Tuscany, Italy – October 2016
An hour or so out of Florence, up a Tuscan mountain, a winding gravel road leads you to Castiglioncello del Trinoro. This 900-year-old village in Italy’s stunning Val d’Orcia region is home to a handful of residents and Monteverdi Tuscany; a multi-sensory retreat. A combination of 23 villas and rooms are dotted throughout the quiet streets (no cars allowed). A short stroll from your suite and you’re marvelling at ruins of an ancient castle that lie serendipitously next to an infinity pool with sweeping Tuscan views.
Your morning may start with a truffle hunt in a nearby forest where white truffles are plentiful, accompanied by a local forager and his pup. Proudly marching back to the retreat with your gourmet swag, it seems fitting to take a cooking lesson with in-house chef Giancarla Bodoni. Bodoni teaches an expert class on making fresh pasta by hand, accompanied by oodles of wine from the nearby region of Montepulciano. The class turns into lunch and feasting on your home-made efforts from the day is extremely satisfying.
You can walk it all off with a jaunt through the Tuscan hills which seem to spread endlessly in all four directions. And if wine tasting and hiking have become too much for you, Monteverdi’s spa is perfect for some indulgent rejuvenation.
Located in its own villa, with low, exposed beams and natural stone walls, entering Monteverdi’s spa is a highly spiritual experience. Products by Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a historic Florentine apothecary, are used in all the treatments. Staff, who are primarily local and proficient in the ancient Italian ways of healing, combine natural and indigenous formulas originally created by Dominican monks from the 13th century.
The signature candle wax massage melts away aches and ailments in a treatment room that is both humble and beautiful. A tiny window peeks outside to a private plunge pool where tea is served on a terrace overlooking a stunning vista. The pools are used to decompress and there’s a selection of local ingredients such as herbs and fruits to infuse your bath water.
If you’re inclined to spend the afternoon in bed you can expect rooms with unique personality that place contemporary furnishings within a historic setting. Interior designer Ilaria Miani, utilises colour palettes of washed stone and muted green to compliment rustic fireplaces and free standing baths. Four-poster beds are draped in gauze curtains that move gently in the breeze and giant shutters open up to panoramic views of the Siena Province.
If you can peel yourself away from sitting in the carved stone seat beneath your rain-shower, pop down to the hotel’s art gallery. International artists, scholars and performers exhibit on a rotating basis and it’s free for guests and the public.
Oreade is the hotel’s intimate restaurant and serves diners both locally and beyond. It has an incredible commitment to sourcing its produce not only locally and organically, but also to overseeing each step in the farming process. An organic rib-eye steak on the bone is typically Tuscan and ricotta ravioli in butter and sage sauce nourishes the body in the way that only authentic Italian food can.
Wandering back to your suite, the evening air is fragrant with fresh, chopped wood and life seems infinitely simpler. At Monteverdi your only interruption is an animated chat with a local villager and a jaw-dropping sunset.
THE TURN DOWN
ACCOMODATION CATEGORY: Tuscan retreat.
ROOMS: Any, they're all unique. There's a 6 bedroom villa if you're travelling in a group and the entry level rooms are perfect for a romantic getaway. Avoid a room over the restaurant as it can get very noisy - particularly when the kitchen is doing breakfast preparation.
MINI BAR: None. Carafes are refilled with water throughout the day, but other than that you'll need to head to the restaurant for snacks. Luckily the restaurant has jars of biscuits and fruit for guests to nibble on anytime. Alternatively you can call the kitchen for something to be made up, on demand. There's no shops in the town - with the nearest store a 20 minute drive away so be prepared.
POOL/GYM/SPA: There is a full service spa, infinity pool and small gym.
TURN DOWN SERVICE: Yes, water provided.
LOCATION: 20 minutes drive from the town of Sarteano in the Province of Siena.
DESIGNER: Italian designer, Ilaria Miani, utilised the colour palette of the Tuscan countryside to restore the villas ensuring they reflect the region. Together with landscaper Enzo Margheriti, they have turned a historic town in to a full sensory retreat.
RESTAURANT/BAR: Restaurant Oreade is headed up by chef Giancarla Bodoni and serves up authentic Tuscan cuisine. There is an enoteca for snacks and light lunches and a bar with an extensive range of Italian wines.
RATES: Starting at $780 AUD per night.
FEEL: A taste of Tuscany.
GOOD TO KNOW: Parking is at the base of the town. Park your car, leave your bags and check in. Staff will arrange for bags to be taken to your room.
I stayed courtesy of Mr and Mrs Smith Hotels.