apartments so that they grew with the request. When they saw how many guests enjoyed eating on the terrace above the pool they decided to include easy to carry baskets in the apartments for transporting all their picnic supplies.
Or when they saw how their guests enjoyed the BBQ they offered two types: easy and quick gas or the more flavourful carbon, which Franco constructed himself. Or even how much the families seemed to appreciate the garden areas so they placed toys and games in separate areas so they could spread out in the shade. Franco said it was a slow process but definitely one that has created an environment that the guests live (and relive, because many come back for a second third and fourth time).
Dedication to an Authentic Experience
When I asked Franco and Silvia how much time they spend at Borgo Sicelle, I noticed the look that passed between them. “We are ‘gomito a gomito’ with our guests, because we are always here!” Loosely translated they are present: caring for the gardens, checking the pool, cleaning up the apartments and pretty much doing whatever needs to be done as well as offering assistance to their guests.
In fact, when I asked them what there was to do in the area, it was with pleasure that I saw they were very sensitive to the many activities that this area provides not only for adults but also for families. You could see they had constant contact with their guests and they understood that price mattered; they were up to date on how to make it stretch. One of their favorite suggestions was the outdoor pizza place in San Donato near the local supermarket. Simple traditional dishes, served at a more than reasonable price. “I see how the guests really like the familiar atmosphere, the locals that come and go, the fact that the food is simple, good and at a price which is great for families. It is a bit like a sagra but it lasts all summer long.”
A Vacation to be Lived Outside
Borgo Sicelle in a Glance:
Type: Budget Accommodations
Location: Castellina in Chianti, 11 km (15 min)
Distance: Florence (40 min) & Siena (40 min)
Transport: a car is necessary
Type of board: no meals included
When we took a tour around the farmhouses, you can see that the restructuring was done with care and precision - after all, it was the family business before they immersed themselves in the business of vacation homes. I loved the way Franco and his father translated their personal tastes into the architecture and decor of the apartments. Simple and functional. “We wanted something that was easy to keep clean, our guests need to feel that the rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are clean - I mean really clean. To me, the best way is to have a minimalist approach to the decor.”
There are some lovely soft touches to the decor which make it appealing and delicate, but the noticeable lack of excessive furnishing makes it truly a refreshing environment for a holiday in Tuscany. His ever present smile grew just a bit as he told me
“Besides, when I am on vacation I want to live the outdoors - so we concentrate on offering lots of possibilities, tables, chairs, games and places to sit and eat outside as opposed to filling up the insides.”
It works for me! The beautiful views from this position are definitely what makes you remember you are in Tuscany.
It's Easy to Enjoy Tuscany From Borgo Sicelle
They are working on expanding their offer to include even more outdoor activities but you will have to keep in touch with them to know what surprises they have in store for you. For now just know that they can guarantee beautiful views that encompass the wide diversity of landscapes in Tuscany - when it's available, a bottle of wine from the Uncle's vineyard and the convenience of being close to one of the main Tuscany highways (less than a 10 min drive to the west), the historic town of Castellina in Chianti to the east - and Florence and Siena...well you can definitely have a foot in both areas without even trying.
Florence, which is less than a 30 minute drive from the hilltop and Siena (a 45 minute drive) are really just two of the many areas that you can visit easily from here. I arrived from Panzano, whose skyline is clearly visible from the pool, and I noticed just how easy it was to get around in Chianti from Borgo Sicelle: Castellina, Radda, Panzano and Greve were out my finger tips. Then I departed following the short road down to San Donato and the back roads to San Gimignano and Montespertoli. Everything is an easy and comfortable day trip - wine tasting, good food and views and picturesque points of interest.
No Bragging Necessary, it Speaks for Itself
The atmosphere is unassuming perhaps even a bit demure...but then there is no need for them to exaggerate when the stunning views of Chianti are practically 360°. Franco and Silvia definitely give lots of room to the landscape, letting it speak for itself. The protagonist in your holiday vacation at Borgo Sicelle won’t be the modest, yet completely functional apartment, the clean refreshing pool or even the attentive and informative hosts; the main player in a vacation at Borgo is the typical Chianti landscape which gives constant homage to Florence and Siena.
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