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
‘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.