Sleeping with Tuscan dreams: Hotel Castello di Casole

August 5, 2012 in ITALY | Comments (8)

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Sunset over Castello's infinity pool

The castle is just one wing of Hotel Castello di Casole – there are more buildings in rough hewn grey stone around it with the austere charm of a medieval village. Originally in the castle days there was a small village up here to serve 200 tenant farmers. Now the buildings house a medieval family crypt, a chapel, a serious gym, a spa (to open in September), some villas and various accommodation types.

Our favourite was a suite in the annex Tinaia, where the grain used to be kept. Bedroom and lounge looked out over the steep drop to the rolling hills and valleys and the lounge had a SKYLIGHT bringing gorgeous light (no balcony or terrace). Same same but different with perfect wrought iron details and heavy beams.

The wing Limonaia facing the restaurant Tosca contains duplexes creating a smaller more cottagey feel, with the advantage of small gardens – not yet private, as the gardens at Castello di Casole are still being developed including an amphitheatre. Limonaia is where the lemons were kept.

Nine new suites open soon with panoramic terraces, promising to be “highly contemporary and super sexy”, in the words of sales manager Laura Fiore. Bringing the number of rooms & suites up to 41.

On top of that there are the 14 magnificent villas (wonderfully renovated Tuscan farmhouses) spread round the estate – these are under fractional private ownership (but can be rented through the hotel).

Interesting to compare Castello with our last destination Castiglion del Bosco, another former castle and hill village in Tuscany, like Castello di Casole also renovated to deliver top luxury, with magical views, recreated borgo village (as used to surround the castles), own chapel, own wine labels and vast estate offering animal and truffle hunting and harvesting activities. By contrast Castiglion del Bosco has its own golf course for club members (offering limited golf to hotel guests – 4 rounds a year at 220 euro per round), and also has a winery actually on the estate. Castiglion’s castle is a picturesque ruin, while Castello’s from the 10th Century offers this legend on its name plate: Built DCCCCLXXXXVII (AD 998), Transformed to Villa Borghese MDCCCXI (1811), Restored MMXII (2012).

During our July visit Castello seemed livelier than Cdb, a little more a place to see and be seen, dress up in the evenings – and if not floating around in the breezes and gazing at sunsets reflected in the infinity pool – well situated for dining locally in the nearby town. CdB felt more exclusive with restful hideaway feel, somehow more wrapped in nature and its 20 or so rooms more spread out. Make no mistake both resorts have luxurious top suites with tasteful hand made details but at Castello they have more original flounce and flourish, while at Castiglion they are lusciously demurely classy and well rooted in the artistry of Florentine artisans. At Castello di Casole perhaps due to high occupancy we were not shown any suite to equal our CdB suite Vigna Alta with its own vast terrace. There is a prime suite with big terrace overlooking the hotel courtyard but it counts as a villa under private fractional ownership.

The owners of the Castello di Casole estate are Timbers Resorts (USA) who specialize in fractional villa sales at boutique resorts in the USA, Caribbean and elsewhere, with a strong philosophy of authenticity rooted in the destination. Before completing renovations of the castle and launching Hotel Castello di Casole, the resort had already marketed villas spread far and wide around the estate on a deed of fractional ownership usually one tenth or one twelfth ownership. These are put in the pool for renting when not occupied but judging by the haunting Tuscan charm of the 4-bedroom villa we saw they will be in such demand that one would be plain lucky to get a week’s rental for 8 to 10 people for 4200 euro/villa/week. The villa had perfect rustic décor, and infinity pool hanging out over a clifftop with stunning views, surrounded by vineyards, and endless living rooms. All hotel facilities included in the rate.

Cdb has 9 villas, 3 in the borgo area with more on the way; while Castello di Casole has 14 restored villas, 14 more to restore or create in Tuscan style.

Perhaps a common phenomenon, in both cases the owner’s wives were major contributors to the design and décor. Castello di Casole’s design also involved an American interior designer J Banks of South Carolina.

For Castello di Casole a major challenge in the European market will be its US ownership even though it feels more Tuscan than the Tuscans. They guess that 50% of customers are from the US and the rest from Brazil, UK, Northern Europe and South Africa.

Castiglion del Bosco has the advantage of the illustrious Ferragamo name giving it high fashion and highly Italian status – though the Ferragamo owner in this case is actually the son who lives in the USA. It was prior to opening a private club.

PS flashback. Our Maps programme in the iPhone steered us to Casole d’Elsa apparently through lack of information on the new hotel address. We drove up hill and down dale in the area looking for signs, but saw none. We had approached from an unusual direction, as it is signposted for driving from Florence or Siena and we drove over fabulous Val d’Orcia from Castiglion del Bosco. Phonecalls to the hotel proved fruitless as the staff new to the area could not imagine where we were phoning from in Casole d’Elsa so kept sending us in wrong directions. The proper address given by someone at the hotel fed into our iPhone programme advised us we were 50 km from our destination…so who knows what went wrong there. Certainly not Telia.

It was the petrol station attendant who put us right in the good old style.

8 Responses to “Sleeping with Tuscan dreams: Hotel Castello di Casole”

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