Stay in a Tus­can fairy tale castle? Yes please!

LISA ROLAND is charmed by a re­gal Ital­ian villa con­verted into a ho­tel and ide­ally lo­cated in breath­tak­ing coun­try­side

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

‘YOU don’t have to make an ef­fort - just do what you’d nor­mally do and I’ll fit in,” said the teenage Amer­i­can niece at the start of her im­promptu two month Euro­pean pop-in.

“What about a trip to Lon­don, the Lakes or Black­pool?” Friends ‘help­fully’ sug­gested.

Yeah right. Are you kid­ding?

This was the best ex­cuse ever - so Italy it was, al­low­ing just enough hours for Dara’s jet­lag to clear be­fore we marched her back to the air­port.

We had been given the op­por­tu­nity to stay in a fairy tale castle con­verted into the ul­ti­mate bou­tique ho­tel in the sweep­ing Tus­can coun­try­side with views to die for and food to match.

It would have been rude to say no and Black­pool could wait.

Castello di Ca­sole is an idyl­lic set up of 41 pala­tial suites in and around the main ho­tel plus an ar­ray of self cater­ing farm­houses spread out around the 4,200 acre es­tate.

A cy­press-lined lane weaves its way through the olive groves and vine­yards to the el­e­gant court­yard en­trance with a wel­come as warm as the heated in­fin­ity pool which the daugh­ter was still swim­ming in at 7pm on an Oc­to­ber evening.

De­spite un­doubt­edly not be­ing an es­tab­lish­ment for the penny con­scious and drip­ping with an un­der­stated cool el­e­gance, the Castello’s staff could not have been friend­lier or more ap­proach­able.

With the in­evitable glass of Prosecco in one hand, we were shown around the splen­did ho­tel, al­ready feel­ing sad we were only here for two nights... and we hadn’t even un­packed.

The 10th cen­tury Castello was bought in 2005 by the Amer­i­can com­pany Tim­bers Re­sort with the metic­u­lous con­ver­sion tak­ing an as­ton­ish­ing seven years.

Any­one wor­ry­ing the US own­ers would risk los­ing its Ital­ian iden­tity couldn’t be more wrong - the at­ten­tion to de­tail with tra­di­tional build­ing meth­ods and ma­te­ri­als from the orig­i­nal grounds and sur­round­ing ar­eas is what took the chal­leng­ing project so long to com­plete.

The Castello has even man­aged to con­vert the build­ing’s orig­i­nal an­cient wine cel­lar into an awe­some Essere spa,

Within easy driv­ing dis­tance of var­i­ous Tus­can land­marks, it’s in a crack­ing lo­ca­tion.

Me­dieval tow­ers scat­ter the hori­zon and it’s only 30 min­utes from the awe­some Siena where even in Oc­to­ber we lay in the Pi­azzo del Cam­pos soak­ing up the late af­ter­noon rays.

We tried to cram in as many pic­turesque vil­lages as pos­si­ble on our whis­tle stop break, swing­ing off the main coun­try lanes when­ever we spot­ted a tower.

But there re­ally is a limit to how many gi­gan­tic gelatos windy bends will stom­ach... but worth push­ing it to the limit.

De­spite Castello di Ca­sole def­i­nitely be­ing in the up­per end of the hol­i­day mar­ket, there’s not an ounce of stuffi­ness and it pos­i­tively wel­comes fam­i­lies.

There are a host of special pack­ages def­i­nitely en­cour­ag­ing well-heeled bam­bi­nos.

So when we were of­fered a pizza mak­ing class I en­vis­aged one of those kiddy ori­en­tated ‘make a smi­ley face out of mush­rooms and olives on a Mar­garita’. I wasn’t keen, but the Amer­i­can niece fan­cied it, and when in Rome... or Tus­cany.

I couldn’t have been more wrong and our two teens were the youngest par­tic­i­pants by sev­eral decades.

Our charis­matic teacher, pizza chef Alessandro, meant busi­ness and so did our fel­low par­tic­i­pants... one New Yorker even com­ing dressed all in white in case of floury mishaps.

Alessandro ut­terly spoiled piz­zas for us that night as none have since tasted any­where near as spot on as his.

And even our at­tempts – com­plete with hi­lar­i­ous mid-air near misses as we threw the dough – were re­ally rather good.

We came away full of the usual hol­i­day-in­duced in­sane eu­pho­ria of “wouldn’t it be great to have a gi­ant pizza oven in the gar­den”?

The more in­for­mal Pazzia trat­to­ria-style eat­ing is in­evitably part­nered with the ul­ti­mate din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at its big brother ris­torante Tosca.

Break­fasts served here re­ally don’t come much bet­ter... noth­ing was too much trou­ble with a spread of choices sec­ond to none. But we were also lucky enough to try one of its tast­ing menus one evening.

The whole night was an ab­so­lute joy. Course af­ter course of the ul­ti­mate din­ing de­light ex­plained in de­tail by the en­gag­ing staff. And de­spite its ob­vi­ous am­bi­tious so­phis­ti­ca­tion, it was great fun, with din­ers at other ta­bles call­ing over to swap en­thu­si­as­tic ver­dicts.

And so to bed. The suites have been fur­nished to the high­est spec with state of the art bath­rooms, bed­rooms which are just too ridicu­lously com­fort­able and, of course, those fab views.

It was mean to make us say ar­riverderci so soon, but the Amer­i­can had the rest of her Euro­pean itin­er­ary to fit in. Maybe we should have done Black­pool first.

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