Travel writer Rachel Hunt continues her 4 part Italian adventure, and after starting at Lake Garda she journeys down to the scenic Tuscan countryside.
Tuscany is known for its undulating hills, vineyards and cypress-lined olive groves, and with a rich cultural heritage, mouth-watering food, world class wines and the infamous Tuscan sun, it’s a perfect destination for history lovers and foodies alike.
Just a stone’s throw away from Florence and Siena, I arrived with my husband, feeling very much like Cinderella. It’s not every day you get to stay in a 12th century Italian castle.
Set amidst the rolling hills of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Castello del Nero sits on 740 acres of countryside overlooking the Chianti region.
The hotel is a member of ‘The leading Hotels of the World’ and comes complete with its own vineyard, herb garden and an olive grove which produces extra virgin olive oil for the on-site restaurant.
As we check in at the majestic castle, this 5-star deluxe hotel certainly has the wow factor. The hotel has been considerately renovated, retaining much of its character features including vaulted ceilings, original fireplaces and murals.
We settled into our suite in the main castle, the first thing I noticed was the quintessential Tuscan view overlooking miles of vineyards.
The hotel has 50 opulent bedrooms, each has its own charm, decor and personality. Some have their own special features, including terraces with estate views, hand painted frescoes and family crests, but all rooms are typically Tuscan with wooden beamed ceilings and terracotta floors.
Our room was ordained in gold and floral fabrics. The large bathroom had twin vanity sinks, perfect for couples, especially when you husband takes just as long to get ready as you do!
The bed was topped with layers of luxurious Egyptian cotton and goose down duvets and pillows. There is also a pillow menu for you to choose your favourite pillow, along with your very own Castello dressing gown and slippers.
Once settled, we were given a tour of the hotel by manager Elisa, the grounds seem to stretch on and on as far as the eye can see. The tiered panoramic terraces have plenty of comfortable seating, including loungers by the pool on the lower terrace.
The hotel has created its own trails for running, hiking, walking and cycling. Guests are free to explore the expansive lands or stay closer to the main castle and enjoy a swim or spa session.
During our stay my husband and I enjoyed an hour hike through the groves and past the resorts two lakes, in fact, we had such a great time exploring I had to run all the way back so I didn’t miss my spa appointment, at this point I really felt like Cinderella as I ran towards the castle!
The incredible 1000m2 ESPA spa at the hotel is regularly voted one of the best in Italy and is the perfect place to unwind in.
I journeyed down for an ESPA massage created especially for me by my therapist. They have produced the ESPA products with a blend of the hotel’s own extra virgin olive oil, lavender and rosemary.
They made me feel really special at Castello, I left the spa feeling like the world was off my shoulders; the massage wasn’t just about the physical elements but also focused on the mind and spirit. And so, I left with calm thoughts and smooth skin – I was rejuvenated for the evening to come.
As well as treatments, the spa has specialist rain showers, saunas, Turkish baths, a heated vitality pool, a gym, plus a lady only section for those who wish to have a little more privacy.
There are two restaurants at Castello del Nero. The first is the casual dining restaurant La Taverna, which has a range of Tuscan delights including one of the best pizzas we had during our whole Italian tour.
The second is the Michelin-starred La Torre, based in the castle’s former stable. We didn’t dine here, but this where we enjoyed the buffet breakfast. From the menu we loved the omelettes with cheese and vegetables, with a proper Italian cappuccino.
Foodies can continue their gastronomic stay at Castello del Nero by taking part in a cookery class available on request. For wine lovers a trip down to the hotel’s original 12th century cellar is a must.
A refined and intimate wine tasting session with the resident sommelier can be organised for small groups. You can’t leave without trying the Chianti Classico, a favourite in the region.
Castello del Nero is a league above the rest, there’s a sense of decadence and opulence throughout the hotel, and a feeling of grandeur, it is a castle after all. Its rustic charm in a beautiful country setting will make anyone feel like a princess.
Whether you visit for its Michelin star restaurant, award-winning spa or for a simple break away with the one you love, I can guarantee you will leave with fond memories and a place in your heart for this Tuscan escape.
As we left to travel back to Florence to catch our next train, we braced ourselves for the hustle and bustle of Rome.
Look out for Part 3 of Rachel’s Italian adventures on January 18th
Address: Str. Spicciano, 7, 50028 Tavarnelle Val di Pesa FI, Italy
Phone: +39 055 806470