Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO ITALY, part 2, Tuscany

Linking Italian gems together, Product Director Neil Bedford finds that travelling by rail is a great way to see Italy. Here he continues his travels from Rome to Tuscany - where he experiences two delightful luxury countryside properties, before continuing his Italian adventure...

Il Borro and Castiglion del Bosco, Tuscany


Ultimate luxury. The 3-bedroom Villa Castello
at Castiglion del Bosco

The train journey

Along with our freshly made ciabattas and mini bottle of Prosecco from the ever friendly team at Hotel Eden, we embarked on the train journey north to Tuscany. Roma Tiburtina is more like an airport with its wide concourses and split levels, and finding the correct platform and our specific carriage was extremely easy. Second class offered a series of 6 seat private compartments while in 1st class the same compartments had just 4 slightly wider seats. The direct 2 hr 30 min journey to Arezzo takes you through some beautiful countryside and with plenty of space to stretch your legs out you can simply relax and enjoy the views. 

Tuscany - vineyards, rolling hills and much more

Hotels

Both Il Borro and Castiglion del Bosco are large private country estates with a village in the centre. In each case, the village is the hotel, and all the original village homes converted to rooms. Around the rest of the estate are dotted beautiful private villas. Both properties are owned by the famous Ferragamo family, and the investment they have made in restoring these ancient estates is eye-wateringly high

Il Borro  

The Il Borro estate is so vast that public roads wind their way through the vineyard-covered grounds but once you enter the hotel through its beautiful gated entrance it is exclusively for hotel guests. As a Ferragamo property you can see in every small touch that money has not been a factor in the 10-year restoration project. For instance each individual component of the luxurious bathrooms was made by some of Florence’s most accomplished artisans; produce on the estate (vineyards, cattle and vegetables) are all organically raised; and the biodynamic winery is one of the most revered in Tuscany. Many different rooms and suites are available within the village, including 1 and 2 bedroom options. I would recommend Deluxe rooms rather than Classic as they are much lighter and have a better location.  

Two beautiful farmhouse villas (approx. 10 mins drive from the village) are great options if you want more space (one has 3 bedrooms, the other 5) and relaxation (both boast incredible views and private swimming pools) along with the assurance of hotel services nearby. The 10 bedroom Villa Il Borro is like nothing I have seen before. It is in the heart of the village (next to Salvatore Ferragamo’s private residence; in fact you get to use his pool if you rent this villa) and boasts it’s own wine cellar, spa area, indoor/outdoor pool, gardens, kitchens, studies, cigar lounge…. 

Suite at Il Borro

View from magnificent Villa Il Borro,
with the hotel village beyond

Ferragamo bathrooms at Il Borro


Il Borro's infinity pool

Suite bathroom at Il Borro

Artisan shops in Il Borro village

Why go?

Wine, scenery and food. The onsite winery is a successful commercial operation rather than simply an add-on to the hotel. Ancient cellars combine with modern biodynamic methods making for superb Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscans (from estate vineyards). For Select Collection clients, a complimentary tour and tasting session in the cellars is always included.

During the day you can do a number of things on the estate – walk (or horse-ride) on trails through the forests and estate grounds; relax by the infinity pool, enjoy the small spa (book ahead), visit the driving range. Outside of the estate of course you really should do a wine tour (more later).

The restaurant is quite excellent and at some €55 for a 5 course menu outstanding value. Il Borro has shunned the willing advances of Guide Michelin as they do not want to position the hotel in this regard…. all the better for lucky hotel guests to enjoy the exquisite Tuscan fare produced the young local chef for a little longer. 


Modern winery at Il Borro

The village - a hotel, Il Borro

Castiglion del Bosco (CdB)


Castiglion del Bosco's infinity pool with
views over hill and valley
Castiglion del Bosco's beautiful glass-fronted
breakfast room
Quite simply one of the most beautiful properties I have ever seen. Where the Ferragamo family have preserved the village almost stone by stone at Il Borro, at Castiglion del Bosco they have retained the village style and appearance but made subtle changes to give it a more WOW luxury feeling. This means larger rooms and suites, specifically designed outdoor areas, a vegetable garden created by the same person that looks after the Vatican gardens….Everything is done to an incredibly high standard and the room interiors are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. 

Each room an individual art work


Tuscan  cuisine

The main street of the old village  -
each house is now a luxury room

Workout views at CdB

Our Terrace Suite at Castiglion del Bosco


Places to lounge

There are 23 rooms and suites in the village while 9 villas (2 to 5 bedrooms, all with private pools) are located between 2 and 20 minutes from the village. All categories boast incredibly beautiful interiors, in particular amazing bathrooms. We stayed in a Terrace Suite in the village which boasted 90 sqm interior plus huge private terrace overlooking the vineyards. Our favourite was The Villa Suite: housed in a small detached Villa in the Borgo and comprising two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchenette, a terrace, a large private garden and private access.

Personal menu
The Castiglion del Bosco estate and grounds are covered by vineyards and wherever you look the views are mesmerising. A must-do excursion is the ‘Picnic in the Vineyards’ - a 90 min walking trail from the village takes through rolling hills and forest before arriving in an ancient farmhouse where a beautiful private picnic set up will be waiting for you as you enjoy one of the most amazing views of the estate vineyards with not another person in sight. The rustic farmhouse is also opened up for you in case the setting gets your passions stirring. It is definitely worth booking this excursion in advance as a surprise for your other half and would be quite a setting for a proposal….And after she has said ‘yes’ you can come back next year for the wedding. Private hire of the estate is common (though they do limit to only so many each year) and the ancient chapel on site with its famous murals is ideal for a small ceremony.


Why go? 

Wine. Excellent Brunello di Montalcinos (from estate vineyards) are made in the brand new estate winery. A tour of the cellars and a tasting session is complimentary for Select Collection clients.

Food. The two restaurants showcase authentic Tuscan food and the head chef is quite a character which you will discover if you join one of his cooking classes…  

Golf. The private golf course is one of the most exclusive in the world with only 200 members is Italy’s only private golf club. If you have handicap you can play once during your stay.

Spa. La Prairie treatments in the unique spa which is housed in the old wine cellars. They have 2 rooms with sauna and steam room that you can use for free on private basis.

Activities. Boules and tennis court are available in the village while the infinity pool, and gym beside it, overlook the estate and nearby villages. The kids club (open from 3pm) offers both indoor activities and an outdoor mini-playground. Many excursions like Tuscan night safari, truffle hunting, and forest boot camp are all available in the estate but really nothing is too much trouble for the expert team and anything you have on your wish list they will find a way to deliver.

Views from the club house over Castiglion
del Bosco's private golf course


Beautiful spacious bathrooms are a feature
of every suite

Exterior of the recently completed new winery



Touring around Tuscany

While staying in either of these beautiful properties, allow us the arrange a bespoke private tour around the region’s most impressive vineyards and villages. As with all Select Collection destinations, we work with only the best on the ground teams and all your winery visits are on a private basis. We enjoyed tastings at boutique wineries with the winemaker themselves, lunch in a tiny village with a crowd of passionate Italians celebrating the Artichoke festival, a bike ride along the famous pilgrims road Via Francigena…. 


Private tour of a biodynamic
vineyard in Chianti Classico


 Typical setting for tastings at vineyards

Monteriggioni -  where our bike tour ended with
 a well deserved beer

Tuscan hills


Often eaten with almond rusks

Medieval charm

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