Hotel Le Renaie: As Warm As The Heart of Tuscany
It was early evening and close to dinnertime when we arrived at Hotel Le Renaie in Pancole, and the girl at the Reception desk was quick to have the kitchen staff prepare for two last-minute guests. I was thankful to be here after an interesting white-knuckle ride from Florence - my husband was testing out our unexpected rental car (a brand new Alfa Romeo Giulia - the opposite of our usual slow travel in Tuscany, but so much more fun!) on the dark winding roads through Tuscany. My big exhale on arrival brought an even bigger smile from Elisa at reception like a warm enveloping hug. Great first impression! This would be our “home away from home” for the next three nights, and we were so excited to be exploring the Italian countryside on our own, even if our wheels had changed slightly from the Fiat 500 we’d actually reserved!
Hotel Le Renaie is a moderately priced, 3-star accommodation in the heart of Tuscany, and a comfortable one at that. Decorated with a traditional Tuscan palette and light, rustic furnishings, it has a very homey and inviting appeal not only in the rooms, but also in the downstairs common areas and outside among the grounds.
We’d reserved a Superior room which had a roomy outdoor balcony looking across the fields and vineyards to San Gimignano. Though the room was smaller than I'd imagined for a “Superior” room, it was comfortable, with a small room safe, complementary Wi-Fi, mini bar and satellite TV. The step-up bathroom had a roomy step-in shower.
Breakfast in included with your room stay and it is substantial and delicious. The buffet includes lots of options for every taste and dietary requirement: fresh fruit, eggs, cold meats and cheeses, and tons of homemade pastry for indulging your sweet tooth (and you're in Italy, so why not!).
We especially enjoyed the 24-hour reception in a place like Tuscany, which has a tendency to keep you lingering longer in one place than you mean to (we found ourselves strolling in pretty late one night after shooting sunset pics several hours away). The staff was always knowledgable and willing to help no matter how late it was.
What We LoveD
Hotel Le Renaie is ideally situated in the small hamlet of Pancole, just a few kilometers outside the stunning medieval (and very touristy) town of San Gimignano, with world-renowned wineries just minutes away. In fact, the fabulous view from your hotel breakfast table looks right out over to the town. If you’re thinking you need to stay in the heart of places like Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano or others to be in the center of the action, you may want to reconsider. Driving around Tuscany is relatively easy, but getting in and out of historic towns can be tricky with narrow one-way streets, restricted traffic zones (ZTL), and massive tourist crowds exploring on foot. Finding a premium parking spot can be a downright drag even if your city hotel provides parking. Much better to stay close enough but just outside the town limits.
There’s no lack of amazing views within walking distance of the hotel. Put on your most comfy shoes and head out on foot. These views below are all within a 20-minute walk from the hotel:
If you’re longing for those iconic views of Tuscany - and you have a rental car - Pancole makes a perfect base from which to see and explore them all. Volterra to the west is about an hour drive through breathtaking, winding mountain roads. Siena is an easy drive - just catch the highway at Poggibonsi (say it with an Italian accent, it's even more fun) and it’s less than an hour south. Past Siena, the stunning Val d’Orcia opens up after every twist and turn of the road. You've seen these postcard perfect views before in magazines with poplar tree-lined country roads and fields of grazing sheep. It's just an hour drive past Siena, to towns like Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano, where you'll see them in person. It's breathtaking!
The flower and vegetable gardens at the hotel are serene and peaceful to walk through and photograph any time of day, but especially in the early morning with heavy mist in the air and late afternoon with that gorgeous Tuscan sunlight.
Ristorante Bar Leonetto
Hotel Le Renaie’s on-site restaurant, Ristorante Bar Leonetto, is a draw for hotel guests and non-guests as well for good reason - the food is terrific. We even met several patrons who walked to the restaurant from local agriturismos in the area. Guests can dine inside or out, but if the weather is nice, ask for the terrace next to the flower garden.
Ristorante Leonetto’s menu serves up hearty Tuscan cuisine from fresh pastas, unique salads and their specialities of the house: Florentine T-bone bistecca, and “Ribollita” the traditional bread and vegetable stew. We were equally impressed with their extensive wine list, featuring several from local wineries and some pretty famous Tuscan wines as well. We had several excellent bottles during our stay in the USD $15-25 range.
Always a plus in our book, even a quick dip in a pool is refreshing after a day of exploring the Tuscan countryside - I should say especially the Tuscan countryside, which can get dusty during dry months. The pool at Hotel Le Renaie was clean and well maintained, with plenty of lounge chairs for most guests.
We had several loads of laundry done at the hotel, after spending several weeks exploring Bologna, Florence, and Chianti. Though the service was good, it was pricey and took several days to get it back, which left us without many clothes for 2 days. If you’re in a hurry, confirm the wait time with the hotel beforehand.
Hotel Le Renaie is a comfortable and inviting stay in the Italian countryside. It’s hard to decide which we liked more - the warm family-friendly feel, the fresh cuisine I’m still dreaming about, or its ideal, scenic location. To us, the hotel perfectly suited what Tuscany is all about - no pretense, just warm, authentic hospitality. We’d happily stay here again and recommend it to friends.
IF YOU GO
Hotel Le Renaie - Loc. Pancole, 53037 San Gimignano (Siena)