When it was time to return to Italy to shoot our exclusive Casa Florentina collection, the luxurious five-star Castello di Casole graciously hosted us during our stay. We were immediately swept off our feet by what can only be described as the ultimate Tuscan experience. Then again, it’s not hard to fall in love when your accommodations are in a meticulously restored tenth-century castle, surrounded by postcard-worthy views of the farmhouse villas, working vineyards and olive orchards on the 4,200-acre estate.
We could hardly wait to retreat to our lodgings at the end of each day to dine on the extraordinary cuisine and to catch the breathtaking sunset from the terrace. And though Siena and Florence are a short drive away, we could see ourselves holing up here and never leaving if given the chance, lounging by the glass tiled infinity pool, indulging in a massage in the spa or exploring the estate, which has its very own vineyard, winery and game reserve.
We confessed our love to the General Manager of Castello di Casole, Kenyon Price, and he allowed us to ask a few questions about the hotel’s experience:
Ballard Designs: While the hotel itself is “new,” the castle and its estate are a thousand years old. The renovation itself took five years and was completed in 2012. What were your goals in renovating the estate?
Kenyon Price: First and foremost, to keep the integrity of Italy and create an Italian destination. The original castle began in the year 958, which means we are literally 1,000 years in the making. The property is extremely old and there are laws in Italy regarding any restoration, which is under the “Belle Arte,” so our work was supervised and approved along the way. We believe we have accomplished keeping the history and architecture intact and at the same time adding modern-day luxury – the large modern zero edge pool fits perfectly in place on the main terrace that peaks out over the Tuscan landscape.
BD: Yes! What struck us was the impeccable rustic-chic aesthetic – the authentic architectural medieval details and antique furnishings amidst a pared-down minimalism and high-end modern amenities, including our fully wired guest rooms, which were very much appreciated, by the way.
KP: Tradizionale & Moderno, Italia Oggi. Tradition and modern, this is Italy today. For sure, the physical hotel was driven by history and a desire to keep that classic feel throughout, including antique furnishings and art. But when you enter our bathrooms, for example, you will find modern shaped bath tubs and fixtures that reflect Italy today. Also, we want our guests to feel as if they’re in another world but are able to connect to the outside world if necessary.
BD: Your hotel has so many spectacular sights and activities. What are the most popular attractions for your guests?
KP: There are more things to do than I can even say, but I’ll try: We have cooking classes, art classes, Italian classes and wine tours. You can get a massage at our Essere Spa or enjoy cocktails at Bar Visconti or dinner at Tosca prepared by Chef Daniele. We have bicycling, picnic lunches, historical tours and some of the finest restaurants in the world. We also have the ability to take you through the cities of Sienna and Florence like you have never seen before. Our guests have told us on many occasions that Castello di Casole is the center of Tuscany. But they can also get to so many wonderful cities like San Gimignano, Volterra and Monteriggioni. Many of our guests visit the local wineries, some of the finest in the world.
BD: By now we’ve probably convinced our readers to pack their bags! When do you think is the best time to truly enjoy all that Italy has to offer?
KP: Summer is so very special as we have guests from all over the world on holiday here. Many of our guests combine one of the great cities like Rome or Florence and then escape to Castello di Casole for the more normal Italian lifestyle. Certainly some of the best times to enjoy Tuscany are also in the spring and fall – once Easter arrives the season begins and you can watch the beauty of the flowers and trees arriving, or departing in the fall. Tuscany is here for all the seasons, so we have many of our home owners on property even in the middle of winter.
BD: Thank you for hosting us. And thank you for giving us a glimpse into the life of a modern-day king and queen!
KP: Having lived all over the world, I believe we have found one of the most special retreats in all of Italy and the world. There is magic everywhere on our estate with wildlife abundant, forests and plant life and views that are breathtaking. We think of all of our guests as arriving to their home in Tuscany. Our entire staff is devoted to ensuring that our guests feel at home and are relaxed and offering a sense of style that’s never formal.
Want to learn more about the history, renovation and experience of Castello di Casole? You can visit their website here: www.castellodicasole.com/hotel.