Tuscany is a vibrant, beating heart of culture and learning which, as the centuries pass, deepens both in beauty and stature. Renaissance palaces and Romanesque churches are plentiful, housing works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There’s profound natural splendour too, with the beautiful mountain paths and hills of Chianti and the majesty of the Chiana Valley to witness. The highlight must be Florence, Tuscany’s most famous city and the cradle of the Renaissance. It is here that palaces, monuments, churches, palazzos and galleries adjoin. See the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Pitti Palace (an architectural declaration of intent from a kingdom that changed the Earth) and the Uffizi Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s David. Any Tuscan tour demands the very best places to stay, and we have selected four unforgettable locations...
CASTELLO DI CASOLE
A five-star marriage of resort and residences, Castello di Casole has both style and romance. Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti, director of The Leopard, lived in the Castello and is said to have housed his mistresses in the surrounding villas. He brought the jet-set and gave the place a glamour which has endured. This 4,200-acre estate features 28 Tuscan farmhouses, a 41-suite boutique hotel, 10 hotel villas and a stately penthouse. It is very much a working farm in the classic traditions of Italy, home to more than 100 acres of vineyards and 30 acres of olive groves, where signature vintages are harvested and pressed for guests. Ristorane Tosca features traditional Tuscan cuisine interpreted with a fresh twist. The focus is pure Italy - homemade pasta, locally sourced meat, linecaught seafood, organic produce, and house-made breads with estate-grown extra virgin olive oil. Take it further and attend a cooking demonstration to learn the authentic way of pizza making. Seasonal activities include truffle hunting in October and November, guided by an expert and his dog in the woods at nearby Certaldo. October is also the time to see the saffron harvest in the old medieval area of San Gimignano. Numerous other activities, cultural, sporting and spiritual, are also available.
GRAND HOTEL PRINCIPE DI PIEMONTE, VIAREGGIO Built in the 1920s and grandly refurbished this century, the Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte blends history and prestige. It’s located in the heart of Viareggio, on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea and close to the beach, with a beautiful view. The 106 rooms, of which 87 are standard and 19 are suites, are on five floors, each one of which has a different style of décor, overlooking the water. Each has broadband Internet, plasma satellite TVs, a choice of pillows and beautiful marble bathrooms with showers and/or bath tubs. The Piccolo Principe and Regina restaurants have made the hotel famous. The intimate and welcoming, refined and luxurious dining rooms attract tourists and fine food enthusiasts all year round for the quality of the expertly revisited Tuscan and Versilian cuisine. We love the magnificent fifth-floor pool, with hydromassage and water features, heated to 34°C to afford you the pleasure of complete relaxation throughout the year. Get more of the same with saunas, a fitness centre, massages, and holistic beauty treatments at the Wellness Centre.
HOTEL BRUNELLESCHI, FLORENCE Named for one of the founding fathers of the Renaiisance, the 4-star boutique Hotel Brunelleschi is situated in Florence city centre, just 6km from Florence Airport. It lies within a circular Byzantine tower and a medieval church, entirely reconstructed, but keeping the original characteristics of the buildings. Inside you can find a private museum in which is conserved the architectural ruins discovered during the restoration of the hotel. Little wonder that Dan Brown name-checks the hotel in The Da Vinci Code! It has 96 rooms and suites, the latter include the Pool Suite, with a four-poster bed and a hot tub for two on the large terrace, and the Pagliazza Tower Suite, where you can realise your dream of sleeping inside a tower, but one equipped with all the latest amenities. But step outside and you have the best of the city in view. It is a few steps from The Duomo (with is cupola designed by Brunelleschi), a breathtaking place that took 140 years to complete. The Uffizi Gallery is 400 metres away, a world centre of fine art with a flawless portfolio including works from Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, El Greco, Botticelli and, of course, Leonardo Da Vinci. Other places of interest close by include the Piazza della Signoria and the medieval stone arch bridge, the Ponte Vecchio.
L’ANDANA, CASTIGLIONE DELLA PESCAIA An enchanting resort and gourmands’ getaway, L’Andana consists of 33 spectacularly spacious rooms split over two buildings, The Villa and the Fattoria. They are separated by a Winter Garden made of wrought-iron and glass within a gorgeous estate. Decor is contemporary, rustic chic, and the colours, warm and rich hinting at the Tuscan landscape. The 20 Superior and De-Luxe guestrooms are decorated with an eye to detail and tastefully furnished to maintain an atmosphere of family intimacy. All the rooms offer delightful views of the surrounding countryside and the interiors are enhanced by stone fireplaces. The 13 luxurious suites feature elegant bathtubs with magnificent views or spacious mosaic bathshowers reminiscent of Roman spas. Some Prestige Suites are even equipped with their own whirlpool bath in refined mosaic, allowing guests to relax at leisure in privacy. Located in what used to be the ancient granary of Grand Duke Leopold II of Lorraine, Trattoria Toscana is a sort of contemporary hostelry, a simple meeting place, where genuine specialities of Tuscan tradition are served. Open only in the evening, the restaurant seats 100 guests in a cosy, reserved atmosphere. The dining-room is furbished to achieve a sense of discreet elegance and intimacy, with wooden beams, exposed brickwork, a fireplace and cotto tile flooring. A second restaurant, La Villa, serves breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The dishes are prepared by the same chefs as those at Trattoria Toscana and reflect genuine local traditions, where the delicate tastes of food from the sea flank stronger ones from the land: risotto with peas, streaky bacon and pecorino cheese is followed by anglerfish and courgette flower tortello, stewed octopus and Borlotti beans, and ossobuco with potatoes and celery.
For further details on these recommended hotels or Tuscany in general, please contact Abbotts Travel.