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Hotel L'Antico Pozzo, San Gimignano (Italy)
Via San Matteo, San Gimignano, Italy. Hotel L'Antico Pozzo is at via San Matteo, 87.
Historic center of San Gimignano is surrounded by an old wall. This is one of the entrances - via S. Matteo (where Hotel L'Antico Pozzo is located) starts behind this entrance.
There are several bars and restaurants next to the Hotel L'Antico Pozzo. One of them is bar "Piazetta" - about 50 yards from hotel entrance.
Hotel L'Antico Pozzo (San Gimignano, Italy) - hotel entrance
Hotel L'Antico Pozzo - lobby. Reception desk is on the left. Stairs lead to upper floors with guest rooms.
View on lobby from above in Hotel L'Antico Pozzo (San Gimignano, Italy). On this photo you can see the reception desk in the background.
Halls and corridors in the Hotel L'Antico Pozzo look rather ascetic. But everything is functional and clean.
This rather large room on the second floor of Hotel L'Antico Pozzo is used for breakfast. Opposite to most other parts of the hotel it is rather lovely.
Inner court at Hotel L'Antico Pozzo. It is nice and quiet. What spoils the impression is that evidently it is also used as a storage facility.
To stay for tree days in the small and charming medieval Tuscan town of San Gimignano we chose hotel L'Antico Pozzo. It is located in via San Matteo (Via San Matteo, 87 53037 San Gimignano, Italy - see it on map) - the street which starts from one of the gates in medieval defensive wall surrounding the historic center of the town.
Chances are that you stay in San Gimignano, you will arrive by car - the most convenient way to explore medieval hill towns in Tuscany. If indeed this is the case, you need to keep in mind that without special permit you cannot park your car anywhere in historic center of San Gimignano. Fortunately, you can enter it to get your hotel to unload (or load) your luggage. After that, you will have to move the car out of town's historic center. You will be relieved to find that L'Antio Pozzo offers garage spaces for a modest fee of €20/night.
The garage is located underneath the Parking Lot #3 ("Bagnaia"). Make sure that when you check in, the reception clerk gives you detailed instructions how to find the garage and its entrance. Once you know where it is, it seems easy. But when it is your first time in San Gimignano, it may seem rather confusing. By the way, it takes literally minutes to get back from the garage to the hotel - that's because instead of using winding streets, you will take a shortcut. One thing we regretted was that there was nobody who could help us with the car - you will be on your own.
Anyway, let's get back to the hotel itself. It has probably as rich history as the town of San Gimignano itself. The building was constructed in the 15th century. In the 16th century it served as a convent in which the trials of the Inquisition were held and the well was the place where they suspend girls for three days and three nights for refusing to submit to the "Droit de seigneur" (right of the first night in the Middle Ages). The well still exists in the hotel. It is not used anymore though there is still water in it. The well is rather deep and for obvious reasons covered with bars.
Another interesting place in the building is its basement. The space underneath the Hotel L'Antico Pozzo is huge and looks like insides of a fortified fortress. It was used to store food and wine. The dwelling was self-sustainable and could survive a long siege having provisions and water.
Later, when the family of Bongi made the mansion its own residence it became known under the name of Palazzo Bongi. It was famous for its Sala Rosa (Red Hall). During the 18th century when Palazzo Bongi was a center for gatherings of noble people, Sala Rosa was used as a ballroom, a place of vivacious entertainment. Nowadays it serves as a breakfast room for the guests of the Hotel L'Antico Pozzo.
In 1978, the present owners bought Palazzo Bongi from sisters Bongi who left San Gimignano. After restoration, the old palazzo was converted into the Hotel L'Antico Pozzo. They say that they tried to preserve the spirit of medieval Tuscany in their restoration effort, and I think that they succeeded in doing it. The hotel is decorated in typical Tuscan style - though rather large rooms with tall windows and high ceilings, corridors and halls seemed to be dark and ascetic in decor. Everything looks more like from the 15th century and gives the hotel a mysterious and medieval appearance.
The facade of L'Antico Pozzo is plain and strict. The only outside embellishments are windows with solid shutters and an arched wooden door. Via San Matteo where the hotel is located is the main street of San Gimignano. It runs through the historic center of San Gimignano and connects Porta San Matteo and Porta San Giovanni - two entrances at the opposite ends of the town. It takes only a few steps from the hotel to reach town's main historic places such as Piazza Duomo, Palazzo del Popolo (the People's Palace), Museo Civico (the Civic Museum), Torre Grossa (Big Tower), Collegiata (a the former cathedral or Duomo) and the Rocca (old fortress). There are several bars and restaurants next to L'Antico Pozzo One of them is bar "Piazetta" - about 50 yards from hotel entrance.
When you enter the hotel through the arched doors, you get into the lobby with a reception desk on the left. The entrance hall is not big, with high ceiling supported by arches more like in a church and not in a house. The staircase in the lobby leads upstairs. If you do not want to use staircase there is an elevator at the far end of the lobby just next to the pozzo (the old well) itself. The house has an inner court which is quiet and nice with pots of flowers and small tables and chairs. Unfortunately, it is used not only for relaxation but also as a storage. From the second floor you have an excess to the famous Sala Rosa.
L'Antico Pozzo is a three-star hotel. The prices range from €90 to €220 (rates 2010). We reserved superior room - €180 per night (2010 prices). It is on the second floor of the building and rather spacious - about 400 sq. feet (37 sq. m). The room seemed always dark though there were two big windows looking onto via San Matteo. It is a narrow street, and the windows of the first two floors on hotel's side of the street are always in a shadow. High tile ceiling supported by exposed beams and made of dark old wood added a medieval flavor to the room. This feature, as I understand, is still preserved in many old Tuscan homes. Though it adds character to the ambient, it does not serve much to the good insulation between the floors. We could hear every sound coming from the room upstairs including the clicks of heels on the tile floors upstairs.
The room decor was in line with the overall hotel style - plain and ascetic. All the furniture was old and made of dark wood. There was a big wardrobe, large enough to hold all our clothes, a desk, with a TV on the top of it and a couple of chairs, armchair and an ottoman which could serve as an additional bed. The wrought iron, king size four poster bed with a canopy looked very attractive but was a disaster in use. It was so uncomfortable and the mattress was so hard that it seemed as if you sleep on the rocks. On the bright side, the linen was clean and changed every day.
The bathroom was small but clean and functional. There was a good size bathtub (which served also as a shower), a toilet, a single sink with a mirror above it and a bidet. A surprising feature of this bathroom was a small window at your shoulder level which opened into an arched medieval passage under the hotel.
Our experience with the hotel was mixed: on the one hand there were definitely inconveniences like bed and poor sound proofing. On the other hand, because of the old furniture, plain decor and even the darkness in the room, we felt the touch of the Middle Ages in this historic building which existed for so many centuries and witnessed so many events and people.
The Marro's family owns L'Antico Pozzo nowadays. The hotel was opened in September 1990 after its restoration and continues to be the place of visitors' and tourists' attraction. Despite some minuses, we believe that anybody traveling and staying in San Gimignano should consider it. After all there are few hotels located within the town's historic center. So, some problems we experienced are very difficult to avoid while staying in an old building. Your alternative could be... just visiting San Gimignano and not staying inside its walls. We wanted to be closer to the history, and we do not regret our decision to stay in L'Antico Pozzo.
"L'Antico Pozzo" means "Old Well." Indeed there is a well inside the building as you can see on this photo. It is not now, but there is still water in it.
The well in the hotel is as old as the building itself. It is rather deep and for obvious reasons covered with bars.
In addition to the well, Hotel L'Antico Pozzo has a deep and large basement. To me it looks more like a dungeon - it is open for visiting (quite interesting actually).
This space underneath the Hotel L'Antico Pozzo was used to store food provisions and wine. Nowadays it is just a part of the tourist experience in San Gimignano.
Guest room in Hotel L'Antico Pozzo. This picture is a faithful reproduction of how it looks like - rather dark in typical Tuscan decor and style.
Another view on the guest room in Hotel L'Antico Pozzo. It is spacious with large windows and high ceiling.
Hotel L'Antico Pozzo (San Gimignano, Italy) - view from the guest room on via S. Matteo. The street is narrow and even during daytime, the pavement and first floors of surrounding buildings are in shade.
Hotel L'Antico Pozzo (San Gimignano, Italy) - bathroom. It is small but has everything a traveler may need.
Map of historic center of San Gimignano (Italy). It is a picture of the map all guests at Hotel L'Antico Pozzo can get to help them with their first steps in this charming Italian town.
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