About the Borgo
ABOUT THE BORGO
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BORGO
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BORGO
Borgo Finocchieto, unique among Tuscan properties, is a beautifully and elegantly restored eight-hundred year old village (or borgo), with stunning views of surrounding hills, valleys and towns. John Phillips, the owner of the Borgo, is an American of Italian ancestry and former U.S. Ambassador to Italy from 2013 to early 2017; he purchased the property in 2001 and spent the next eight years planning and overseeing the Borgo’s extensive renovation. The Borgo is four kilometers to the west of the small town of Buonconvento, and just a few more kilometers north of the much revered wine capital of Montalcino. Siena is just thirty minutes away, Florence an hour’s drive, and Rome reachable in two and a half hours.
Situated in the most tranquil of settings on a rural hillside in the province of Siena in central Tuscany, the Borgo is located directly on the historic Via Francigena, the medieval pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. It connected the monastic stopovers of Monte Oliveto and Sant Antimo and most likely hosted scores of pilgrims, merchants and adventurers through the centuries. (Just down the hill, Buonconvento - literally “good gathering place” - owes its own existence to travelers need for rest and exchange.) The Borgo’s piazza was both a crossroads of the world and a place where the day-to-day personal interactions fundamental to life took place over hundreds of years.
The Borgo encompasses twenty two bedrooms arranged around its central piazza, allowing it to function as its own community. Gathering spaces include a formal dining room and outdoor dining terrace, a living room with grand piano and study, media room, library, bar, conference facility and ballroom accommodating up to 70 people, cantina and wine tasting room, a professional teaching kitchen, an interior arcaded courtyard, a piazza, and extensive lawn and garden spaces with various shaded benches and a gazebo. Recreational facilities include a 60-foot oval swimming pool, a fully equipped gym, spa, tennis and basketball court, and bocce court. Individual suites are ample, luxurious, and private, while the public spaces are intended to encourage coming together in all the forms that might take.
Such gatherings most often include family reunions and special get-togethers, academic reunions, and retreats for groups united by special interests such as wine, cooking, art, architecture, music, history, biking or other athletic pursuits. It also serves as a place for corporate retreats and team-building. Finally, it is ideally suited as a place to share ideas: A literary gathering, perhaps timed to follow the Milan book fair, a political brainstorming session, or a conference on international human rights. All of these uses, adapted to modern times, are true to the Borgo s storied history.
HISTORY AND REVIVAL
Borgo Finocchieto was a farming village passed between wealthy Tuscan families for centuries, populated by sharecroppers who worked the surrounding farmland for their livelihood. The agricultural extension of La Torre, the castle that sits behind it, Borgo Finocchieto is first mentioned in a tax and land audit from 1318 which listed it as a possession of the Giulieschi family, at the time owners of the greater Bibbiano area.
This pattern of noble land ownership and resident sharecroppers continued for centuries until the 16th century to the middle of the 17th century, at which time the noble Manor House or casa padronale, which we now call Borgo Finocchieto, appears to have been used as a country retreat for a noble family.
Most likely, the Manor house was constructed by the Borghesi (later to become the famous Borghese family of Rome), when together with La Torre, the Borgo appears to have remained their last land possession in the area. Alternatively it may have happened when the Mignanelli family sold La Torre, creating the need for newer, more grandiose country quarters.
The architecture of the manor appears to be in line with the Sienese trend of rebuilding and refurbishing properties in the medieval style, incorporating crenellations and older stone windows for dramatic effect -- a forceful nod back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the power of the city and the region was at its height.
After the Borgo was abandoned as a noble country retreat, it returned to its previous incarnation as an agricultural center for as long as the sharecropping system in Tuscany survived, well into the twentieth century. During this time the property underwent numerous adaptations as residents made the most of the structures they had available to them.
As late as the 1960’s, dozens of people were still living in the Borgo’s houses in a tightly-knit community, struggling to eke out an existence in agriculture and animal husbandry. However, one by one the residents of Finocchieto left for new opportunities in local industry and the comforts of modern living. The last person to live there, an elderly man with his dogs, departed Finocchieto in the 1980’s, leaving it empty and untended.
By 2000, all that remained of Borgo Finocchieto and its centuries-long history was a ruin, the skeleton of a once-thriving rural community. Its houses and sheds were left abandoned around a central piazza of dirt and tire marks. Ivy and weeds covered rooftops and pulled apart masonry, while some structures collapsed entirely.
The Borgo’s owner, John Phillips, purchased the property in 2001. He approached the reconstruction of the Borgo with passion, teaming with a local architect and a crew of builders who had spent lifetimes working with traditional materials and old methods. Wherever possible, structures, walls, archways, windows and doorways were left untouched. The state of disrepair demanded that much be rebuilt, but meticulous care was taken to focus on preserving the surviving structures and employing traditional methods. In some cases, such as the manor house, decorative elements such as door and window treatments, stenciling and original paint colors were faithfully reproduced, while wooden beams, arches and ceilings were restored to their original splendor.
After ten years of planning and reconstruction, the Manor House finally returned to what was, perhaps, its original function, the country retreat of a noble Tuscan family. The other houses, including at one point a chapel and the housing for the peasants and livestock, have new purpose after decades of disuse. Details like the communal outdoor brick oven and the time-worn steps leading to the main floor of the Manor serve as reminders that despite modern comforts, the Borgo’s history is long and rich.
Please click here to view the video “Revival of a Tuscan Village.” It shows the condition of the Borgo before construction began, the progress of the renovation, and interviews with historians, architects and former residents of the Borgo, all with interesting and unique perspectives on the history of the Borgo and the profound changes it has witnessed.
“What you have done is absolutely extraordinary...
[we] simply shake our heads in wonder trying to understand how you had the vision and the perseverance to accomplish this. It is an eloquent statement of respect for the past and an abiding gift to the future.”
tom and claire bettag, washington dc
The Borgo derives its name from the Italian word Finocchieto which means an orchard -- or fields -- of fennel, the hardy, yellow-flowered perennial herb. Sweet fennel grows wild all over Tuscany in fields, hedgerows, at roadsides, along the railway, and in gardens. Borgo Finocchieto was no doubt known locally for the wild fennel plants growing on neighboring slopes. It has certainly had the name since 1318, and perhaps for much longer.
To this day, when the wild fennel seeds ripen every year at the end of August, gatherers of all types go to work collecting the seeds that will flavor the delicious local salami, finocchiona. It has been eaten for centuries, usually on thick slices of unsalted bread and accompanied with a glass of red wine. The farm at Finocchieto, like many Tuscan country properties no longer in agricultural use, has found a new lease on life. Its name, however, will link it to the old way of life and the tradition of eating slices of finocchiona with bread and wine, reminding those who enjoy its stone walls and quiet, beautiful setting of the thousands who have already appreciated the same delights in its long history.
VIEWS, GROUNDS, AND LANDSCAPES
Borgo Finocchieto perches on a ridge in the area of the confluence of two major Tuscan rivers, the Ombrone and the Arbia, which later join with the Merse and the Orcia to flow into the Tyrrhenian south of Grosseto. Nearby the stark clay cliffs of the Crete Senese give way to the rolling green of the river valley. The Borgo’s position at one of the highest elevations in the area (246 meters) afford it an unparalleled view of the surrounding countryside.
To the northeast is Buonconvento, where one can see the medieval walls and two towers of its historical center. Beyond Buonconvento, past undulating hills, it is possible to make out the tower of the monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, and perched on a hilltop nearby are the clay brick walls of the tiny hamlet of Chiusure. From Buonconvento, one can also follow the line of the Via Cassia as it snakes its way south, stopping at the earth colored roofs of Torrenieri and continuing on to San Quirico d’ Orcia. From the Borgo’s highest windows, it is even possible to see the town of Pienza with its white church tower on clear days.
When visibility is good, the blue outline of Monte Amiata dominates the southeastern landscape. A local saying goes, “if Amiata wears a hat, bring an umbrella,” so farmers look there first for their weather. Beginning at Torrenieri and heading west are the vineyards of Montalcino, including Altesino, Val di Suga, and Paradiso, which among others are visible from the Borgo. These vineyards work their way up the hill to the town of Montalcino with its Rocca fortress and various church spires. Montalcino’s northwestern side gives way to thick forest, with farmland below. The panorama ends with another farm and finally, the crenellated walls of Villa La Torre.
"In the morning I enjoyed opening the shutters of my comfortable bedroom to look out over the rolling Tuscan hills. In almost every direction there is a picture perfect view of Tuscany in all of its grandeur."
h. j. schulte, md, scottsdale, az
The fields surrounding Finocchieto are working fields in rotation, the most common crops of the area being grain, wheat, orzo, or oats, but often including sunflowers and corn. It is also typical to find meadows of lucerne, clover, and colza. Nearby rivers and a largely temperate climate make the rich clay fields useable for most of the year, while resting during the winter months.
The yellow, tiny-budding flowers in early spring are broom, or ginestra, while the bright green fields of spring are typically wheat. In May striking red fields of poppies, papaveri, color the landscape. These give way to sunflowers, corn and rapeseed that line the roads in summer. Year round, one can see the proliferation of vineyards that cover an overwhelming percentage of the land around Montalcino, mixed with olive groves and the classic cypresses that line roads and gather in clusters.
Peter Curzon, the landscape architect who cares for the famous English gardens at Villa La Foce in Montepulciano, was chosen to oversee the design of the six acres of outdoor spaces at Borgo Finocchieto. Curzon created a visually pleasing and aromatically stunning arrangement of plants: cypresses, lavender, rosemary, varieties of sage, bay laurel, jasmine, roses, lime trees and many others. The wandering nature of the Borgo s gardens creates a peaceful setting, with ample rolling lawns of green grass, water features and cobblestone paths.
The hills surrounding the Borgo are rich with wildlife of various shapes and sizes. Most of the year the property is busy with small animals like birds and lizards. In spring and summer, the chatter of swallows grows into a symphony, and the many trees on the grounds are filled with other nesting birds including the occasional bee-eater and hoopoe. Yearlong residents include Eurasian jays, European robins, wagtails and finches. Flocks of thrushes fill the skies in the fall as they arrive to winter in Tuscany. Pheasants dot the territory, wandering in and out the Borgo’s thick shrubs and occasionally letting out a trumpet to attract the attention of a mate. It’s also not uncommon to see hawks riding the skies around the hill on which the Borgo sits.
“My memory is always anchored in the early morning, sitting on the bench that looks down in the fog filled valley below, the silence broken only by the occasional sound of a train running in the mist and the birds calling from the hills. The place really is magical.”
john j. frey iii, madison, wi
ALL THE BORGO HAS TO OFFER
The Borgo specializes in creating unforgettable, custom-tailored experiences for gatherings of all kinds. Guests come together at our village to unwind, bond, and exchange ideas, to celebrate anniversaries, reunions and weddings or attend retreats. Here every detail has been thought of, with impeccable service that puts all at ease. Whether a family gathering or a corporate retreat, our staff of 19 professionals -- including general manager and concierge -- will ensure the success of your trip, providing support every step of the way to help you make the most of your time in Tuscany.
What follows is a list of the wealth of services, facilities, equipment, amenities and resources available to you during your stay at the Borgo.
ACCOMMODATIONS – 22 BEDROOMSManor House: Nine suites
Fede: Four rooms, one suite
Santa Teresa: Three rooms, one suite
Filippi: Two suites
Colussi: Two rooms
Living Room with grand piano
Media Room - satellite television, DVDs, games
Interior Arcaded Courtyard
Ballroom for 50, advanced sound system, stage for performers
DINING FACILITIESFormal Dining Room - seats up to 34
Family Dining Room - seats up to 10
Wine Tasting Room - seats up to 20
Professional Teaching Kitchen
cooking lessons up to eight participants
Outdoor Dining Terrace - seats up to 44
Dining under the Pergola - seats up to 20
Full Wet Bar
GROUNDSExtensive Lawn and Garden Spaces - over six acres with expansive lawns and dozens of aromatic and indigenous plants and trees; benches and chairs for rest, reading and conversation; panoramic views
Underground and outdoor parking -- up to 10 vehicles indoors and 20 outdoors
RECREATIONAL FACILITIES AND ACTIVITIES(All equipment included)
Pool: 60 foot oval with lounges, chairs, tables, refreshment center, towels and inflatables
17 Cybex machines
Bench and free weights
Exercise mats and balls
Bicycles (five mountain and eight titanium road bikes)
CONFERENCE FACILITIESConference and Meeting Facility seating up to seventy, with state-of-the-art media and projection equipment
Breakout rooms nearby
Concierge and Business Center
Wi-Fi complimentary throughout the property
Outdoor spaces adjacent to plenary room for coffee breaks
SERVICES AND AMENITIESBreakfast (buffet and dishes made to order)
prepared by private chef
Full staff of 19 including general manager, concierge,
executive chef and kitchen staff, wait staff, bartender,
service, housekeepers, gardener, etc.
Itinerary and travel assistance
Daily housekeeping and evening turndown
Gym and spa area attendant, chilled bottled water and towels
Daily stocked snacks in all suites and in all villa pantries
Mini bars stocked daily in all suites of the Manor House
Refrigerators stocked daily in each of the village houses
High speed internet, wireless connectivity (property wide)
iPod docking stations with surround sound in each room
Individual a/c and radiant heat control in each bedroom and suite
Screens on all windows and most doors
Full bath amenities: shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, plus
body wash and body lotion by ETRO
Personal phone number with messaging feature
(all bedrooms and suites)
Guest book in each bedroom and suite
AVAILABLE ON REQUESTLunch and dinner prepared to order by private chef
Aperitivo served on the lawn, in the courtyard or at the bar
Travel arrangements by car, bus, or helicopter
Expert, private guides available for excursions
Car and scooter rentals delivered on site
Babysitting and relief help
Wine tastings and area winery tours
Yoga and tennis professionals
Helicopter and hot air balloon rides
Horseback riding excursion
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why would we want exclusive use of the property if we are not going to fill all 22 rooms?
The privacy that the Borgo can offer to large family gatherings or groups is unique. The property is gated and on a secluded hilltop with no outside visitors. Your group can dine undisturbed, and you can relax knowing that the pool, spa and gym facilities are for your group only. This, along with an unimposing yet outstanding level of service, help make the Borgo feel like home.
The Borgo was created with the goal of bringing groups of people closer together. The intimate arrangement of bedrooms and public spaces is uniquely conducive to socializing and sharing. While those coming for a university reunion or a professional retreat may not necessarily know all other couples or families ahead of time, a strong motivation for hosting these events at the Borgo is to give guests a chance to get to know one another better.
An exclusive booking guarantees the level of privacy we are proud to offer. In response to requests that we provide opportunities to accommodate smaller groups, however, we are now offering limited occasions when the property will be opened to sharing with other guests at specific times of the year. Please contact us for more information about this opportunity.
Is your chef available for lunches and dinners?
While a hearty breakfast is already included in your rental, it is possible to have lunch and dinner catered according to your needs. We find our groups benefit greatly from a gourmet-yet-convenient lunch buffet, a flexible option for those who prefer to unwind on the property. As for dinner, our Chef Daniele Cioffi commonly prepares three-course meals that surprise and delight, yet don t leave guests feeling overfed. The evening meal also includes an aperitivo (weather permitting, served either in the garden or in the courtyard) with cocktails and charming hors d’oeuvres; a dessert course; and after-dinner drinks.
Is the Borgo suitable for children?
The secluded, well-contained nature of the property and numerous opportunities for entertainment (both on-site and easily arranged off-site) have created a place where parents find they can readily relax with their children. On-site amenities that are kid favorites include the swimming pool (complete with inflatable toys), tennis and basketball courts, and a media center complete with DVD player, Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3. There are also several adult-size bicycles for older children.
Additionally, a great number of fun outings can be organized from horse-back riding to helicopter tours of Siena or hot air balloon rides from nearby Montisi. Our chef is happy to cater to younger palates and staff can help you stockpile your childrens’ favorite snacks.
Can the Borgo arrange guided tours or babysitting services for children while the parents are off property?
Part of what makes the Borgo feel like home is the flexibility we can offer in our services. With reasonable notice our staff can organize babysitting services so you can enjoy a romantic dinner off the property or visit churches in Siena without the need to convince the little ones to join you. Please contact us for more information about the costs of these and similar services.
Can the Borgo organize our transfers to and from the property?
Borgo staff regularly book airport and other transfers, giving guests hassle-free travel options (these include car, helicopter and bus transportation).
Is it ever possible to rent a single room for a night or two?
As described above in the answer to the first question, the Borgo strives to provide guests with the highest levels of comfort and privacy which is achieved through an exclusive property rental.
Due to the size of the property and the care that goes into preparing for our guests, our minimum requirement is three nights for an exclusive stay. If you require any assistance in organizing a large group, please do not hesitate to inquire. During the time periods when the Borgo will be available for use by smaller groups or individuals, it will be possible to rent a single house or an individual room. Please contact us to be notified when these possibilities arise.
Can we leave our itinerary up in the air, and decide what to do when we get there?
If you want to attend a special event like the bi-annual Palio in Siena or perhaps an opera in Florence, these types of events require advance notice to organize successfully.
However, we recommend that you leave other, last-minute planning to us. Once on the property you’ll know how much sight-seeing you’re up for, and that is the best time for us to help you with the details. If there is a particular activity or site that you or your guests have in mind, you can inform us beforehand with the pre-arrival questionnaire.
What can spouses do while conference meetings are held?
The Borgo is a unique property that combines the intimacy and comfort of a Tuscan villa with the convenience and services of a hotel. Conference attendees benefit from knowing that their significant others find ample entertainment on the property during meeting hours: leisurely breakfast followed by a walk, a trip to the gym for some exercise or the spa for a visit to the steam bath, a bike ride, reading a library book by the pool or simply visiting with other guests.
Is it a good idea for individual group members to rent a car?
Families or group members that wish to be independent for sightseeing purposes could benefit from renting a car. It is by no means a necessity, however, as Borgo staff can arrange any transfers you may need, including to our train station in Buonconvento.
Can individual group members use the Borgo’s services for itinerary planning?
If you are coming to the Borgo as part of a group, the staff is available to arrange transfers and help groups or individuals plan their daily itinerary. Sign-up sheets will be available to help group members reserve bicycles, massages and other activities. Our staff will be more than happy to help you in planning any day trips you have in mind.
What do I do if I have a food allergy or special requests?
Let our staff know of any special requests using the detailed pre-arrival questionnaire, or send us a separate email.
What airports do you recommend?
While the closest airport is in Florence (Peretola) at 1.5 hours by car, Rome (Fiumicino) is an alternative (between 2.5 and 3 hours distance) and Pisa airport is 2 hours and 40 minutes away.
Please contact us with additional questions or clarifications at: firstname.lastname@example.org