Guest Post: Lisa Corcoran from Travel Notebook

Lisa Corcoran (Travel Notebook) is a luxury travel blogger – lover of sun, sea, sand and snow. Here she describes two new luxury boutique properties that have wowed her this year: Fazenda Nova (Portugal) and La Bandita Townhouse (Italy).

Fazenda Nova Country House

Words like idyllic, stunning and perfect are often overused but never have these words been more appropriate than in describing Fazenda Nova Country House. Hallie & Tim and the team around them have created a truly relaxing retreat in the heart of the Eastern Algarve.

Their hospitality is second to none and their knowledge of the surrounding area is excellent. With an eclectic collection of furniture spread throughout the property, this is a house where style and comfort sit together in perfect harmony.

The attention to detail is superb; they even have a collection of sun hats you can borrow. Our spacious garden room oozed quality and the bathroom featured a huge shower and a host of REN goodies.

It is difficult to figure out if the day should include relaxing by the pool, visiting the local beaches or sleeping in the hanging pod. The biggest decision of the day is whether to eat in or eat out for lunch and dinner.

The food is so good it is a real challenge to drag yourself away. I have never been so reluctant to leave but this is a really special place and I have vowed to return.

Fazenda Nova is a luxury ten suite boutique hideaway in the heart of the eastern Algarve countryside near Tavira. The Fazenda Nova is an original Portuguese country house that has been renovated to combine a modern style with traditional architecture and features.

Formerly a family home and farm, it sits on ten hectares of land, with its own orchard, vegetable and herb gardens. In spring it is abundant with wild flowers growing among almond, carob and olive trees.

La Bandita Townhouse

La Bandita Townhouse is the new sister property of the well established country house, La Bandita.

Located in the town of Pienza, this luxury boutique hotel is a former convent which blends easily into the narrow street; it blends so well in fact that we managed to walk straight past it but thankfully the local Carabinieri were on hand to show us the way.

The hotel has been sympathetically restored and the attention to detail can be seen everywhere, from the stunning exposed stone entrance corridor to the communal library where you can help yourself to the honesty bar while admiring the owner’s awards from his earlier life at Sony. Brightly coloured gerbera abound both in the public areas and the bedrooms.

Taking the lift up to the top floor, we were staying in room twelve which has lovely views over the streets of Pienza and the surrounding valley. Spacious and light, the room does not disappoint.

The contemporary décor exudes quality: a wood beam ceiling, interior pieces of orange and grey hues and a wide boarded floor. And then you walk into the bathroom. Wow, there is a huge walk in shower and free standing bath with a plentiful supply of toiletries by Ortigia. Subtle lighting only adds to the overall ambience.

Complimentary water, soft drinks and beer are waiting in the fridge as well as a coffee machine. A good wi-fi signal is also included. An excellent information booklet provides tips on where to eat, shop and what to do in Pienza and the surrounding area.

Obviously a couple of these needed testing and from the beautiful leather bag I brought home it did indeed prove very successful.  As did the newly opened in house restaurant.

Sitting on tall chairs overlooking the open kitchen we ate from the set menu featuring delicious Tuscan classics and were provided with an excellent wine recommendation.

This is a truly luxurious property but what sets it apart is the warmth of the staff who create a relaxing and unstuffy atmosphere where nothing is too much trouble.

This is not a surprise, however, when you meet the owner, John Voigtmann, who is himself a gracious host. I would return in a heartbeat.