Take one centuries-old whole hilltop village in Tuscany and turn it into the ultimate luxury hotel, surrounded, as far as the eye can see, by lush vineyards and woods. This is Castel Monastero, part of the Eleganzia Hotels & Spas collection, led by Fortevillage Resort in Sardinia.
The entire 150-acre village evolved from a convent, bought in the 11th century by the Chigi Saracini family. The village chapel, leading off the piazza, still holds Sunday services, at 10:30 hours, and it is regularly used for weddings. The piazza is where, summer long, you breakfast off freshest juice and locally-grown or baked fruits and breads, and whatever you want (ricotta, did you say? It is divine).
There are 76 rooms, and Blue 14, in the three-floor Blue block, says ‘old and new’. Floors are satin-smooth wood, walls off-mushroom paint, ceilings heavy wood boards. Beautifully fitting windows have inset, easy-work shutter that really keep out the light, and there are Rubelli drapes. Behind the oh-so-comfortable big bed is a frescoed wall showing local scenes. My WiFi is excellent, and works even by the pools – note the plural, there are three outdoor pools and, inside, a massive thalassotherapy sequence.
Yes, it seems as if they have thought of everything here at the Castel. The spa, which uses Dr Murad products, is sensational (Roberta from Buenos Aires is a miracle when it comes to Dr Ali’s Marma, pressure point, massages, and AHA & Vitamin-C facials, and then I loved the thalo pools and the two saunas, one at dry 90°C and the other at 60° with 40% humidity).
Any forward-thinking girl should also ask ahead to see if the legendary Dr Mosaraf Ali is going to be around: he, who regularly looks after Morgan Freeman, Sylvester Stallone, Prince Charles and a host of other Royals, is here at his clinic at Castel Monastero several weekends a month.
Great modern artworks, too, inside and outside the hotel. By the front entrance stand soaring bamboos painted scarlet. Nearby is a wood and metal ‘bird’. Deep down underneath the piazza, in what was the village’s barrel-vaulted, cathedral-size brick wine cellar – now La Cantina restaurant, one of my favourite eating places here – are yet more metal-wood ‘birds’.
This, of course, is Italy, with international style. You are welcomed by a chic woman in a mushroom-coloured loose-fitting linen trouser suit with mushroom and gold trainers, similar to Converse, from Massachusetts USA. The wine glasses as you lunch outside on a terrace are Riedel, from Austria, and if you are sensible you drink the house wines, made locally by one of the hotel’s owners, Lionello Marchesi.
I took one of the hotel’s bikes for several great local rides through countless vineyards, and wished again and again that Eleganzia’s lead owners, industrialist Emma Marcegaglia and already-legendary Lorenzo Giannuzzi, would find yet more hilltop villages to buy, and expand the Eleganzia brand.