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Tuscan connoisseurs wanted: your very own castle, world-class golf course and Michelin-starred chef

Halfway between the Tuscan jewels of Pisa and Florence, there is a smooth, wide valley framed by fields of silver wheat, rows of vineyard grapes and thick swatches of undisturbed forest. Perched at the high point of a ridge above the valley is a tall, stone castle. The castle is 800 years old. It sits proudly, with a commanding view of the hills and the green valley floor. Surrounding the castle is a medieval village of tumbling pastel boxes with bright green shutters. It’s all very… Tuscany. This castle also happens to look over two world class golf courses, an oasis of liquid-blue swimming pools and a farm-to-table restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Michele Rinaldi. This is Castelfalfi, and it can be yours. Tuscan connoisseurs wanted Beginning in 2007, the ancient estates of Castelfalfi – the castle, the village and 18 country villas scattered over 1100 hectares of Tuscan countryside – have been slowly, lovingly restored to greatness to provide one of the most unique ways to experience luxurious Tuscan country living. If you want to settle in to a secluded spot surrounded by natural beauty and let the charms of the Tuscan countryside come to you, this is the place to do it. First, wake up and throw the long curtains back… Tuscan connoisseurs wanted Let in the morning sun and take in the view from the upper level of your own private villa. Read the morning paper on your terrace as the mist lifts off the valley or journey up the short road to Trattoria Ristorante Bar Rosmarino Bistro and breakfast as the Italians do with a strong cappuccino and sweet pastry eaten standing at the bar. Or if you’re staying in one of 31 well-appointed rooms at the luxurious Hotel La Tabaccaia (named for its origins as the factory of the tobacco estate), simply head down to the luxurious breakfast buffet of locally sourced meats, cheeses, fruit, fresh breads and pastries (take two of the delicate chocolate brioche to dunk in your cappuccino). Tuscan connoisseurs wanted Then craft your ideal Tuscan day. For the foodie: Private cooking class with a Michelin starred chef, estate wine tasting and lunching on your creations in the dining room of an 800 year old castle. Work off the morning pastry with a walk through the echoing streets of the village up to the castle for your own private cooking class with Michelin-starred chef Michele Rinaldi. He’ll walk you through his theories about ingredients and the preparation of his innovative cuisine. Rinaldi’s culinary concepts, combined with a warm Italian charm explain his fast rise through the ranks of globally known chefs. You’ll find a new level of culinary inspiration and you’ll walk away with show-stopping recipes to add to your repertoire. Chef Rinaldi’s kitchen brigade will take over the finishing touches so you can take a seat at a table in the airy dining room of La Rocca di Castelfalfi. The restaurant opened in June 2014 as the crown jewel of the Castelfalfi renovation. The spacious vaulted ceilings lend a breath of old castle grandeur, but the smart furnishings and soft, contemporary lighting all speak a modern language. The thick stone walls are pierced with windows that frame scenic hillside views beautiful enough to be paintings. Keep an eye out for bespoke wood and stone tableware pieces commissioned from the artist studio at nearby Picchio Reale Project. While you lunch on your cuisine creations, let the Master Sommelier walk you through the portfolio of estate grown wines. Don’t miss the inky Cerchiaia, a rich blend of Sangiovese and merlot that picks up hints of toffee from eighteen months of barrel aging. Want an insider’s view of the Castelfalfi wine world? Ask head of the plantations Marco Soldani to take you on a four-wheel tour of the sunny south facing vineyard slopes where the latest plantings of Syrah and Viognet are taking root. Return to La Rocca di Castelfalfi for dinner. This time let Chef Rinaldi dazzle you with his multi-course tasting menus. Each one embraces local produce, the seasonal fare of the hunt and the fresh seafood of the nearby coast, all infused with a bit of haute-cuisine genius and Rinaldi flare. Tuscan connoisseurs wanted Tuscan connoisseurs wanted For the sportsman: golf amongst the olive trees and hunting in undisturbed wilderness Looking out from Castelfalfi, it’s impossible to miss the lush green fairways rolling away on the valley floor below. The Castelfalfi golf courses, designed by Rainer Preissmann and Wilfried Moroder are regarded as the best, most well-kept (and most scenic) in Tuscany. Your drives will be framed by ancient olive trees and smooth water features. Be ready for a challenge and be ready for views that will stop you in your tracks. Even the driving range and pro-shop are nestled in groves of tall cypress pines and never-ending vineyard slopes. If the season is right and you’re up for some adventure, add a spot of wild boar hunting to your itinerary. Just below the castle lies the old hunting lodge. It can accommodate a serious hunting party and has been authentically restored to keep alive the rustic traditions of the country hunt. It features all the facilities for dressing your game and an ancient fireplace as well as a modern kitchen for preparing your feasts. The wilderness surrounding the estate is alive with red deer, game birds and “cinghiale” wild boar. If the season is right, set aside some time to forage for wild porcini mushrooms or the elusive white truffles that grow in the shade of the oak trees to add to the stew pot. For the rest of us: poolside sunset aperitivo and an evening stroll through the boutiques and workshops of the village. Castelfalfi’s “le Piscine” collection of four crystal blue swimming pools simply must be seen. With a wellness centre spa, a dedicated café and an aperitivo spot with the best views in the village, it is the type of place where days dissolve. If you’ve come to Tuscany with visions of taking laps with an infinity view of green patchwork hills you’ve come to the right place. It’s dangerously easy to spend the entire day making the trip from deck chair to massage appointment to cool blue water and back. The wide open spaces, lush green play areas mean that the whole family can find a perfect spot in the sun. Tuscan connoisseurs wanted And when the evening light turns the sky rose-colored, you are already in the perfect spot to sip ruby-red “Spritz” cocktails and breathe in the relaxed beauty of Italian Aperitivo culture. Then take advantage of the evening cool to join the “passeggiata” and stroll through the streets of the old village visiting the galleries, boutiques and artisan workshops. You’ll come across completely unique fashion, food and art, much of it crafted on site our sourced from the surrounding area. Whatever the day holds, as the evening light fades, you’ll hopefully wind your way through the narrow streets of the village and emerge to find yourself at the base of the proud castle keeping watch over the valley. Maybe you’ll sit for an aperitivo cocktail or maybe you have a dinner reservation at La Rocca. Maybe you’re just there to take in the view. In any event, the close of the day at Castelfalfi always hints at the luxury and beauty that await as soon as the sun rises again. Sage Russell is Editor of Food Pilgrimage. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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