24-Hour Room Service: Castello del Nero, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa
Saturday 17 May 2008
The old adage that it takes money to make money certainly rings true at the Castello del Nero. It's clear for all to see that no expense has been spared in renovating this 12th-century castle turned luxury hotel.
The property sits on a suitably aristocratic spot, overlooking a patchwork of fields, olive groves and vineyards that embodies the "Chiantishire" fantasy. Such is the castle's historical importance that the Italian Fine Arts Commission had to be called in to oversee work on the original structure, in all its frescoed glory. The resulting restoration is impeccable; the noble Florentine Del Nero family, who used to call it home, would surely approve.
A perfect swimming pool is encircled by ancient olive trees, two tennis courts, a cypress tree walk and a pretty landscaped garden as well as an atmospheric vaulted bar with exposed stonework. The ESPA wellness centre boasts acres of glittering Bisazza tiles and uses the estate's olive oil for treatments.
There's a bit of a predicament when it comes to the yawning terrace at the front of the castle. Landscaping has been kept to a minimum so as not to obscure the spectacular views, but having dinner there felt a bit like eating on a football pitch.
As far as locations go though, this is the Tuscany that everyone wants to wake up to. With the exception of the slightly schizophrenic interior design, Castello del Nero ticks all the boxes (right down to its dinky chapel, which provides the perfect backdrop for romantic Tuscan weddings).
Strada Spicciano 7, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Italy (00 39 055 80 64 70; www.castellodelnero.com).
The castle sits on an elevated hill overlooking the cypress-flecked Tuscan hills a short drive from villages such as Greve in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, and Barberino di Val d'Elsa. The Renaissance jewels of Florence, San Gimignano and Siena are also within easy reach.
Time from international airport: most visitors from the UK will arrive at Pisa's Galileo Galilei, which is a bit more than an hour's drive. Florence's smaller Amerigo Vespucci airport is about 30 minutes.
ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?
The 50 rooms are divided into four different categories: suites, deluxe, executive and classic. The suites, set in the original castle, take some beating, with original frescoes, beamed ceilings, original cotto tiles and antique furniture. They culminate in the fabulous but oddly named James Galway Suite.
Most of the other rooms are scattered throughout a number of outbuildings built to blend with the original structure. The décor in these is almost, but not quite, there: a mélange of old-meets-new. Our room was an inoffensive blend of neutral tones and terracotta floors, with the odd vibrant accent. Full marks, though, for the comfortable beds, bedlinen and highly covetable cashmere throws.
The bathrooms were reassuringly luxurious, with marble, polished plaster walls in a dusky rose pink, and a fabulous double shower.
Freebies: a complimentary shuttle service to and from Florence in daylight hours, snazzy and oh-so Italian Etro toiletries.
Keeping in touch: flat-screen TVs, a daily newspaper, DVD player and Wi-Fi in every room, for a charge.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at €528 (£440) per night, including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: the Villa Bordoni (00 39 055 884 0004; www.villabordoni.com), housed in a pretty villa in nearby Greve, has doubles from €170 (£142) per night with breakfast.
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