You park 75 m from the main entrance and approach on the gravel drive lined on one side by cypresses and on the other by a formidably high windowless wall, forming the side of the former Benedictine monastery’s church. Inside, it smells pleasantly of polish and the atmosphere is calm, a little austere, but not unfriendly. The breakfast/dining room has two long tables – be sociable, or keep to yourself. There’s a crucifix, and an arresting painting of the Piccolomini family tree. Other public spaces, all off the ground-floor cloister, include a bare computer room with plain wooden table and upright chairs; and the former refectory where Sant’ Anna’s greatest treasure is displayed – an early Sodoma fresco, open to the general public to see. The plain, dignified garden has show-stopping views over the Val d’Orcia.
The no-frills bedrooms are all slightly different, brightened by some homely bed covers and curtains, but maintain the same standard, except the ‘luxury’ rooms, which have their own bathroom. At 100 euros for a double you’re paying a little over the odds for a B&B, but this is an experience. ‘Simple accomodation but in the most glorious, isolated setting’, says local editor Nicky Swallow. Minimum stay, three nights. The film The English Patient was shot here.