Oh, The Grand Old Duke of… Tuscany

Farm estate Torrita di Siena, S239

Leopold II, born in Vienna in 1747, was a man of many talents and above all titles. Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia (1790-1792), Archduke of Austria, son of Emperor Francis I and brother of Marie Antoinette. Above all from 1765 to 1790 he was the Grand Duke of Tuscany and became renowned as a reformer and intelligent administer, as well as the first in modern times to definitely abolish capital punishment.

 02 Portrait of Leopold II by Johann Daniel Donat

First of all he eliminated the Medici ruinous restrictions on industry and personal freedom and introduced a rational system of taxation which implied the reduction of the rates, as well as execute profitable public works such as the drainage of the Val di Chiana. In this lovely region between the provinces of Arezzo and Siena Leopold also conceived an upgrading of human settlement promoting social advancement and better living and working conditions for the inhabitants.

 03 The Val di Chiana

Leopold II inquired, among others, into the housing situation, demanding to know if the farmhouses were large, warm and airy enough. He discovered that most families were obliged to sleep with the animals and were thus exposed to the inclemency of the weather and to disease and infection. For this reason Leopold allocated a sum for the building of more comfortable houses. The new farmhouses were built with the following criteria: on the ground floor were the stables and cellars, on the first floor a large kitchen with a huge fireplace slightly higher than the floor so as to facilitate the use of larger logs and heat the whole house, and where all the cooking was also done, as well as boiling the washing water and heating the fodder.  The other rooms were the sleeping quarters, one for each family who all slept together. Higher up, in the centre of the house was the square shaped dovecot, also used as a storeroom. These farmhouses became rapidly an architectural feature of the Val di Chiana and the houses became known as ‘Leopoldine’.

 Example of Leopoldine farmhouse, Torrita di Siena S239

Today the landscape is dotted with these beautiful farmhouses, some personal residences, others transformed into ‘agriturismi’, farm estates with holiday apartments, like this lovely one in Torrita di Siena, just a 10 minute drive from Montepulciano. This fine example of Leopoldina farmhouse is under the preservation laws of the Italian Fine Art’s Institute and thus perfectly conserves its original 18th-century architectural style, terracotta tile flooring and wooden beam ceilings, yet offers the modern comforts necessary for a memorable vacation. The building sits on a knoll in front of the village of Torrita di Siena, surrounded by other hills covered with the estate’s vineyards and olive groves. Here it is possible to catch a glimpse of pheasants, roe deer, squirrels, crested porcupines and even wild boars, relax next to the swimming pool and go visit the magnificent art centres nearby: Montepulciano, Pienza, Siena and Arezzo.

 05 Farm estate Torrita di Siena, S239

Just one of our many offers in the Val di Chiana.

06 The typical Leopoldine fireplace inside one of the flats

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