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Relais La Suvera: A Renaissance Masterpiece

Written By | Mar 22, 2017

Relais La Suvera in Casole d’Elsa, Tuscany, the 14th century former Papal Palace of Pope Julius II. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

PIEVESCOLA, ITALY, April 27, 2016 – Relais La Suvera is the stunningly incredible 14th century former Papal palace of Pope Julius II and one of the most fascinating historical five star luxury resorts in all of Tuscany. The home for generations of the Ricci Italian noble family, this fabulous property brings the ancient past into the present with perhaps the most singularly glorious rooms and grounds to be found anywhere.

The 14th century Papal Villa at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World for the last 9 years, and now celebrating 26 years as a luxury property, this extraordinary unique destination resort combines the beauty of the Tuscan countryside with truly opulent rooms and furnishings fit for a king, or an emperor, or a Pope.

The rolling countryside of Casole d’Elsa beneath the ramparts of Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Every corner of La Suvera is filled with antique furniture, paintings, sculpture and the legacy of centuries of family possessions, including uniforms, dresses, and costumes dating from the 16th century.

Authentic 16th century wardrobe at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Each of the 12 rooms and suites in the Papal palace is a museum quality exhibition, an intact masterpiece of interior design transporting the guest into a living breathing part of Italian history.

The Maria Gabriella de Savoia Penthouse suite at Relais La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Farmhouse and Stables have 24 rooms wrapped around the 16th century church at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

An additional 24 glorious rooms are located in the converted farm house and stables wrapped around the 16th century church next to the Papal palace.

The wooded area on the grounds at Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The pond on the grounds of La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The grounds are sprawling, with manicured gardens and a small forest with a pond covering acres of high ground on top of a knoll overlooking the village of Pievescola in the rolling countryside of the municipality of Casole d’Elsa.

The entrance gates at Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Walking thru the large gates is to enter the dominion of Popes and the Italian aristocracy, the Papal Villa rising like a colossus against an impossibly blue sky.

Relais La Suvera as seen from the gardens against an impossibly blue sky.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A giant screen bell structure covers the fountain in the open courtyard between the castle, the 14th century medieval church and the converted farmhouse and stables, lending a surreal modernist sculptural effect to the courtyard.

The giant screen bell in the courtyard of La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Pope Julius II is best known for having been the patron of Michelangelo and Raphael and commissioning the architect Bramante to design St. Peters Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, for which Michelangelo famously painted the ceiling.

The back porch of the Papal Villa at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A warrior Pope who commanded the Holy See from 1503 until his death in 1512, Julius II was given the ancient palace of La Suvera by the Lord of Siena in order to ensure that he would defend the city against the expansionist designs of Florence.

The view from the back gardens at Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

He then entrusted the brilliant architect Baldaserre Peruzzi with the task of transforming the severe medieval castle into a gleaming Renaissance Villa.

The gleaming Rennaissance era Papal Villa designed by Baldaserre Peruzzi for Pope Julius II. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Each room in the Papal Villa is an exceptional statement of grandeur, especially the Maria Gabriella de Savoia Penthouse suite.

The four poster bed and thick wooden beamed ceilings in the Maria Gabriella de Savoia Penthouse suite at Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Massive beamed ceilings and a four-poster bed fit for a queen adjoin a sitting area right out of the Renaissance, with gilt covered gold mirrors and a glorious air of the 16th century come to life.

The Maria Gabriella de Savoia Penthouse suite at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Duke of Genoa Suite, dedicated to Ferdinand of Savoy, is all blues and martial attitude, a massive desk and exceptional dark cobalt furnishings defining an exceptional motif that engulfs the senses.

The Duke of Genoa Suite, all dark blues and sumptuous furnishings.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Napoleon Room is simply awe inspiring, filled with period furnishings and two chairs that were used by Napoleon and Empress Josephine at their wedding at Notre Dame cathedral.

The iconic Napoleon Suite at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A grand mural of his campaign in Egypt adorns one wall, an array of Napoleonic uniforms fills a showcase in the anteroom, a collection of tin soldiers of Napoleon and his army fills the bathroom, and it is said Napoleon stayed overnight here on his way to Elba.

The Maria Carolina Suite at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Maria Carolina suite is all reds and the usual array of spectacular furnishings, while the rest of the rooms in the Papal Villa astound and amaze with their singularity, opulence, and attention to detail.

The Superior room in the Farmhouse at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Superior Room in the farmhouse is simply fabulous, with a sumptuous four poster bed, and a lovely balcony overlooking the central gardens with one of the best views on the property.

Alison Reynolds on the balcony of the Superior Room in the Farmhouse at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The bathroom and closet behind hidden panels in the Superior room of the Farmhouse at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A comfortable sitting room with a large period desk extends to a curved paneled wall that disguises a bathroom and closet area on either side that is entered through hidden doorways.

The 16th century consecrated church visited by Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The exquisite 14th century church between the Papal Villa and the farmhouse has been preserved exactly the same as it was when redesigned in 1751 in an Austrian-Baroque style, and is consecrated for official Catholic weddings.

The stunning interior of the church at La Suvera, exactly as it looked in 1751. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The interior is a stunning array of white alabaster, stuccoes, soaring ceilings and the treasured quietude of an extraordinary private holy chapel with a pedigree unmatched by other properties.

Panoramic view of the interior of the 16th century church at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

It was visited three times by Cardinal Ratzinger prior to him becoming Pope Benedict, and the history of the Vatican is a constant that is intertwined with every aspect of the legacy of La Suvera.

The swimming pool at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The azure blue swimming pool stretches out across the area behind Reception, elegantly blending into the countryside around it while an ancient statue of Buddha adorns one side of the pool.

The pool at La Suvera looks out across the Tuscan countryside. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The beautiful dichotomy of modern resort poolside amenities in the shadow of a staggeringly gorgeous 14th century Renaissance Papal palace is the blending of splendor with magnificence.

The gorgeous view from the pool at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Designed with style and panache, with a towering view, the pool area becomes an ethereal hideaway for warm summer days where cares are abandoned with pampered elegance.

The Lemon Bar at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Lemon Bar immediately next door is a gorgeously quaint cottage with wood beamed ceilings sumptuously decorated in rustic style by the Marquis himself.

Interior of the Lemon Bar.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

It presents a completely unique relaxed environment perfect for a light lunch, informal dinner, or as an elegant pool side bar for a casual cocktail.

The turkish bath in the dungeon at Spa Balneum at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Spa Balneum is uniquely located in the former dungeons of the ancient castle, with an enticing Turkish bath set into the lower level, and an array of treatment and massages available to pamper their guests.

The private museum of the Ricci Family on the Papal floor of La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A private museum on the second floor of the Papal Villa includes an ancient family library, the grand Pope’s Hall, and a serene piano room filled with the sculpture, fine arts, and historical artifacts of generations of the Ricci family.

The Ricci family living room off the Pope’s Hall in the private museum at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

This is the private quarters and furnishings of the Marquis Giuseppe Ricci Paracciani and his wife, Princess Eleonora Massimo, who graciously allow guests to explore its treasures from 11 am – 8pm.

Ancient Sculptures adorn the hallways of the Pope’s Hall at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

To walk its halls is to be immersed in the spectacle and grandeur of 500 years of Italian and Vatican history, and the effect is scintillating.

The piano room in the private museum in the family quarters at Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

An extended porch in the back looks out over serene gardens and the explosion of hills and greenery of the surrounding countryside.

The view from the balcony of the Ricci family quarters at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Marquis himself is a man grounded in an Italian Papal legacy stretching back centuries, the last of a generation of titled aristocrats, who presides over an historical treasure steeped in the most crucial episodes of the Renaissance that also happens to be his ancient ancesteral home.

The Marquis Guiseppe Ricci Paracciani.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

He is a genial, serious, learned, affectionally empathetic and engaging man who has seen it all and interacted with the highest levels of Italian and Papal politics for many decades.

Marquis Ricci and Princess Eleonara Massimo meeting their good friend Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. The Marquis called his Holiness “a King”.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

For him his life is a matter of course, the steward of a legacy not just precious to himself but to the history of Tuscany, the Renaissance, and the destiny of Christendom itself.

The Marquis was gracious enough to give us a private tour of his apartments. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

In spite of this he is a surprisingly humble man, a fantastic storyteller and highly engaging as he graciously gives us a private tour and shows us around the impossibly beautiful rooms and family areas which sweep up the entirety of the second floor of the castle.

The ancient painted ceilings on the courtyard balcony of the private museum, dating back centuries. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Now in the twilight of his life he delights in his family, his children and grandchildren, and doesn’t seem bothered that his title will, by law, not pass to the next generation of Ricci’s.

The Marquis on the balcony with the hills of Casole d’Elsa behind him outside the second floor Pope’s Hall at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

We chat expansively as he discourses on Vatican intrigue, Italian politics, and his place in the eternal firmament with a level of knowledge and precise articulation that is both astonishing and enlightening.

The Marquis Ricci shares a laugh with us during a lovely private tour at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

He opened the gates of La Suvera as a luxury resort in 1990 as a means of restoring and maintaining this magnificent property, the likes of which is nowhere else to be found.

The Papal Villa at La Suvera, now celebrating 27 years as a Five Star luxury resort. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

He will be the last Marquis of this extraordinary estate, but is exceptionally proud of what he has accomplished here, as he should be, and thankfully will pass it on to his children, and they to his grandchildren.

The last Marquis will pass this amazing property on to his children and grandchildren, but not his title. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

The Ristorante Oliviera is the former olive mill where the harvest was pressed between two large grinding stones that adorn the center of the main dining room to this day.

Ristorante Olivieri on a brilliant day at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Seldom has form and function blended and transformed the ancient on site processing center essential to castle life and the village economy into a modern, elegant, beautifully charming resort restaurant, while maintaining the character and charm of the original structure.

The romantic interior of Ristorante Olivieri at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Dinner is a royal Tuscan countryside vision of sparkling romantic atmosphere, superb service, and innovative cuisine, the entranceway ablaze in the evening lights that lend a mystical golden glow to the old olive mill.

The exterior of Ristorante Olivieri at twilight.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Inside is exquisitely furnished, sumptuous draped chairs and banquets set off against thick beamed ceilings and the ancient press at the center of the room.

At the center of the Ristorante Olivieri is the ancient olive press.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Executive Chef Simone Acquarilli is a rising culinary star whose panache and expertise already sets him apart.

Chef Simone Acquarilli at Ristorante Olivieri at La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Just 29 years old, expect him to be the holding of one or even two Michelin stars someday, judging from his discreet and inventive use of foam in several courses.

Chef Acquarilli hard at work in the kitchen at Ristorante Olivieri.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

His passion for and commitment to cuisine without regard to the need for the accolades of Michelin honoraria almost ensures that it will be bestowed on him.

A fabulous Chianti Classico at Ristorante Olivieri at La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

A brilliant staff, many of whom are more like family, and indeed have been a part of the fabric of La Suvera for decades, help create an extraordinary evening of exceptional cuisine in a magical setting.

Service at La Suvera is like the setting, atmosphere, and the furnishings, absolutely impeccable. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Unique destinations and extraordinary experiences are the guiding principle of grand excursions, and La Suvera provides a singularly spectacular creation in its own special place in the universe.

The stunning countryside just outside Relais La Suvera. (Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Time flows by in a river of sensations, each moment engulfed by the next, until all too soon, in the blink of an eye, it is time to leave, and yet somehow time stands still in our mind while reflecting on the experience.

The Papal Villa as dusk descends on La Suvera.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Somewhere out there, on the bluff above Pievescola, in the far reaches of Casole d’Elba, La Suvera awaits, weaving its magical spell on a succession of guests who cannot help but depart enticed, enthralled, enraptured, and far richer for the experience.

The courtyard at Relais La Suvera just before sunrise, at first light, as seen from our balcony.
(Photo by Alison Reynolds)

Classic Rooms in the Farmhouse or Stables start at about $320 a night, Superior rooms are around $360, Junior Suites begin at $425, and Suites will run about $500 per night.

Deluxe rooms in the Papal Villa can be had for $425 a night, Suites start at around $600, while the Maria Gabriella de Savoia Penthouse Suite is about $760 a night. @RelaislaSuvera
Small Luxury Hotels of the World @SLHLuxuryHotels

Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles. @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal


Joel Berliner

Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles who has written for The Washington Times, Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Honolulu Advertiser, El Paso Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among many other publications. He is excited to be here at CDN, where along with his wife, photographer extraordinaire Alison Reynolds, they will travel the globe in order to bring you The Good Life.