The Story of Borgo di Sotto
by Lourée Pieranni, Proprietress of Borgo di Sotto
Photos by Chris Borg – Borgo di Sotto
Montefollonico, Tuscany—a charming 12th century village you’ve likely never heard of… Perched high atop a hill surrounded by forest, this tiny medieval village still feels like old school Tuscany.
Nestled between Montepulciano and Pienza—just a ten minute drive away, a stay in Montefollonico offers one the opportunity to experience authentic local life. At the local family-owned Bar Sport, still with retro 60s style, you’ll enjoy Campari spritz alongside gorgeous panoramic views.
At an elevation of 1,860 feet with breathtaking 360 degree vistas and fresh mountain breezes, the village of 500 inhabitants is still bustling. Food, wine, art and family lay at the heart of the local community…
The Cantine Innocenti winery is still untouched, still medieval. Vittorio, a Montefollonico vintner since the 60s and his son Tommasso craft wines with passion. Heralded for their Vino Nobile D.O.C.G. and worshipped for their Vin Santo, especially the golden elixir known as Occhio di Pernice, word is that Vittorio may hold all the 2000 vintage for the family. Now in his 80s, for him he’s achieved perfection.
Artisanal ceramics, lovingly crafted by village locals are housed in a frescoed pagan church, one of six churches in the village. Traditional Tuscan fare is served at 13 Gobbi Ristorante by Albo, his wife Simonetta, and their son Matteo. Try their famous ‘pasta in forma,’ pici or tagliatelle swirled with gusto in a 30 kg wheel of Pecorino cheese.
Borgo di Sotto, the recently opened 3.5 story boutique bed and breakfast and holiday home is right next door, lovingly restored by Montefollonico-native Niccolò, his family, local artisans, and myself, his adoring wife.
Our love story began in the Napa Valley. I spent many years studying enology and viticulture on the path to becoming a winemaker. While in school I worked at various wineries—in the lab, in the vineyards, as a gleeful cellar rat. Wine production was where I felt most at home, where I found my bliss.
While working at a faux medieval castle winery as a wine educator I met my Tuscan prince. He had only just arrived for a wine studies internship and we quickly fell in love. But there was a glitch—I was due to leave for university in Oxford, England. After only three months together I had to leave. While in Oxford I worked in wine sales for a French winery in the Loire. Next stop after university was London. Love prevailed and Nicco joined me there.
Fast forward four years, we landed back in Tuscany and embarked on the sympathetic restoration of his family’s medieval village home in the family for generations. Our greatest wish was to create a cozy respite for travelers seeking warm hospitality and authenticity.
Niccolò’s deep love for Montefollonico is in his DNA, inherited from the generations of ancestors who came before him. Indeed Borgo di Sotto was the home of his great great grandparents, Primo and Fanny. His beloved mining family lived here for a century. To our surprise, Primo’s mining tools and boots were discovered in the basement. Nonna Iva’s seamstress studio, a bustling business for local villagers in the 70s was housed in what we now call ‘La Segreta’ (the keep).
Like many medieval Tuscan homes, Borgo di Sotto was renovated in the 60s by another beloved, zia Carla. Looking back, we may have been crazy but we wanted to bring the medieval back. Enter babbo Luciano, nonna Iva, mamma Giovanna and local artisans Patrizio, Alfio, and Moreno—who spent the next four years handcrafting the dream with Nicco and me.
We sought to honor Nicco’s descendants and felt their spirits present along the way, carrying us when things got hard. Did I mention medieval restorations present unexpected challenges? No wall nor floor nor surface are straight and we chose nothing pre-fabricated. We were also determined to remain as eco-conscious as possible during the deconstruction, restoration, and design.
Ancient salvaged wood, brick, and stone were exposed, treated, and implemented throughout. Vintage and handcrafted furniture and decor adorn each room including antique wrought iron beds, an ancient church pew bench, a bed made from old palazzo doors—even the burnished curtain rings are over 100 years old.
Luxurious earth-toned linen curtains and bedding were sewn by nonna. Antique bronze artisanal Italian fixtures lend a vintage yet modern feel, accented by a handmade Moroccan copper sink and salvaged farmhouse basin upstairs in our ‘La Vedetta,’ (the lookout).
Illuminated by warm Edison lighting, the idea was to create a sense of enchantment and living in the past, low lit like the life of a miner… with windows open to idyllic village and Tuscan countryside views, the cross breezes invite rest and serenity.
Beyond accommodation, there is the opportunity for our guests to experience food and wine day tours in Montefollonico and surrounding areas with us, in collaboration with our US-based company Imaginaria Events. The hyper-local Montefollonico Experience walking tour leads you into the woods to hike the paths Nicco and his babbo have walked together with their English and Irish Setters for decades.
After visits to local artisans, depending on the season, lunch may include zero kilometer delicacies including cheeses made fresh at a creamery minutes away, honey from bees housed on the wildflower-laden hill, wine made from the grapes surrounding the village, truffles and porcini mushrooms foraged in the surrounding woods, and ruby red tomatoes grown in nonna’s garden.
Spirited tours for epicures include Celestiale—an autumn celebration of fine food and wine with us under the Tuscan sun and stars with truffle hunting, pasta-making cooking classes, winery tours and tastings, candlelit castle dinners, and plenty of good cheer.
Our dream comes full circle when given the opportunity to welcome and take good care of you, so you feel like part of our family. To feel the connection to Montefollonico, to Tuscany, to the love at the heart of Borgo di Sotto—that’s everything we and our ancestors could ever wish for. The ever-present spirit of hospitality lives on at Borgo di Sotto.