Castelfalfi, 70 minutes’ drive south-west of Florence, is a 1,200ha hilltop estate that includes a one-time Medici village turned lock, stock and barrel into a community with two hotels, 40 homes, plus boutiques and restaurants. It is owned – apart from the homes, that are much-loved secondary homes for quality-lovers from many nations – by travel giant TUI.
Girlahead had the luck of staying in the 120-room Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, which is Preferred. Even the arrival shows the quality of this place. A pair of silver electric Vespas, for rent, flank the all-glass main doors. One wall of the lobby has four back-lit vitrines for hotel awards, plus artisan boutiques in Castelfalfi’s own shopping street, Poggianti bespoke shirts, Chiarugi tooled leather. To get to room #811 you can take an art-lined walk, up one floor, down another, round about, past as many labelled originals as in New York’s MOMA (there must be 500+ works in all, from IMPRESSIONS, curated by Florence-based Villa Lena Foundation). The room itself, with oiled oak flooring, and a central rug showing stylised outsize digits in burned ochre, orange, purple, raspberry and black, is highlighted by deliberately-distressed wall mirror with a raspberry wood and four cartoon artworks of the Leaning Tower (Pisa, by the way, is only 40 minutes away, to the north-west). As is not unusual in Italy, furniture is identified – chairs are Domingo Salotti and the white lampshades have transparent Artemide clothes pegs. Toiletries are Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze, for the hotel. The pride of all this, however, is the Dorelan mattress, from the eponymous company based just west of Florence: oh wow, this is truly one of the world’s best-ever beds.
And the view, being Tuscan, is lifetime memory. Sit out on a wicker chair on the room’s balcony and look out to the distant hill-top lights of Pontedera, home of Vespa owner, Piaggio. Take time, if you can, to visit the Vespa Museum, there. The challenge is, honestly, that Castelfalfi simply offers too much to do, one wants to stay here if not for ever, at least for longer. Part of the reason is the ‘conductor of this entire orchestra’, Castelfalfi GM Isidoro Di Franco, originally from Naples.
The fitness centre, Technogym of course, is 24/7. The three-room La Spa comes with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Products include Sodashi, and grape-based Lajatica for polyphenol toning. Additonally, the hotel’s weekly activities sheet offers a total of 51 ideas. Take yoga, perhaps, an hour with other guests and quiet-voiced instructor Patrick. Take pizza-making. You learn a selection of flours is preferable, for most flavour: make the dough at least 24 hours ahead, stretch it out more easily hanging over the edge of a table, for weight, never cook above 250° (the hotel’s wood-fired oven has a Marana revolving tray). Be aware that a pizza with tomato sauce, from Mutti canned tomatoes, and mozzarella topping, can add up to 800+ calories.
Walk along Castelfalfi’s main street (see above), past gardens and pools open to, and much loved by, nearby residents. Check the street’s fascinating artisanal boutiques, which include a bike shop, and have a snack from the trattoria that is ‘corner store’ for those who own the village’s homes and fly in from Miami, or Manchester, whenever they have time. There are also, along the main street, temporary art exhibitions: right now the dungeons of the four-floor castle host a display of 40 or so lifesize sheep cutouts decorated by local artists…. to be continued.
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