Our car crunches the dirt road on the hill up to the 11th-century monastery now known as Castel Monastero. Images of old farmers out in the fields from Dawn to Dusk, the Sun beating on their backs, are conjured up as we round the bend of vineyards as far as the eye can see. If the walls of this hamlet could talk the owners of yore would wish for exactly the reason I was visiting; to drink Chianti Riserva and enjoy a week of relaxation in one of Tuscany’s finest wellness spas.
This medieval village turned into a five-star hotel balances the ambiance of Tuscan nobility delicately with the contemporary settings desired by guests looking for a regal treatment.
Our first evening we relaxed with a bottle of Antinori – Tenuta Tignanello: Marchese Antinori Riserva 2013. Antinori wine company has been making wines in Italy since 1385. The first whiff of the wine springs eternal in my nose, a taste gives me the rustic taste of the foods that have been grown in the valley, well before the Chianti vineyards sprung up; blackberry, black truffle, dried cherry all swirl in my mouth. The truffle taste reminds me that Castel Monastero has a truffle hunting adventure in the woods, with dogs, to find the prestigious Tuscany truffles.
Gordon Ramsay is the consultant chef at the resort’s Contrada restaurant featuring Tuscan cuisine. Dinners can be enjoyed in either the main upstairs dining room or down below, in the old cellar. Foods are typical of the region and included my favorite dish, slow-braised beef cheeks marinated for twenty-four hours, pureed potatoes served with delicately sauteed vegetables perfectly arranged on our plates. The wait staff was attentive and ready to grant any specific requests.
Breakfast is served either outside in the courtyard, or in the main dining room, and is fit for a King with a beautifully arranged buffet of meats, cheeses, fruits, breads, cereals, pastries, and eggs. The fresh fruit was some of the sweetest and most delicious we’ve ever tasted. Coffee and tea are served individually with a smile. The staff speaks some English and enjoys it when you try to speak some Italian.
There are many activities I could take part in; I could rent a Ferrari or go horseback riding, jump in a hot air balloon, go for a long scenic hike, or take a cooking class. You can fill your day with activities, or you can sit by the Infinity pool all day and breathe in the fresh air and doze off to the sound of birds and rustling leaves.
I have come to the heart of Italy to the renowned spa and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. Whether it is a thalassotherapy detox program or an LPG lipolytic mud weight-loss program, Castel Monastero tailor-makes programs that combine nutrition, energizing massages, interactive workouts, and Chinese medicine, based on the balance between body and mind.
Inside the medieval castle is the Aquae Monasterii, a pool rich in salt. You only need to stay in the pool for fifteen minutes for it to have a benefit to your muscles and joints. It is the start of a relaxing evening that drains and revitalizes all at the same time.
The hotel’s General Manager, Enzo, was there at the end of our trip to say Thank You, and yet it was us thanking him for the Italian hospitality. www.castelmonastero.com
Story By Lou Ann Hammond
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