Quick Content Guide
- The agriturismo Sant’ Anna in Camprena, in Pienza, Tuscany is one of my all-time favorite places to stay.
- Sant’ Anna in Camprena: a Photo tour of the Monastery and Grounds
- Sant’ Anna in Camprena: the Atmosphere
- Food and Drink
- Location: Sant’ Anna in Camprena is set in the heart of Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia, but is convenient to local hill towns
The agriturismo Sant’ Anna in Camprena, in Pienza, Tuscany is one of my all-time favorite places to stay.
Sant’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.
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
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.
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
Sant’ 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.
All 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
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).
Do you have a favorite agriturismo to recommend in Tuscany? Share in the comments below!
All photos by Souvenir Finder and may not be reused without express permission, except dining room courtesy of Sant’ Anna.