At Castello di Casole, a Belmond Hotel in Tuscany, guests can romp around the green and gold Tuscan countryside, dabble in dough-making at the sweet little pizzeria, dine in elegance at Ristorante Tosca or unwind in the former wine cellar, now a dramatic spa: all barrel-vaulted ceilings, restored stone walls and verdant-valley views. In the summer, it’s a hit with families, too – little Smiths love the sprawling gardens and large, valley-facing pool.
Thirty-nine suites and penthouses, 28 villas and farmhouses.
10am. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £899.68 (€1,022), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-out.
A generous Continental breakfast is usually included. WiFi is free, as is valet parking.
Take a Tuscan cooking class and learn how to make homemade pastas and pizzas, indulge in a gelato tasting session, or brush up on your language skills with an Italian class. Pick up grape-related know-how, from cultivation to the final product, from Castello di Casole’s wine-consultant extraordinaire Paolo Caciorgna.
At the hotel
Grounds spanning 4,200 acres (including a game reserve, vineyards and olive groves), walking and cycling trails, swimming pool, spa, fitness centre, cinema, games room, croquet lawn. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar, bathrobes and slippers. The Oliveto suites have Nespresso coffee makers.
Our favourite rooms
We love the Limonaia suites, set in the converted lemon barn and boasting private gardens, cosy living rooms and a split-level layout. If you hanker for something historic, book one of the Tinaia suites, close to the chapel, which have original stone walls and bathrooms decorated with mosaics. Plump for the Bargagli Penthouse, which comfortably sleeps six and has a private patio, farmhouse antiques, rich fabrics and Carrara marble bathrooms. All suites are styled with a luxurious take on Tuscan rusticity: rich traditional colours (ochre, gold, olive and terracotta), heavy antique furniture in polished wood, four-poster beds with wrought-iron frames and original stone floors.
The heated outdoor infinity pool is built into the hillside and has sweeping views of Siena’s valleys and vineyards. It’s flanked by sunloungers with parasols, and there’s always an attentive member of staff at hand, should you find yourself parched or peckish; it’s open from 8am until 8pm in high season (closed between November and March).
Wine cellar turned spacious luxury spa Essere (‘to be’ in Italian) has high vaulted ceilings, restored stone walls and Etruscan artifacts on display. The spa is divided into his and hers sections, with relaxation areas, luxury locker rooms, steam rooms, Roman-bath-inspired plunge pools and seven treatment rooms, including one for couples massages. Choose from a selection of classic pampering options, including Swedish and deep-tissue massages, glow-unveiling skin treatments, a signature Mediterranean aromatherapy ritual, and mani-pedis; Tuscan-tinged ingredients, including olive oil, grape seeds and rosemary, are used for all massages. There's also an east-facing garden terrace for morning yoga sessions and Pilates, a private outdoor garden for relaxing in the fresh air, and a dainty boutique displaying local products.
Cashmere and cologne, classically beautiful swimwear and something that’ll stand up to stomp around the grounds. Leave space in your suitcase for bottles of the local Vernaccia: a zingy white wine that goes particularly well with summertime lunches.
There’s a sizeable fitness centre with a range of classic gym equipment on the ground floor of the spa. Two suites have been specially modified for wheelchair users.
Small dogs can stay too, for a deep-cleaning fee of €150 a stay (€150 every three days for larger dogs). Pillows and bowls can be provided on request and there are plenty of quiet country roads for walkies surrounding the hotel. See more pet-friendly hotels in Tuscany.
Despite the hotel’s adult feel, children are very welcome. Extra beds (€173.80 a night) and cots (free) can be added to rooms; there’s a children’s menu and the chef will happily adapt dishes from the main menu. Babysitting is available from €15 an hour.
If you’d like a private garden for you and your brood to potter around in, book a spacious Oliveto suite or one of the Limonaia suites in the converted lemon barn. The latter are spread across two levels, with a lounge upstairs and a bedroom downstairs.
The hotel organises art classes, pizza-making sessions and gelato tastings. There’s a croquet lawn behind Ristorante Tosca, cricket equipment and walking trails. For winter months or lazy moments, there’s a cinema and games room (unsupervised), plus a stash of board games and bikes to borrow. The hotel can arrange private viewings with the gamekeeper, so children can spy on wild boar, pheasant and hare.
There’s an outdoor pool set in the gardens, overlooking the Tuscan fields. A lifeguard supervises the pool from 8am until 8pm (high season). The pool is 1.4m at its deepest point; 70cm at its most shallow and is accessed by four steps. Borrow floats.
Highchairs can be provided; kids are welcome in Ristorante Tosca and there’s a children’s menu. The chef will adapt menu items for younger palates and Pazzia Pizzeria is cosy and informal – perfect for Smith Junior.
Babysitting is available from €15 a night; must be booked two days ahead.
No need to pack
Arts and crafts materials are provided, as are board games, bicycles and bike helmets.
Sit in the high-backed, throne-like chairs in Ristorante Tosca, or grab one of the cosy, cushioned booths. On a warm day, enjoy a pizza in the courtyard or have drinks and a light lunch on the terrace, which has panoramic valley views.
Titled Tuscan: linens and loafers in warm weather; knitwear, silk and corduroy in Cimabue colours for winter.
Breakfast and dinner are served at red-brick Ristorante Tosca, decorated with warm terracotta hues, custom Murano glass chandeliers and stained-glass-inspired paintings of the surrounding valleys. The menu has a Tuscan heart, starring finely tuned homemade pastas, fish and game dishes, such as tuna with burrata, capers and anchovies; linguine pastificio with clams; and taglietelle with wild-boar sauce. And artisanal sandwiches and gelato are served by the pool.
There’s a glittering line-up of spirits in Bar Visconti, which has a handsome monochrome chequered floor and leather banquettes. Walls are decorated with Tuscan frescoes and hung with black and white stills from Visconti’s films. Sip his eponymous cocktail: a bellini made with home-grown white peaches (in season), or share a bottle of the zingy local white wine. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a bar menu of burgers, salads and sandwiches. Seats are also clustered around the courtyard’s covered loggia and the hillside terrace, the latter of which has sweeping views of Casole d’Elsa and the sunset.
Breakfast is served between 7am and 11am at Ristorante Tosca; lunch from 12 noon to 3pm; and dinner is plated up between 7pm and 11pm.
The 24-hour room service includes salads, sandwiches and pizzas. Minibars are stocked with soft drinks and snacks.
The hotel is set on a rolling 4,200-acre estate in the hilltop town of Casole d’Elsa in scenic Siena – the heart of Tuscany. You can reach Florence and San Gimignano in about an hour by car.
The closest airport is Florence, 50km away – just under an hour’s drive.
Poggibonsi station is 20km from the hotel (a 20-minute drive). It takes just over an hour to get here by train from Florence; half an hour from Siena (www.trenitalia.com).
From Florence, take the SR2 in the direction of Siena, then the SP541 towards Grosseto and follow signs for Casole d'Elsa. Approaching the hotel is an experience in itself: a long winding road, flanked with Cyprus trees, that leads to the main courtyard (where tired drivers can take advantage of free valet parking).
There’s a helipad in Siena (a half-hour drive from the hotel).
Worth getting out of bed for
You won’t have to go far to brush up on your beginner’s Italian, knead pizza dough, try your hand at making ceramics, or be pummelled into a state of bliss: all can be arranged on site. The hotel also hosts guided game preserve tours and vineyard walks. If you feel like branching out from your enviably cushy surroundings, Tuscany has stunning countryside, verdant vineyards and a wealth of tempting restaurants. Borrow mountain bikes and go exploring in the nearby towns of Mensano, Radicondoli and Casole d’Elsa. Staff at Castello di Casole can organise hot-air ballooning, wine tastings, visits to Siena, Volterra, San Gimignano and Chianti; saffron-picking in Volterra and horse-riding. They’ll also point you in the direction of tennis courts, local farms worth visiting and an alabaster museum or two. There are plenty of golf courses to choose from, including Abbadia Golf Club, 20 minutes away by car.
Il Columbaio is a Michelin-starred restaurant attached to the characterful Il Colombaio di Mariva Benucci hotel at Locanda Colombaio in the tiny medieaval village of Casole d Elsa. It's worth seeking out for its creative chef: past dishes include lobster Caesar salad, fish crusted in spice, cocoa and salt, and pecorino soufflé. The dining room looks out over the Tuscan hills and owner Mariva is a charming host (+39 05 77 94 90 02). In San Gimignano, the arched ceilings, exposed brick and candlelight in Cum Quibus (+39 05 77 94 31 99; Via Santa Martino) make for a romantic experience; the food is rustic Tuscan, and the service is warm – you may see a starter of pear and pecorino on the house, for example. The impressive wine list (mainly local grapes) deserves attention. Venture to Colle Val d’Elsa, half an hour’s drive, to splash out on a fine dining at Arnolfo Ristorante, where the brothers Trovato dream up innovative dishes with serious attention to detail in both taste and presentation. You’ll want to glam up for meals at this two-Michelin-starred established.
In nearby Casole d’Elsa, family-style Osteria del Borgo (25 Via Ricasoli, Mensano) dishes out classic pastas and meaty mains in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Try the wild boar or truffle dishes when they’re in season and snag a table outside in the warmer months. On Casole d’Elsa’s main street, Osteria del Caffè Casolani (Via Casolani) serves typical fresh Tuscan fare and has a great wine list. It has tables outside and a set menu at dinner fresh; guests should not that this is a cash only establishment. Further afield, in the ancient district of Colle Val d’Elsa, lunch on mouth-wateringly-good Margheritas and more at casual Pizzeria Le Grazie (Via Volterrana 48), or pick out almost-too-pretty-to-eat pastries in Pasticceria Mario Barone (16 Via Gracco del Secco).
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this hotel in Siena and unpacked their virgin olive oil and local wine, a full account of their luxury Italian break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Castello di Casole, a Belmond Hotel?, Tuscany…
In the Sixties, film director Luchino Visconti lorded it over this bucolic Tuscan estate, hosting parties and swanning around the grounds, celebrity buddies and a bottle of Chianti in tow. These days, guests won’t get to spy on Sophia Loren lounging by the pool or draping herself on a banquette in the bar (which is a shame, obviously, but somewhat negated by the countryside views).
It makes sense that Visconti chose to call this castle home: the hotel’s beauty is cinematic. Timbers Resorts, who now own it, painstakingly restored the estate’s sprawl of rustic buildings. In accordance with local laws, façades have been licked with paint in hues that are typical to the region. The 13th-century church sparkles from some recent TLC; the former wine cellar now houses a quiet but dramatic spa; suites are spread across little farmhouses, converted barns and a characterful ancient tower. Yet to write your million-dollar film script? This is the place to do it.