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Sant’ Anna in Camprena Review: Stay in a 15th Century Monastery in Tuscany

The agriturismo Sant’ Anna in Camprena, in Pienza, Tuscany is one of my all-time favorite places to stay.

Sant anna in camprena pienza best agriturismo tuscanySant’Anna in Camprena in Pienza is a former Benedictine monastery with some serious history– it dates all the way back to the 15th century. But unlike other ancient Tuscan properties that have been glammed up beyond recognition with only their original facades intact, Sant’ Anna is the real thing. The monastery has retained all of its original rustic features– long, arched hallways with stone floors, beamed ceilings, imposing wooden doors and even the actual monastic cells that now serve as guest rooms.

In fact, Sant’ Anna is so authentic that it even served as the filming location for the English Patient, where it stood in for the monastery where Ralph Fiennes reveals his bittersweet life story.

cypress trees on drive Sant'Anna in Camprena Pienza TuscanyFrom the moment you pull up the winding, cypress-tree lined drive, you know you are not in your typical agriturismo.

What’s an Agriturismo?

Driving through Tuscany, you will see hand-drawn signs labelled “agriturismo” littering the white roads that weave through the Val D’Orcia.  What is an agriturismo exactly? In literal terms, an agriturismo is a working farm that also provides accommodations. But in Tuscany a “farm” doesn’t necessarily mean chickens and cows– many Tuscan farms produce wine, olive oil or even cheese. Most agriturismos serve at least some meals on the premises, often plucked right from the farm’s gardens or vineyards. You’ll find agriturismos ranging from bare bones to luxury, but they all offer a more personal experience than a hotel.

Sant’ Anna in Camprena: a Photo tour of the Monastery and Grounds

view of Sant'Anna in Camprena Tuscany

The monastery seems imposing from the outside.

Sant'Anna in Camprena Pienza italy agriturismoSant’ Anna in Camprena: the Rooms: Rustic but Cozy

Ralph Fiennes bed English Patient Sant'Anna in Camprena Tuscany

Head upstairs to  Ralph Fiennes’ room (located in one of the original monastic cells).

The furnishings  at Sant’ Anna in Camprena are spare, but tasteful and chosen with care. I noted the baby soft cotton towels, blankets and bedding were made in nearby Perugia.  Although the monastic rooms share baths, the downstairs rooms all have private baths.

Tuscany, Pienza Frescoes (1503) by Antonio Bazzi known as Il Sodoma

Frescoes (1503) by Antonio Bazzi known as Il Sodoma, yours to enjoy during your stay. I came to think of these frescoes as my personal art collection.

best place to stay pienza italy tuscany

Sant’ Anna in Camprena: the Atmosphere

Sant’ Anna is a great fit for low key, self-sufficient travelers who appreciates the authenticity, small details and warmth of Sant’Anna. During our stay, we were the only Americans– there were couples from Germany and Italy, young and old, and even a charming young priest who arrived on bicycle and translated the engraved 15th century Latin phrases over the doorways for guests.

The agriturismo (which is owned by the church) is run by a charming Italian couple, Ornella and Stefano. The vivacious Ornella was always ready to offer recommendations as well as answer all my ridiculous questions.  Although Ornella’s English is excellent, you’ll want to hear her lyrical Italian (everything is bellisimo!)

Food and Drink

Tuscany, Pienza agriturismo Italy Sant' Anna Di Camprena wine cheese shopping souvenirSant’ Anna doesn’t offer meals every night, but on the off nights you can always check out one of nearby Pienza’s trattorias. One night, we skipped dinner altogether and opted for a decadent picnic of cheese and wine instead. Just ask Ornella for a carafe of their delicious organic wine and set up your picnic in the spacious gardens, overlooking the Val D’Orcia hillsides.

sala pranzo_gAll meals at Sant’Anna are served in this ancient dining room– in the evening the room is lit by soft candlelight and chandeliers. When I first saw these long, shared tables I hesitated, as I am not a fan of communal dining.  But it turned out the dining experience wasn’t particularly communal at all– places are set for you prior to your arrival, so you have your own “space.” But in the end we enjoyed our fellow guests so much that we ended up engaging with them over dinner anyway.

Dinner is a spectacular multi-course event, and was one of the reasons why I chose Sant’ Anna. In my research, I came across this colorful and hilarious description of one guest’s  dining experience at Sant’ Anna (spoiler: the review mentions gnawing on duck bones). I actually printed out the review and shared it with the proprietors. Stefano took my printout back to the kitchen and translating into Italian, read it out loud to the entire kitchen staff.

My own dinners at Sant’ Anna lived up to my high expectations. I lost count how many courses we were served, but over the course of two dinners we sampled creative salads, antipasta, homemade pici (made by Ornella’s mother who sometimes helps out in the kitchen), pork, tortes, local Pecorino di Pienza cheese and the famous (and spectacular) duck. Seconds are encouraged and the wine is free-flowing.

Although I was still stuffed silly in the morning, I couldn’t resist Sant’ Anna’s breakfasts– simple but delicious warm croissants, served with our own pot of coffee with steamed milk.

Location: Sant’ Anna in Camprena is set in the heart of Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia, but is convenient to local hill towns

zig zag road Tuscany

This famous zig zag road is only a short drive away.

Pienza restaurants hill town tuscany

The hill town of Pienza is only minutes away and is filled with shops and family-run trattorias.

No matter how spectacular the accommodation, unless I’m planning on spending 24/7 on the grounds, location is a key factor for me. Sant’ Anna is located in heart of the Val D’Orcia, an area known for iconic Tuscan landscapes.

But while scenery is critical, so is convenience– I wanted to be close to hill town life, along with its artisan shops and trattorias.  Sant’ Anna is located right in Pienza, its shops and family-run trattorias are only minutes away.  I also recommend the nearby hill towns of Montelpulciano (great for shopping, read about my finds here), and a family-run farm just down the street where you can watch sheep graze on hillsides while you pick up  a wheel of Pecorino di Pienza cheese (read about it here).

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Do you have a favorite agriturismo to recommend in Tuscany? Share in the comments below!

Details:
Sant’Anna in Camprena, 53026 Pienza
Tel/ 0578 748037 info@camprena.it
Room rates vary; We paid 80 euros/night for a room with private bath and 20 euros for dinner with wine

All photos by Souvenir Finder and may not be reused without express permission, except dining room courtesy of Sant’ Anna.

9 Responses to Sant’ Anna in Camprena Review: Stay in a 15th Century Monastery in Tuscany

  1. sueslaght 04/01/2014 at 4:06 pm #

    Looks fabulous! We are cycling in Tuscany in the fall however all the accommodations are booked already.

    • Kristin Francis 04/01/2014 at 4:52 pm #

      Ohh envious! There are so many great places to stay in Tuscany, it’s really hard to go wrong. Watch out for those very steep hills though!!

  2. Rolling Harbour 04/02/2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Looks completely wonderful… definitely bookmarking this one for the future! RH

    • Kristin Francis 04/03/2014 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks RH!

  3. Rolling Harbour 04/02/2014 at 2:20 pm #

    PS is your ‘Like’ button a casualty of your stylish revamp?

    • Kristin Francis 04/03/2014 at 8:49 am #

      I’m not on wordpress.com anymore– I went self-hosted! So glad to see a familiar face because I no longer appear in the reader. : (
      I think the “likes” did transfer but I am not tech savvy enough to have figured that out yet!

  4. Escape Hunter 04/08/2014 at 7:46 am #

    What I adore the most about Toscana is that the views resemble those ancient paintings. Your photo with the “zig-zag” road illustrates perfectly what I mean… the old Italian paitings seem to show exaggerated dream landscapes, but no, they’re real!

    • Kristin Francis 04/09/2014 at 8:49 am #

      Tuscany real does feel like a movie set! We had to keep pulling over to check out the views!

  5. Heidy 07/16/2015 at 5:26 pm #

    I’m so glad I found this! I love Tuscany! My sister and I visited Montepulciano, Siena, Florence and Lucca a few years back. I fell in love with the area. It’s just so dreamy and peaceful. I told myself I’d go back but it hasn’t happened yet. This post just revived those feeling again. Thank you

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