Little did owners Jeanette and Claus Thottrup realize that when they discovered Borgo Santo Pietro in 2001, they were entering a land whose inhabitants dated back nearly 2500 years, steeped in history, legend, mysticism, sacred and healing rites.
When the Danish couple happened upon the 800-year-old villa that was a derelict ruin surrounded by muddy fallow fields, it was incontestable that that was the place they were destined to transform. Intertwining their professional backgrounds in fashion design and property design and development, as well as being accomplished travellers themselves, the Thottrups longed to create a sort of nurturing haven of beauty and relaxation.
As the potent energy of the place began to lend inspiration, the metamorphosis of the landscape materialized as each of nearly 300,000 plants was thoughtfully placed which would gradually become thirteen spacious acres of garden utopia. Stone by stone Italian artisans began restoring the ancient ruin as its design began to emerge into a sizeable villa once again. After seven years of arduous tenacity, considerate care and committed hard work, Borgo Santo Pietro opened its doors in 2008. What was originally intended to be a family home has since grown into an award-winning 200-acre estate and luxury boutique hotel in Tuscany where the modern-day pilgrim enters an unsurpassed healing stratosphere of its own. Above all, it is a place where one feels immediately at ease and at home.
In some way or another, the past inhabitants of Borgo San Pietro have been tied to the energy of the land and to its restorative and natural qualities. For the past few centuries, it has housed local farming families whose descendants have passed down the local history and can still recall the communal feats and festivities tied to the rhythms of the agricultural year. In desperate times, the land provided refuge for the local partisans who hid beneath its nearby caves during Italy’s occupation in World War II. In Borgo’s ancient vecchio forno (oven house), baked goods were made here well into the 20th century, and locals recount that oftentimes, stray travellers would be discovered sleeping near its heat when the baker arrived for work each day.
Not far from the famous Via Francigena — the historical route from Canterbury to Rome and to the Holy Land beyond — the pilgrim spirit of the Borgo San Pietro can be dated back to medieval times when it was used as a lazzaretto (quarantine house), offering rest, health and recuperation to medieval pilgrims. Under the stewardship of the Knights Templars, from 1185 onwards pilgrims would detour to the nearby Montesiepi Hermitage to pay homage to the tomb of Templar Knight San Galgano and witness his miraculous sword in the stone. As a result of the increasing number of pilgrims, in 1220 construction commenced on the imposing Cistercian Abbey of San Galgano located directly below the Hermitage. It was the first Gothic building of Italy and over the centuries, represented an important road junction and reference point for travelers, pilgrims and people of all kinds in the Val di Merse.
During the Etruscan rule over Tuscany between 900BC – 300BC, archeological evidence suggests that Etruscans inhabited the Val di Merse, whose presence was imprinted in collective memory in the name given to the field below Borgo San Pietro, on the opposite bank of the River Merse: Campora delle Tombe, the Field of Tombs.
As Borgo Santo Pietro expands, it remains connected to its past and the sense of community that has shaped its history. Entwined around a pilgrim’s staff on its coat of arms are three symbolic healing Mediterranean herbs: rosemary (remembrance of things past), marjoram (the joy of living the present moment) and basil (love, well wishes and protection to come): the heritage that is carried forward as Borgo Santo Pietro continues to offer unprecedented guest experiences by uniting the salve of nature and comfort luxury at the highest level.
Fortuitously, the estate surrounding Borgo Santo Pietro stands full of abundance once again to serve today’s guests. It’s flourishing organic farm, culinary and herb gardens and artisan cheese dairy provide the inspiration and ingredients for its ‘farm to plate’ philosophy, which guests can enjoy at its two Michelin-starred restaurants Meo Modo and La Bottega del Buon Caffè; or at its Sull’Albero Trattoria, Brasserie & Bar; or in the hands-on the Borgo Cooking School. A sense of integrated wellness and total relaxation permeates the hotel and estate, with a holistic spa and adjacent skincare laboratory that produces Borgo Santo Pietro’s own range of 100 percent natural skin products alchemized from the land itself.