A flight from Gatwick to Italy on a grey Saturday winter’s morning was not something to look forward to when the alarm clock was set for 5.00 am, the previous working week had been long, and the 12.5 tog duvet seemed particularly heavy, but I was off to take a whirlwind look at the Castello di Casole.
Castello di Casole describes itself as “1,000 years in the making” - it has been in development since 2002, on the drawing board and in the imagination of different owners, and Timbers Resorts were due to open a few years ago. However, and given it is quintessential Tuscany, it's not a place that suits anything other than a leisurely pace, and when the opening finally took place in the summer of 2012 was it worth waiting for...?
Sense and Sensuality
Perched atop a typical Tuscan hillside with a vista that could be lifted from a Renaissance masterpiece, there is no view that doesn't take your breath away. From the moment I first walked inside it is evident that your cares and worries will drift away. Taking a deep breath I inhaled the intoxicating aromas; from the wood burning fire in the entrance lounge to the subtle perfumes of the winter flowers, add a slight chill that you can almost taste in the winter air, and my senses succumbed as the welcome glow of the fire took hold.
The facilities, as one would anticipate, are first class. Nothing fussy or cluttered, just classically Tuscan and finished to the highest order. No expense has been spared, and every Euro used wisely. A chilled glass of Prosecco, a quick signature and the formalities completed, it was time for lunch on the terrace. For the end of the year, a rare treat... local cheese and hams set the tone for a simple, yet stunning lunch. Tender asparagus accompanied a delicately cooked Brill and proved a perfect companion. A well selected red ensured that the rest of the afternoon could be tackled at a suitable pace, and after sampling delightful desserts it was time for a full tour.
Each and every room won me over at first glance. From the inviting linen and plump pillows to the expensive looking toiletries and inviting coffee table books. Spacious and welcoming, and with a variety of product that keeps excellence as its theme, I felt like I’d walked into a 3-D version of Conde Nast Magazine, but importantly there is no ceremony to it, you feel invited to throw yourself onto the sumptuous sofa's and cushions with no concern about having to puff it back up yourself later!
Where Local Means Local
Dining options on property range from à la carte to an informal pizzeria, along with al fresco for breakfast, lunch and dinner when weather permits. The food is every bit as good as the surroundings - classical, simple and packed full of flavour. Locally produced has become the norm in many places, with little regard to provenance. Here the 4,200 acre estate provides much of the menu and what it can’t provide is sourced from local community suppliers ensuring seasonality and freshness are a key component of each and every meal. Lucas then ensured our evening was finished off perfectly with his exceptional mixology skills - the day really did finish off with a cherry on top!
Special mention must go to the General Manager Bart, as he has assembled a great team who understand the concept of the resort exquisitely. The engaging team performed their roles incredibly well and enhanced my stay with each and every interaction. Frederico, as the Food & Beverage Manager played a particularly key role, as the culinary experiences are such a critical part of a visit to the region. The wine tasting we were fortunate enough to participate in, was handled with true expertise, and a rare passion.
This is a true gem in the heart of Tuscany, and one that I would recommend highly for individual travellers and groups alike. Smaller incentives would work brilliantly here with a focus on the local wines and cuisine and a healthy dose of R&R. For a group needing 30 to 40 rooms a buy-out for exclusive use could well be the trip of a lifetime.
It was only a 36 hour trip, but 5:00 am that Saturday seemed a world away as the only thought I had was one of returning to Castello di Casole. But for an awful lot longer next time, and yes, it was more than worth the wait.
See some of what Rob experienced and more on our Pinterest board