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July 2022 / Travel / by Katie Hutley

Travel Review: The Toast of Tuscany

COMO’s first mainland European hotel is set in the heart of the Chianti region, making it the perfect get-away for wine lovers seeking a luxurious escape from everyday life.

When they make the movie of my life, in case I’m not around to direct it, please take this as an official commandment: that, in the highlights montage, I’m shown careening around the Tuscan countryside behind the wheel of a vintage Fiat Cinquecento, gasping at the views, on my way to the most picture-perfect, family-run vineyard, where I will be welcomed with open arms by Mama Sylvia, given a VIP tour before being sat down for a tasting of some of the most delectable wines known to man, and served a home-made feast of locally-grown produce including velvety artichokes, pungent wild garlic pesto and, of course, the season’s finest white truffles. After which, having been driven back to my hotel, which happens to be a 12th Century castle, no less, I sink down into soft sheets for a world-beating nap, awaking refreshed and revitalised and wondering if it was all a dream…

Despite the dream-like qualities of said escapade, it did, in fact happen – and it’s a dream that can become true for you, too. Castello Del Nero, part of the superlative COMO Hotels group, is nestled in the countryside between Florence and Siena and really couldn’t be a more perfect setting for overly investing in the cinematic qualities of one’s own life. Sweeping into the driveway, the grounds studded with architectural cypress trees, presided over by an ancient cedar tree, the staff waiting to greet us and the hills rolling away in the background, it was hard to shake the feeling of being on a film set.

This is no recently built artifice, however; once the seat of the high-born Nero family, Castello Del Nero has a long and illustrious history which is still visible today. A recent makeover has beautifully retained the sense of the building’s history, incorporating servants’ doors into room layouts, and even preserving original frescoes dating from the Renaissance period. The most prestigious suites are in the original main building and have been designed and decorated with such a sense of grandeur that to call them ‘presidential’ would be doing them a disservice – nothing less than ‘divine’ would do, frankly. Further buildings have been added in a truly sympathetic fashion, and the grounds extend to over 700 acres which include vineyards and olive groves. This may be the celebrated COMO Hotels group’s first mainland European property, but they, together with designer Paola Navone, have absolutely excelled.

Of course, one thing that even a world-leading luxury hotel group can’t do anything about is the weather, and during our stay we were treated to a quite dramatic display of thunderstorms. Personally, I embrace dramatic weather – it makes for a more three-dimensional experience, in my opinion – but allow me to bestow upon you the best life lesson I learned during my Tuscan trip: if you are going to be rained-in somewhere, make sure it is somewhere with its own vineyards, in one of the foremost wine-growing regions of the world, with an exciting and comprehensive wine list, and warm, friendly staff who are as enthusiastic about you “making the best of things” as you are. Absolute recipe for success, you mark my words. And speaking of recipes, let us not forget the three on-site restaurants, including Michelin-starred La Torre, with an out-of-this-world tasting menu – literally intergalactic, the final course being a solar system made of chocolate that left us gasping with delight.

The cherry on the luxury cake was the news that Castello Del Nero is home to one of COMO Hotels’ renowned Shambhala spas, with an extensive choice of treatments on offer to guests, many using their exclusive blend of essential oils which immediately transported me to more tropical climes. There are thermal suites, overlooking the pool and the views beyond, as well as a gym, and studios for yoga or Pilates that can take place outside when the weather is feeling kinder. Even with all of that, however, probably my favourite moment was an evening woodland stroll after the rain had stopped – the sky cleared, the birds sang and the sun’s rays warmed the damp earth underfoot as I soaked in the beauty around me. As final scenes go, it was perfection.

Inspiring Travel Company offers a three-night stay at COMO Castello Del Nero from £1,015pp, based on two sharing an Estate Room including daily breakfast, return economy flights from London City Airport to Florence and private transfers. See, inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk