Room service: Castello di Casole, Tuscany, Italy

Country life goes lux in Tuscany

Call me a ponce, but I do like a grand arrival. I mean, if you're going to splash out on a luxury hotel, you don't expect to creep in by the bins. You want to swank up a tree-lined avenue, preferably a couple of miles long, and have your driver sweep round the fountain before setting you down on a crisp marble step. That's why in London, the Savoy will always be glamorous, while the Ritz, since they stopped using the front door, feels like a yacht without its mast.

So I was feeling quite the superstar by the time I was deposited in front of the Castello di Casole, with all the cypress trees and far-reaching views you would expect of a hilltop Tuscan palace. The former seat of the merchant Bargagli family, during the 1960s leading film director Luchino Visconti lived here. How I wish I could have seen it then: parties lasted for days, and Sophia Loren would emerge from the swimming pool.

Today, it's in the hands of an American firm called Timbers Resorts, which specialises in high-end ski hotels. I know what you're thinking: uh oh, Disney does Tuscany. But actually, they have been surprisingly sensitive in their restoration, and clearly had the deep pockets to pay for the highest spec. That's why it's taken five years to complete, not made easier by Italy's infamously fastidious heritage bodies, nit-picking over paint colours. (They had to repaint the façade three times.)

The result is a 1,000-year-old property in spanking good nick. No scrimping on Carrara marble or antique chests here. But mercifully, they haven't gone for all-out bling, so there's no ritzy golf course or rooftop helipad. Keep it authentic, was the maxim. So there are terracotta brick floors and warm pastels for the walls.

They have even restored the original pizza oven, where they will teach you how to make pizza – harder than it looks. This is the centrepiece of the low-key Pazzia Pizzeria, which serves light lunches and snacks, and homemade ice cream. For more formal dining, the Tosca restaurant is presided over by Genoan chef Daniele Sera, who is also personal chef to the King of Morocco, so occasionally he has to dash off.

The highlight, by a long chalk, is the swimming pool, which is new and enormous and has been cut into the hillside looking west. If, like me, you don't visit Tuscany in the heat to charge about looking at frescos, you will want to spend most of your time here. And with its film-set views and pleasantly cool temperature, it's the ideal place to consider the merits of the white peach Bellini. All that's missing is Sophia Loren.

Location

The hotel is the centrepiece of a 4,200-acre estate. The owners have refurbished the 28 outlying farmhouses and are selling them through a shared-ownership scheme. The estate is classic Tuscan countryside, all rolling hills and wild boar reserves, and one of the great perks is the extensive network of white roads you can explore by mountain bike. However, you're not particularly near any major towns. It's a 90-minute drive south-east of Pisa airport, and San Gimignano is an hour's drive. Although popular with Brits (Sting lives just over the hill), this area isn't technically Chiantishire: the local wine is a white Vernaccia, and very refreshing it is too.

Comfort

All 41 rooms are suites, and they vary substantially, owing to the eccentricities of the building. All are noticeably generous in space, and there's a guaranteed wow factor in each: either a vast piano nobile bathroom, or a mesmerising view. The 18 villa suites occupy the main house and converted barns around the back courtyard, and if you like being in the action, this is the place to be. For privacy, the more contemporary-themed Oliveto suites, or two-storey Limonaia suites (in a converted lemon barn), have private gardens. All bedrooms have simple decor, with wrought-iron beds, acres of white linen, antique chests and crushed velvet sofas. The bathrooms are exceptionally well appointed: alabaster is used for everything. Classic English-design taps and fittings are made by the hilariously named Italian firm Devon & Devon. You may struggle to decide whether to wallow in your standalone bathtub, or take a good drubbing from the walk-in shower. For research purposes, I did both: the bath won, as you can't drink Vernaccia in the shower. There are flat-screen televisions in bedrooms and sitting areas, discreetly hidden away in period-style cabinets. Though frankly, when there are views and baths and white peach Bellinis to enjoy, why would anyone come here to watch telly?

Castello di Casole, Localita Querceto, Casole d'Elsa, Siena, Tuscany, Italy (00 39 0577 961 508; castellodicasole.com).

Rooms *****
Value **
Service ***

Doubles start at €630, including breakfast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence