The skies have opened as we arrive for dinner on the terrace at COMO Castello del Nero. Thunder echoes around the rolling Tuscan hills and the view is almost obscured by the relentless downpour. But the 12th-century property offers a welcoming refuge from the elements.
The estate is luxury hotel group COMO Hotels’s first property in mainland Europe and covers 740 acres of land layered with vineyards and olive groves, with 50 rooms scattered throughout the castle and outbuildings. The hotel is just a 30-minute drive from Florence that winds through gorgeous Tuscan countryside draped in the lush vineyards that draw millions of tourists each year.
Originally the home of the aristocratic Nero family, Castello del Nero came under COMO’s wing in 2019 and has been given a tasteful contemporary makeover that pays tribute to the estate’s heritage.
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Inside, the floors are the original terracotta but whitewashed to give a more modern feel, while some rooms have retained original frescos dating back to the Renaissance. The designer, Paola Navone, even kept the original mirrors from the castle, placing them all in one room together, filling the walls right up to the skylight. Through Navone, COMO has found the perfect balance of elegance and comfort.
What to drink
Castello del Nero is perfectly placed in the heart of the Chianti region, so the hotel’s wine list is extensive and impressive, of course. The hotel looks over acres of its own vines that produce about 14,000 bottles of Chianti Sangiovese a year (and it goes without saying that wine tastes especially good when drinking it among the vineyards where its grapes were grown).
COMO currently stocks Castello del Nero’s own olive oil in its sister hotels, with plans to export wine to its other properties as well.
What to eat
Castello del Nero has three dining venues including the Michelin-starred La Torre, which has a seasonal menu sourced from local farmers and the estate’s own organic garden. Executive chef Giovanni Luca Di Pirro has built a creative tasting menu with complex and gorgeous flavours, each plate creatively presented. The special treat comes in the dessert – five sublime chocolates forming the shape of a galaxy on a plate that’s almost too much of a work of art to eat.
Guests can also savour Mediterranean flavours at La Taverna, in the castle’s original kitchen, or al fresco at the Pavilion restaurant, located on the terrace overlooking the estate. It’s a pleasure to dine at the latter for the views alone, but the food is also exquisite. For lunch, we are treated to a truffle-themed menu, including a fresh pasta dish followed by a perfectly cooked sea bass resting in a truffle-infused sauce. Being early in the truffle season, the flavours are subtle and close to perfection.
What to do
Once the skies clear, the view from my suite reveals rolling hills across the landscape. When walking around the grounds after the fresh rain I’m gifted with birdsong passing through a cool breeze and the smell of damp grass. This is Tuscany at its best. The estate itself is sprawling and guests can follow marked paths that take you on a tour around the grounds, passing through woodlands and vineyards.
For those who want to focus on wellness, COMO has also brought the first Asian-inspired spa to the region. The Shambala retreat offers bespoke massages, pilates and yoga sessions, thermal suites and a 25-metre heated outdoor swimming pool.
The Chianti countryside is already uniquely charming, and what could be better to explore the local area than riding in a vintage Fiat 500? Driving through the winding streets in these iconic vehicles feels particularly Tuscan, especially as we end up at the small family-run vineyard, La Piaggia, with views overlooking a valley of luscious green scattered with medieval villages.
For lunch, we are served a plate of home-cooked pasta with a selection of simple yet delicious sauces and, of course, the estate’s own wine to accompany it. Thankfully, we do not have to drive back.
Castello del Nero closes over the winter months and then reopens for guests to experience Tuscany’s spring in all its finest – even if it does happen to rain. Throughout the season, guests can go on truffle hunting tours through the woodland or join for the olive harvest and/or grape picking from September to October.
COMO Castello del Nero offers a true taste of Italy, with all its perfect flavours.
Inspiring Travel Company offers a three-night stay at COMO Castello Del Nero from £1,015pp, based on two sharing an Estate Room including daily breakfast, return economy flights from London City Airport to Florence and private transfers. Visit inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
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