Mum and I spent a week at the magnificent Montestestigliano in Siena as a part of a singing retreat, Singing in Siena – Create Escape in September last year.
Monstestigliano – a luxurious retreat in the hearth of Siena
Montestigliano is a beautiful, rustic, family-run, working farm and luxury accommodation. We were a large group and booked out most of the villas and casas available at Montestigliano for the duration of the week.
The focus of the retreat was choral/gospel singing. Mum had been to one of these before in New Zealand and was a member of a choir at home which was led by the choral master who was teaching at the retreat. Although I do enjoy singing, the week for me was very much more about spending some special time with my Mum, and enjoying the peace and serenity of being in the Tuscan countryside in early Autumn! Thank you so much to my Mum for taking me with her to have this shared experience, it was really something magnificent and unique!
Mum- by the window in our room in Villa Donati
Montestigliano couldn’t have been a more perfect location. It was completely idyllic and tranquil! I quickly took to skipping the morning singing sessions and wandering the grounds when nobody else was around and finding myself a nice sunny spot to work on my English tan and write in my book or draw and paint or I frequently found myself poolside! I absolutely revelled in the alone-ness, I realised I am very infrequently ever alone, and that time alone seems to be quite therapeutic for me.
Our singing schedule was reasonably full on (if you wanted it to be, you could, of course, do as I did and do your own thing when you fancied!), we had a singing session each morning starting at 9.30am, a break, and then more signing until lunch. After lunch we sang again until around 6-6.30pm and then got ready for dinner. Our two choral maestros were Tony Backhouse, who taught Mums choir in New Zealand, and Eduardo with his assistant Sabrina, who lived in Florence and were just wonderful people and truly talented musicians.
One of the other main aspects of this week was the food! This was a fully catered week, and we were fed copious amounts of delicious traditional Tuscan food and wine for lunch and dinner pretty much every day (a couple of days we were out for lunch or late back so had dinner elsewhere). Lunch was a two-hour long affair, with lots of lively chit-chat and laughter. Each course was a surprise (sometimes even how many courses was a surprise and you’d fill up before the main arrived thinking it had already been served!! Oops) I thought I must be turning into the size of a house. Dinner was much the same, accompanied by impromptu musical performances, karaoke, laughter and dancing.
I didn’t take a photo, but I should mention Francisco, who ran the place with such marvellous skill and good nature. Your every need was anticipated by Francisco and his team, and their skill and great humour really added to the experience!
Every meal the tables were set beautifully as if we were attending a wedding!
I would love to come back to Montestigliano with friends and children of our own one day, hire a villa for a week or three and spend the time exploring the area and relaxing in the exquisite grounds once more. I don’ t think the experience we had could ever really be replicated, it was most certainly once in a lifetime, of course largely the atmosphere was impacted by the wonderful group of people who were there with us, but I feel like this special place would deliver a new set of delights and more once in a lifetime experiences with each visit.