Villa Armena is uniquely Tuscan. Located just a half hour away from Siena, the villa is perched on a hill in Buonconvento. While most properties in the area are run by foreign investment and have a cosmopolitan atmosphere, Villa Armena is as authentic Italian as you get. The charming building offers everything a guest could want, yet, with just ten rooms, it manages to maintain a sense of being at home. The owner Edoardo Giacone and his wife Elena never planned to get into the hotel industry, but sometimes the best things happen by chance. After eleven years of living in the UK, Edoardo and Elena decided in 2007 that they had to get away. Convinced by the beautiful photos, they booked a holiday to a boutique hotel in central Italy. However, when they arrived they were disappointed by what they found and between them they realised that they could do something much better if they tried. Gradually, the idea of their own hotel began to evolve and the rest is history.
Edoardo, his mother and Elena searched endlessly, as Edoardo recalls “if we were going to change our lives completely, we had to find something seriously cool.” Luckily for us, they did. When they first encountered Villa Armena, it was just a façade; the interior was totally derelict, but they all had the same feeling about it. The villa was built in the first half of the sixteenth century by Baldassarre Peruzzi, the renowned Renaissance architect, for the noble Malavolti family. Finding the perfect place was just the first step. The second step was getting the money to renovate it. Those were hard times “Italy was still recovering from the economic crisis and we were young, with no experience, who was going to lend us money?” explains Edoardo. Eventually, they managed to convince a small local bank to lend them money. As a listed monument, there was two years’ worth of paperwork and bureaucracy before the building could begin.
Finally, in April 2012, Villa Armena opened and it was well worth the wait. Edoardo and Elena, with the help of EAE design studio, breathed life back to the crumbling structure. Each bedroom is fitted with luxurious, classical furnishings. Everything from the linen to the toiletries and the gowns is custom made by local designers. The rooms may be reminiscent of the renaissance history, but the bathrooms are spacious and contemporary.
“if we were going to change our lives completely, we had to find something seriously cool.”
After all, Edoardo believes the most important thing is that “the guests have plenty of space to relax and unwind after exploring the Tuscan towns.” It goes without saying that the hotel’s Il Sorbo Allegro is an authentic gourmet establishment. All the food is made from local and seasonal produce, coupled with an exquisite wine list including wines from lesser known vineyards. Everything from the bread to the ice-cream is made on site. The kitchen is decorated with the same local philosophy; all the furnishings are sourced nearby and the exposed brickwork remains from 1400. The atmospheric wine cellar also combines some of the old with the new. For instance, as you descend the staircase you will find the baptismal font taken from the abbey of Monte Oliveto. In Villa Armena’s typically unique fashion, the green pool is shaped like a rock pool on the beach, made from quartz stone and sand. Essential is that guests come away feeling like they have been visiting friends, as Edoardo explains “we wanted to provide a friendly atmosphere so that guests feel like they have friends and family in Italy”. Don’t we all wish we had such friends and family with a villa like Armena?
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