“In the shade of the abbey, hanging in the middle of history, poetry and legend”.
(from the magazine “I grandi vini” – By Alessia Bruchi)
In the land of Siena, in Val d’Orcia, roads seem to be grey ribbons running on the hills slopes bringing you to the top toward small towns or solitary farmhouses. Sometimes, when you look at the top of the hills, the road seems to finish and it seems as if there was the void at the end of it. A void that keeps the soul in suspense, giving space to the imagination and colouring the horizon with the sunset red light.
Along the road that leads to Castelnuovo dell’Abate and to Monte Amiata, in a verdant valley, you can see the white silhouette of the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo (Sant’Antimo’s Abbey) that stands up severe and majestic toward the sky. In a nearly unreal quiet, the Gregorian chants mystic atmosphere spreads to the soul and the history and is intertwined to the legend. In the proud silence, you can hear the echoes of the ancient knights and the sound of the gallop of Carlo Magno with his army, who, back in 781, coming back from Rome along the via Francigena, founded the abbey to thank the Madonna who had stopped the plague scourge.
On the road that comes from Montalcino, around 600 metres from the abbey, there is an inn, an old restored stone farmhouse – landing place of every traveller – where you have to stop to please the palate with traditional tastes of the Tuscan cooking and maybe where you can stay for some days for an unforgettable experience.
We are talking about the Locanda di S. Antimo owned by Lorenzo Benocci for six years; it is placed just at the beginning of the medieval small village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, in the neighbourhood of well-known thermal springs having curative properties as Bagno Vignoni and Bagni di S. Filippo. The inside room can contain up to 60 persons, and in the summer, the outside tables give the opportunity to relax in the garden in the shade of the oleanders, surrounded by the picturesque landscape of the Tuscan countryside. The “Locanda” offers the best of the genuine local cooking, with selected dishes, accurately prepared according to old days recipes, in a comfortable environment full of light. Among the house specialities, there are the praiseworthy “pici” prepared by the expert hands of Annamaria, the cook. Beyond the well-known “pinci all’agliona”, typical dish of the Montalcino area, the menu also includes a wide choice of first courses, always strictly handmade: gnocchi (dumplings), tortelli (square pasta parcels with a savoury filling), tagliatelle (noodles) with ceps or truffles, for the gourmets’ joy.
From the kitchen you also can smell the heady scents of the ribollita (boiled meat), the pappardelle alla caccaiggione (broad pasta ribbons with venison) and the ceps soup, all together creating an olfactory jubilation you cannot resist. For the second courses, you are spoilt for choice: to satisfy those who love good food, the menu suggests game meat, steaks, porchetta (roast sucking pig) or roast veal.
Meats, salami and cold pork meats, always of excellent quality, that come from the close firm of Poggio Rosa. The cheeses are local too: produced by the cheese factories of Seggiano and Pienza; they have the good taste of the genuineness and naturalness of the non industrial productions. All this food is served with the excellent house wine, a Rosso di Montalcino or a delicious Brunello, to sip in a wide glass to appreciate the tannin scent.
The Locanda di S. Antimo also delight the pizza lovers. Actually, in the kitchen there is also a big wood-burning oven from which the cook takes out delicious piazzas and also home made bread that has an indisputable fragrance and the rare thigns taste.
To spend some days in the inn means to sink into the colours of Tuscany: it is like getting into a picture that describes the countryside landscapes, with green vineyards lost in the horizon, the perfume of the earth, of the white roads with cypresses that keep an eye on the blue sky, so intense that it seems to be coloured by a child’s hands. A parallel world, another dimension, far from the chaos and from the city frenzied pace. To give the opportunity to spend some time in these splendid places at a low price, the locanda di S. Antimo has 5 bedrooms, all with parquet floor; some of them face northwest toward the abbey, some others face southeast in front of the wonderful natural park of Val d’Orcia, in the shade of monte Amiata (Amiata mountain). In any case, the view is breathtaking and the morning freshness fill the heart with light and serenity.
The furniture is simple and functional, in a perfect rustic style, exactly like the furniture of the old times, with the wrought iron bed, the walnut wardrobe and the bedside tables with legs. Facilities are moder: orthopaedic mattresses and TV, even if it is a petty not to listen to the cricket chirping and to disturb the quiet that there is around the Locanda in the middle of the night.
During the winter, when the Amiata mountain wears white, the Locanda becomes a cosy shelter where to stay to spend a couple of days skying. To derive the best benefit from the stay, after the sky or a walk around the Brunello hills with the mountain bikes (at tourists disposal), nothing could be better than a myo-relaxing or analgesic massage made by expert hands. With its twenty years old experience in the massage and physiotherapy field, Lorenzo Benocci, the “lanlord”, treats every kind of muscular pain, giving back to the body the lost wellness.
Shiatsu and aesthetical massages are made also by his wife Teresa, the “landlady”. In a fabulous frame, made of sounds, images and tales, since always, the Locanda S. Antimo watchword is: hospitality, good eating and quiet – a journal page that will remain in the heart.