TAVARNALLE VAL DE PESA, ITALY, April 4, 2017 – Castello Del Nero is an amazing 5-star luxury resort and spa halfway between Florence and Sienna on a sprawling hilltop in the tiny town of Tavarnelle set amongst the golden rolling hills of Tuscany. A resplendent, impeccable property, and longtime member of Leading Hotels of the World, Castello Del Nero takes the sophistication of the Florentine Renaissance and creates an environment of serene opulence.
With 50 elegant rooms, a fabulous ESPA Spa and wellness center, and an incredible one star Michelin Restaurant, La Torre, Castello Del Nero is a retreat for the mind and soul dedicated to the pampering of its guests in luxury and style.
Now celebrating the 10th anniversary of its opening, this 12th century restored medieval castle and former home for the noble Del Nero family has achieved stellar levels of international recognition that are exceptionally well deserved.
Managing director Fabio Datteroni has masterfully taken this historic property and done what he has accomplished elsewhere at Castello Banfi Il Borgo, making it a destination resort where nothing is left to chance, where personalized service is impeccable, and guests may have no need to leave the grounds for days.
Located in the hilltop town of Tavarnelle Val de Pesa it commands a prominent peak of land, extending across 740 acres of pasture, olive groves and vineyards, with 360 degree views that stretch for miles across the Chianti countryside.
Rooms are opulently furnished, with sumptuous beddings, beautiful bathrooms, and precise attention to detail. There is a total of 32 gorgeous rooms and 18 exquisitely designed suites, with every one of them having its own distinct character and personality.
The top floor corner room has extraordinary wood beamed ceilings that lend a rustic charm to a sophisticated environment, with sweeping views in two directions across the Tuscan hills and sloping vineyards, and a particularly cavernous bathroom area with views of its own.
The Deluxe Frescoed Suite is a stunning masterwork of antiquity, immaculately restored, the woodwork of the original 20 foot ceilings gleaming against expansive furnishings.
The four-poster bed has serpentine carved bedposts reminiscent of the Papal columns in Saint Peters Basilica in Rome, and the suite has incredible views overlooking the roiling hills and vineyards of Chianti below.
The original dumbwaiter from the sixteenth century that reaches down to ancient subterranean kitchen is still there, hidden in a side closet, a reminder of the generations of Italian nobility that lived on the premises since the 12th century.
A truly grand meeting room, the Sala Gran Camino, stretches across a vast area of the first floor, with the crest of both the Del Nero and Torrigiani noble families adorning the walls.
Each of the rooms and suites are completely distinct, most notably the Presidential Suite adorned with ancient frescoes, and the Galway Suite, named for frequent visitor Sir James Galway, with its terraced balconies and vaulted ceilings.
Garden suites with enormous fireplaces adorn several detached buildings from the main structure, exotically decorated with sumptuously robust furnishings, with discreet private gardens allowing sunny afternoons of gazing across the hills and vineyards with a glass of Chianti.
An iconic sculpture adorns the center of the grand terrace that sweeps across the rear of the hotel, a gathering place with a remarkable vista, with all encapsulating 360-degree views of the hills and vineyards of Tuscany stretching to the horizon.
Lunch is frequently served here, weddings and special events are a regular occasion, and across the sloping hills are the private guesthouses of Castello Del Nero and the principle winery building.
There are a number of sculptures strategically located throughout the property, raising the standard of consciousness by incorporating it seamlessly into the landscapes and buildings.
The effect is that Castello Del Nero rises above the surrounding landscape like a well adorned beacon of light, a castle of antiquity transformed and become part and parcel of the modern age, without losing its beauty or sense of dominance over the surrounding country.
Indeed at days end as the sun sets, it is a magical aura that settles over the hilltop, the wind rising as the last gasp of daylight disappears in silhouette behind the western hills, the beauty of the day breathlessly slipping away.
A pair of grass tennis courts, a rarity in the resort world, adorn an entire side of the property towards Tavarnelle, in the shadow of an olive grove, their surfaces meticulously groomed like Wimbledon in Italy.
A stunning chapel dating from the 17th century reaches out from the east wing of the main hotel, its interiors unchanged in 300 years.
It is a reminder of the nobility and heritage of the castle and an beautifully exotic architectural addition that transforms that wing of the property.
The renowned ESPA Spa fills the entire lower level of Castello del Nero, with an open air soaking Jacuzzi, treatment rooms, beauty room, work out facilities and an array of massage and beauty treatments.
A large outdoor pool, a crack staff, along with impeccable facilities, are how the spa helps make Castello Del Nero a true destination resort dedicated to the whole being of its guests.
Castello del Nero was for many centuries the home of the Florentine noble Del Nero family, and was added to the vast land holdings of the Torrigiani family in 1825.
The Marquis Carlo Torrigiani and his American wife Anna Fry were instrumental in upgrading the castle and surrounding lands in the late 19th and early 20th century, and the Torrigiani family lived here until 1986, after which it fell into disrepair.
The restoration of the castle began more than ten years ago in 2000 when the third owner of Castello Del Nero in 800 years, Robert Trotta purchased the property to return to his family roots after a successful business career.
His tireless efforts to painstakingly restore the property to glory, and build a world class Tuscan resort, paid off after three years of meticulous reconstruction, and Castello Del Nero opened in 2006.
What he has created is a utopian environment, blending history with modern furnishings, glorious frescoes with stunning creature comforts in a holistic environment of stunning beauty and calm that are immediately apparent upon entering the property.
The ground floor flows into each adjoining area, beginning with the large airy lobby, all dark woods and open space, welcoming each guest with effusive charm.
The entrance way leads to a staircase looking down into the bar and restaurant area on the lower floor, evocatively restored to its Renaissance glory.
This area was once the entranceway of the castle where carriages of horses literally drove into an open chamber where the bar and hallway to the gourmet restaurant is now.
The Bar at Castello del Nero invokes the mood of a medieval chamber, except with modern sophistication, beautifully decorated walls, and a cozy and warm atmosphere.
Next door the casual restaurant, La Taverna, serves typical Tuscan cuisine in the cozy brick lined chambers that were once the kitchens of the ancient castle.
Indeed, an early dumbwaiter system can still be found in one corner of this ancient cellar that would lead to what was once the dining hall immediately above it, now a luxuriously designed luxury suite.
The wine cellars are impressive and distinctive, just down the steps from the Taverna Lounge, with one chamber holding a mind-bending collection of Italian red wines, and the other holding white and sparkling wine and champagne.
Immediately next door, under cream colored arches in the east wing of the lower floor, is cream-coloredally fabulous fine dining restaurant La Torre.
Holding one Michelin star for the last 4 years, La Torre, under the direction of Executive Chef Giovanni Luca di Pirro, is a Tuscan dream, located in what were the once the stables of the former manor house.
The Matre’ d is a commanding presence as he and the staff meticulously lead each guest through a series of courses of astounding haute cuisine. The staff is like a precision watch, delivering an unforgettable evening of fine dining with ease and grace as each course unfolds over the next three hours.
Toasted Scallops and asparagus scented with coriander, ginger and lemongrass served with shellfish mayonnaise is heavenly, perfectly cooked, crisp and firm on the outside, juicy and rich on the inside. Small bites of sweetbreads sautéed with morel mushrooms is a taste sensation, the sweetbreads crisply done, firm and tender, accented by citron and almonds in a cream Parmentier.
Homemade Pici pasta served with lamb ragout scented with mint and sheep cheese is outstanding, the lamb rich and full bodied, the Pici unassailable. The meal is accompanied by a gorgeous succession of Chianti Classico wines from Castello del Nero’s own vineyards, rich and full bodied, delightfully fruit forward.
Fillet of Chateaubriand from the finest Chianina beef is spectacular, juicy, tender, the flavors leaping onto the tongue with each succulent bite. Line caught sea bass on potato rosti with shrimp sauce and bruschetta isolana style is a perfect finish to an exceptional meal, followed by a flurry of deserts and Italian coffee.
Our time is too limited, the days too short to remain indefinitely in this hilltop paradise.
Yet Castello del Nero has left us transfixed by its beauty, its history, and the glory of its resurrection as a luxury retreat.
Rising with the sun to glimpse the pink skies shimmering over the vineyards below is a perfect reminder of the ephemeral glory of all grand journeys, singular experiences momentarily transfixed by astonishing beauty, and forever holding it in the minds eye in the soft afterglow of tomorrow.
Standard rooms start at around $450 per night, while deluxe rooms begin at around $600 a night. Suites begin at around $800 a night, the Deluxe Frescoed Suite runs about $1200 per night, and the Presidential Suite can be had for around $1800 a night.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal