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Villa Lena

  • Hotels
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. San Michele pool at Villa Lena, Tuscany
    Photograph: Ola O. Smit
  2. Paddling pool and villa exterior at Villa Lena, Tuscany
    Photograph: Ola O. Smit
  3. San Michele room at Villa Lena, Tuscany
    Photograph: Villa Lena
  4. Fattoria room at Villa Lena, Tuscany
    Photograph: Hesselbrand
  5. Osteria San Michele restaurant at Villa Lena, Tuscany
    Photograph: Villa Lena
  6. Spaghetti carbonara at Villa Lena, Italy
    Photograph: James Manning
  7. Reception at Villa Lena, Tuscany
    Photograph: Marina Denisova

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

A stylish Tuscan paradise for seekers of art, food and spectacular views.

An hour’s drive from the swarming streets of Florence and Pisa, Villa Lena could have settled for being just another gorgeous hilltop agriturismo. Instead, it’s something quite unique: an art foundation based in a nineteenth-century villa, with a stylish hotel sprawling across the outbuildings.

Artists of all sorts come here from all over the world for month-long residencies, and – as well as rubbing shoulders with hotel guests at the breakfast buffet – they run workshops for all comers in the on-site artists’ studios; donate their work to the hotel’s art collection; and put on gigs and performances throughout the summer.

There’s no shortage of inspiration up here, with sweeping views in every direction over fields and woods, every hilltop crowned by a picturesque little village or farmhouse, and a backdrop of cloud-capped mountains.

And then – because even artists can’t survive on views alone – there’s the food. The laidback on-site restaurant, Osteria San Michele, would be worth the trip even if you weren’t staying the night, with a menu of souped-up Tuscan classics (ribollita, pappa col pomodoro), superlative pasta dishes and decadent beef- and pork-based secondi piatti.

Herbs and vegetables come from the on-site kitchen garden; the 500-hectare estate also turns out top-notch olive oil and sparkling rosé. You’re free to explore pretty much anywhere, and I did – but in the Tuscan summer heat, you might not want to drift far from the striped parasols of the San Michele pool deck.

Guest bedrooms sprawl across various buildings. We stayed in the family-friendly Renacchi Apartments, a serene ten minutes’ stroll from reception, which had a spartan-but-luxe rustic vibe and its own pool. And did I mention just how nice the staff are?

It’s a bumpy ride up those famous Tuscan hills, but trust me: the journey to Villa Lena is worth a few rattled bones.


It’s well worth a wander around the ground floor of the Villa itself: a baroque, orange pile full of art new and old. You can also look around the vegetable and flower gardens, and climb a mysterious forested mound (Toiano Vecchio) with impeccable views. And for an atmospheric sunset stroll, it’s hard to beat the short walk to the (mostly-)abandoned hamlet of Toiano.


1. Florence: Easily close enough for a day trip by car or taxi, the cradle of the Renaissance is a tourist magnet for good reason. Once you’ve ‘done’ the historic centre, cross the river to the Oltrarno neighbourhood for a taste of local life (and chianti).

2. Pisa: Yeah, there’s that big old wonky tower. But Pisa is also a beautiful, buzzy and ancient university city full of historic streets, piazzas and pizza. Art-hunters, don’t miss the massive Keith Haring mural ‘Tuttomondo’ near the railway station.

3. Casciana Terme: There’s no spa at Villa Lena, but if it’s a soak you’re after, it’s only a half-hour taxi ride to the tiny hot-springs town of Casciana. The thermal baths here have been treating Tuscany’s gripes for hundreds of years.

Time Out tip

Check the schedule of upcoming events for the dates you’re visiting. You can book in for all sorts of fun, from ceramic workshops to pasta-making classes and even spectacular art happenings.

James Manning
Written by
James Manning


Strada Comunale di Toiano
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Opening hours:
Open April-November
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