A Tuscan castle given a new lease of life as a 5-Star Deluxe Hotel
It’s not every day one gets to stay in a 12th century Italian castle, so I was ready to truly indulge in a weekend of luxury.
A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Castello del Nero is situated on 740 acres of lush countryside complete with its own vineyard flanked by Italian Cyprus trees, an herb garden and an olive grove, which produces extra virgin olive oil for the on-site restaurants.
Up until 1986 the hotel was a private residence for the Torrigiani family. Rumour has it that the beautiful Cyprus trees that surround the property were planted by Mrs Torrigiani, who didn’t want the servants to see her when she visited her vegetable garden.
The hotel has been sensitively refurbished, ensuring that each room at Castello del Nero is unique, while retaining its natural character. Vaulted ceilings, frescoes and original fireplaces feature throughout the accommodation.
My favourite room in the property was Room 122, which featured Dutch blue and white floral décor, a small sitting room with views of the countryside and a gorgeous bedroom, which is entered via a striking arched doorway.
No trip to Castello del Nero is complete without experiencing its restaurant offering. Whether you enjoy a casual, poolside lunch at La Taverno or a more formal dining affair at 1 Michelin Star La Torre, you won’t be disappointed. The service is impeccable and the authentic cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Giovanni Luca Di Pirro is divine. If you’re just looking for a bog-standard meal, then this isn’t your place, but if you’re looking for a sensational gastronomic experience, then you might want to stay a bit longer...
One of the highlights of my visit was enjoying a wine tasting in the wine cellar with their friendly and highly skilled sommelier, Roberto. Up to eight guests can enjoy a tasting at the tasting table, which is a real treat and a unique experience that’s both educational and enjoyable.
The largest spa in Tuscany, the ESPA spa is a great place to unwind during your stay. The spa includes a vitality pool and relaxation areas to ensure a restful experience. The staff were incredibly friendly and committed to ensuring that you have an enjoyable experience. During my visit, I enjoyed the Signature Spa Treatment that they had created for the 10th anniversary, a 75-minute treatment, which included a welcome foot ritual, a back scrub with Castello del Nero’s olive oil and a head massage.
If you're feeling really lazy, you can simply flop on a wooden sun lounger by the pool with a good book and an Aperol Spritz, in true Italian style, as I did and would highly recommend. In fact, one of my favourite memories was simply gazing over the vineyards in awe of the natural beauty of the landscape. As I took it all in, I thought to myself ‘If I were a grape, I’d be very happy indeed in these conditions!’.
Gardening enthusiasts will fall in love with the perfectly manicured Italian gardens, with a handful of bistro tables scattered throughout. I felt exceptionally relaxed sitting in the garden and feeling the sun on my face, showing that it really is the simplest pleasures that can make all the difference.
Activities one can partake in during their visit (for an additional cost) include bicycle rides, horse trekking, hot air balloon rides, truffle hunting, wine tasting in the wine cellar and spa treatments at the ESPA spa. For those who want to try their hand at Italian cuisine, you can also join a pasta making class, which was jolly good fun, despite me being a hopeless pasta chef. Although I love pasta, my experience is generally in eating it, not making it, so I was excited to get stuck in making ravioli, tagliatelle and my personal favourite, tortellini.
To ensure no one rested on their laurels, we were quickly put to work assisting with stirring the Bolognese sauce (made with chicken stock, celery, carrots and onions – who knew?) and cutting the pasta. The chef was sensible enough not to give us free reign with the pasta machine, which looked like a giant and slightly dangerous looking toaster, which you feed the dough through to press it into a long, thin sheet. I was assured that I wouldn’t lose any fingers in the process, but nonetheless I entrusted this step of the process with my fellow pasta makers.
For those wishing to venture further afield, Castello del Nero provides its guests with a complimentary shuttle service for day trips to a variety locations including San Gimignano, famous for its towers on the hills and gorgeous vistas, and the equally fabulous cities of Florence and Pisa, which are also easily within reach. There is also the option to hire a vintage Fiat 500 (similar to the Castello del Nero branded 1971 model that guests will notice sitting outside of the hotel), for those who want a more authentic driving experience.
10th anniversary celebrations at Castello del Nero
If you need an excuse to visit, why not join in on the hotel’s 10th anniversary celebrations, which will be taking place on the 9th of July.
Guests visiting during this time will be treated to special dishes and cocktails on the 10th anniversary menus (which we enjoyed during our stay and were superb), live entertainment and a fireworks display, which I imagine will be breath-taking.
After a long weekend at Castello del Nero, I felt totally relaxed, which is testament to the transformative powers of a bit of sun, sensational cuisine and being immersed in stunning natural surroundings, all while indulging in a slower pace of life. I believe I’ve found the perfect tonic for a peaceful existence.
Top tips for your stay at Castello del Nero...
The breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside - best enjoyed with a glass of Chianti
It's hard to fault the place, but more active guests may be a bit bored if the weather cracks as the spa, wine tasting and cookery courses are the only on-site activities.
- Book Room 122, an oasis of calm in a soothing colour palette of blues and whites - perfect for helping one to unwind
- Don't forget to bring a book for lounging by the pool and bring comfy shoes - there are a lot of stairs from the reception area to the pool
What to buy
Castello del Nero's very own extra virgin olive oil and wine - a great souvenir that will remind you of your holiday every time you use it when cooking at home
Our experience overall
The property: ★★★★★
Food and drink: ★★★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★★★
During my stay I was hosted by the lovely team at Castello del Nero. All words, opinions and photos are my own.