CHIANTI Italy, Jan. 3, 2016 – Castel Monastero is an enchanting 5-star luxury resort and spa in a gorgeously restored 11th century monastery in the Tuscan hills of Chianti outside of Siena. This stunning property, a well-deserved member of Leading Hotels of the World, features the exquisite Gordon Ramsey restaurant Contrada, as well as a massive 16th-century wine cellar that serves as the casual bistro on the property, Le Cantina.
With 73 rooms and suites in the central cloister, and a series of outlying villas, Castel Monastero is a serene luxurious retreat where, once arriving, there may be no need to leave the property for days.
In the hustle and bustle of a world in constant motion, it is the type of place where you come to stay, relax, indulge, and enjoy in style and comfort.
A world class spa with two outdoor pools and several indoor pools, Castel Monastero is renowned for its spa treatments, sumptuous creature comforts, and precise attention to detail.
Opened in 2007, this medieval hilltop treasure underwent three years of intense renovation that retained 65% of the original structure while upgrading the rooms and suites to the highest standard of international luxury travel.
Located in rolling hills 15 miles east of Sienna, it appears like a vision above the narrow road leading to its entrance. The principle group of buildings is a pentagon of golden stone and ancient brick surrounding an open cloister.
Walking through the open stone archway to reception is to be transported back 1000 years, the effect truly magical. In the center of the cloister is an open courtyard surrounded by low slung two and three story stone buildings, watched over by a 4 story bell tower.
In one corner is an ancient consecrated chapel, dating from the 14th century, which was used by the resident monks, and is used for weddings today. It is distinguished by two rectangular stain glass windows of Jesus and The Madonna with child on the upper reaches of the side and entrance walls.
Just past the vaulted lobby filled with art is a gorgeous bar and lounge area, stunningly decorated, with high beamed ceilings and warm leather furnishings.
Each building at Castel Monastero is designated as a different Contrada, in a nod to the parishes of Siena, with the beautifully furnished Deluxe Room on the upper floor of Contrada Ambra overlooking a panoramic view of the central cloister.
A full mural of medieval Tuscany adorns the entire wall above the sumptuous king size bed. Wooden beam ceilings with brick inlays, in typical Tuscan style, adorn the ceilings.
Broad ancient floor boards give warmth and stateliness to the luxurious effect of the room. A massive bathroom with twin cement sinks and a deep bathtub give way to a large shower chamber next door with rain shower and handheld fixtures.
The entryway between the bedroom and bathroom has large closets and makes the expansive room seem even more luxurious. Well appointed leather couches and antique furnishings fill the sitting area.
A casual afternoon of relaxation is enchantingly transformed by the medieval vista of gorgeous stone buildings surrounding the cloister outside the window, and of olive groves and a stone castle in the distance just beyond the hilltop.
Gordan Ramsay has partnered with Castel Monastero to create the fine dining experience Contrada, which fills the lower floor of the Bell tower building, and in the summer, fills the center of the cloister with intimate outdoor dining.
The indoor area of Contrada is very modern, with cream colored walls and contemporary furnishings off set by wood beam ceilings and dashes of modern art everywhere. It is a lovely confluence of the ancient and the modern, and the effect is brilliantly etherial.
The casual restaurant, Le Cantina, fills the entire 16th century wine cellar on the lower level of Contrada, where the local Chianti was stored for centuries.
Down a winding staircase a lengthy cavern of arching brick reveals one of the most magnificent chambers to ever hold a restaurant.
Close to 8 meters underground, the actual entrance of Le Cantina spills out of the lower level of the monastery into an outer courtyard in the shadow of the looming structure above it.
Pathways across the property lead to the award winning spa complex, with two outdoor swimming and two indoor spa pools under shadow of a three story stone building.
Massage, beauty, health, meditation and yoga treatments are all offered in a gorgeous complex under the direction of Francesca, the spa director.
Behind the spa is a meticulously restored and beautifully furnished medieval farmhouse that accommodates up to 6 guests, with views stretching out across the hills of Chianti.
The surrounding countryside is lush, the fields thick with grass, the ambiance of serenity is palpable as blue Tuscan skies and feathery clouds gleam against a brilliant green meadow.
Dinner at Le Cantina is a casual but sophisticated experience, with an emphasis of typical Tuscan cuisine, and an atmosphere of pampered attention to detail.
Golden butternut squash soup is tangy and thick, livened up with goat cheese from a local farm. An octopus salad is light and beautifully flavored.
Tagliatelle with anchovies is fabulous, fresh made pasta in a light sauce with an understated subteness of delicate flavor.
Fillet of Chianina beef in this region known for its meats is an absolute must, beautifully cooked, tenderly melting in the mouth with each morsel, especially when accompanied by a fabulous 2010 Brunello di Montalcino.
The moon shines above the night sky, casting a heavenly glow across the courtyard as we gaze out the window in the romantic afterglow of a sumptuous dinner.
Castel Monastero opens the door to these moments in time, transcending the ages from the 11th century across the history of Chianti with a classic combination of the ancient and the sublime.
Superior rooms start at about $500 a night, Deluxe rooms are $550, while Prestige rooms are around $640 per night. Junior suites start at $750 a night, while a full suite is about $1200 per night. At the top of the range the Duplex Suite is $1400 per night, while the Royal suite can be had for $1800.00 a night.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal