Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Hotel review: Castello Banfi il Borgo, Italy


As much as I love long-haul travel and exploring distant lands, nothing compares to spring in Italy.
There’s just something magical, the weather is just perfect and everything is in bloom and so green.
The food is also pretty spectacular, but you get that all year round. Having spent time in Florence last
year, I was itching to explore the beautiful Tuscan countryside I glimpsed while visiting the pretty
little town of Siena, an hour or so outside of Florence. The emerald rolling hills and pretty, secluded
hamlets really struck a chord.

Deciding where to stay in Tuscany can be overwhelming; there are picturesque towns and villages
scattered across the vast county, each as captivating and charming as the last. Upon the advice of
friends in Florence, I decided to focus on the medieval village of Montalcino which is set in a world-
renowned wine producing region. Wine connoisseurs will be familiar with Brunello wine, which only
uses Sangiovese grapes and is absolutely delicious.


Standing at the top of a hill in the middle of Montalcino’s largest wine estate, Castello Banfi il Borgo
is a boutique hotel with two outstanding restaurants and an extensive wine shop on site as well as a
tranquil pool which overlooks the beautiful countryside. Actually, calling Castello Banfi a boutique
hotel is like calling an Oscar de la Renta gown a just a dress. As you can probably deduce from the
name, Castello Banfi is actually a castle which has medieval origins. The site was turned into
Montalcino’s largest wine estate in the 1970s. Borgo is Italian for hamlet, the site of the former
hamlet became homes for the workers on the estate and they now make up the 14 rooms and suites
of Castello Banfi il Borgo.


I spend a magical couple of days staying in one of the suites which was across a narrow lane from
the pool. The suite was wonderfully decorated by local interior designer Federico Forquet. Despite
having high ceilings and one of the biggest bedrooms I’ve ever stayed in, the suite felt so warm and
cosy; like a proper Tuscan country house. I couldn’t help but slip my espadrilles off and barefoot on
the cool terracotta tiles. The earthy tones of the tiles and walls were complimented with pretty floral
textiles and beautiful dark wood furniture which completed the homely feel.


I usually tend to venture away from hotels for meals so I can explore the local area a little but
between the breathtaking beauty and relaxation, the thought of venturing away from this little slice
of paradise just didn’t appeal so I had dinner at the on-site Tuscan restaurant, La Taverna. The
extensive seasonal menu sounded so delicious that I opted for an indulgent 3-course tasting menu. I
started with a light prawn and seafood spaghetti followed by the sublime duck ravioli and
cheesecake with coffee icecream for dessert. Each course was accompanied with a lovely Banfi wine
to complement the dish.


While the setting, suite and restaurant are all top notch, the real piece de resistance is the pool area.
Situated across a cobbled lane from my suite, the pool is situated on one side of the castle and
enjoys sunshine from the morning until the evening. The pool was surprisingly quiet; we were the
only guests from lunchtime onwards, enjoying the tranquillity and sweeping views across the
beautiful Val d’Orcia. Words don’t really do it justice so I’ll let this picture do the talking.


The main aim for my little jaunt across Tuscany was some much needed R&R. I felt the stresses of
London melt away before I drove through the castle gates and enjoyed the most indulgent and
decadent hotel stay ever. The team at Castello Banfi have created an outstanding escape in the
country, full of Tuscan charm with the outstanding standards you would expect from a world-class,
five-star hotel. The feel is so warm and welcoming with incredible attention to detail. I’ve never felt
more spoilt in my life and I can’t wait to come back to my little Tuscan hideaway.

 
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