Christopher Brown on his summers at Villa Santa Chiara

Santa Chiara, an earthly paradise, writes Prof. Christopher Brown, Director Emeritus of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Still together

With no element of exaggeration, I have always considered Santa Chiara, where my family and I spent many holidays, an earthly paradise.

Villa Santa Chiara looks out over Siena’s historical and artistic sites

It sits on a low hill just outside the principal southern gate to the city of Siena, the Porta Romana. The view to the north looks over the city walls and Santa Maria dei Servi, and then on to the Torre del Mangia.

Looking South one looks over the Crete Senesi towards Buonconvento. We first stayed at Santa Chiara in 1990 when Professor Bernabei had just completed transforming the former cottages of the contadini [farmers] into vacation apartments. They are well-appointed and comfortable.

My 26 years of holidays in Tuscany

Subsequently we stayed there every year until 2016. My wife was by then very ill with Alzheimer’s and as these holidays were so closely associated with her I have not yet returned on my own.

More recently

We had wonderful summers : swimming in the pool (where my children learnt to swim), sitting and reading in the garden, eating out in the garden and the courtyard, eating and drinking in the many excellent restaurants in this part of Tuscany, making trips to nearby towns (Buonconvento, Montalcino, etc.), daytrips to Florence and of course many visits to Siena itself which is an infinitely rewarding city with many places to explore and in the Cathedral having one of the world’s greatest and most fascinating buildings.

And all the time having very friendly relations with the Bernabei family who are hugely welcoming to guests. For us, for 26 years, it was the only place to spend a month in the summer.

Professor Christopher Brown, University of Oxford, and Director Emeritus of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.