Smack bang in the heart of Italy’s Chianti region, Castello del Nero is a 12th century bolthole that turbocharges Tuscan tradition with a serious injection of la dolce vita. The sprawling medieval castle, just outside the enclave of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, was once owned by Florentine nobility. Two families in particular. Built and occupied by the Del Nero family then owned by the Torrigiani in the 19th century, the castle features nods to both households, with their coats of arms emblazoned on walls throughout.
It took six years of loving restoration to transform Castello del Nero into the 50-room hotel it is today, which comes complete with a radiant ESPA, Michelin-starred restaurant, and dip-worthy 20m outdoor pool. Sitting rather splendidly on a hilltop peak, Castello del Nero presides over 750 acres of olive groves and sloping vineyards studded with cypress trees. This is Van Gogh’s Tuscany writ large. Its immediate grounds are all immaculately tweezed topiary, tinkling fountains and fragrant, blooming roses. Lavender bushes hum loudly with the buzz of bees.
Each suite and room at Castello del Nero is as individual as the estate’s multifaceted history. Ultra-palatial suites in the original castle building come with painstakingly hand-restored frescoes and Insta-friendly, cavernous bathrooms with their own giant fireplaces. Gorgeously rustic rooms with timbered ceilings and terracotta tile floors occupy later-added former barns and annexes. All are ridiculously spacious with gargantuan beds, freestanding roll-top baths and those to-die-for views. It’s the little details like pillow menus, overflowing fruit bowls and luxuriant, locally produced toiletries that elevate Castello del Nero from Tuscan tradition to Florentine fancy, fit for a Medici.
Castello del Nero has two restaurants, the Michelin-starred Le Torre and more informal La Taverna. The former resides in the converted stables, while the latter occupies old castle kitchens. In summer, both restaurants go al fresco in the hotel’s grounds. While both use estate-grown organic produce, Le Torre is a swish, fine-dining affair and La Taverna serves refined takes on humble Tuscan cuisine. Think; platters of wafer-thin bresaola, regional Pecorino cheese and hearty wild boar pappardelle.
In keeping with its heritage, the rolling estate produces its own extra virgin olive oil and wine. And nothing beats sipping a drop of their own brand Levriero – an IGT – overlooking the very vines its Sangiovese grapes came from. For an insider slurp, book a wine tasting session deep in the bowels of Castello del Nero’s immense stone wine cellars. Breakfast is served in La Torre featuring a smörgåsbord of local cheeses, cold meat cuts, fruit, yoghurts, pastries and dripping honeycomb.
The hotel’s only bespoke architectural addition is the vast, award-winning ESPA, which sits underneath the large outdoor terrace overlooking the pool. It’s huge but cleverly and discreetly hidden. There are two serene wings (women’s and mixed) featuring refreshing ice fountains, saunas and tropical showers. A heated vitality pool with flesh-pummelling, invigorating massage jets is heavenly and the spa’s blissful treatment menu is as long as Le Torre’s biblical wine list. While early risers will love the complimentary morning yoga sessions, nothing beats unfurling a towel on one of the smart sun loungers that flank the Olympic-sized pool as an attentive pool-hand rustles you up an ice-cold sundowner cocktail.
Given the sheer scale, it’s worth exploring Castello del Nero grounds on foot, from the herb and vegetable patch via lakes and forests. There’s a hiking route map with trails to take advantage of. You can take a bike ride or practice your backhand at the tennis courts too. In autumn, make like the local wild boars and go truffle hunting on the estate. There’s even a pocket-sized chapel you can ask to see. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to whisk you to Florence or Siena where you can gawp at their Renaissance masterpieces before returning to the grand estate.
Perfect for a romantic retreat à deux or gastronomic exploration of Tuscany, Castello del Nero is 25 minute drive from Florence and a hour and a half from Pisa airport. Rooms from £378 per night for a Superior Room in low season and £580 per night in high season Castellodelnero.com
Words: Ellen Grace Jones