Every evening like clockwork, the tangerine Tuscan sun lowers over the infinity pool at Castello di Casole. The chic tribe of guests take it as their cue for bedtime and fall asleep between the contented snores of their neighbours. As the snoring may hint to, this is the place to go when you need to chill out, relax, kick back, wind down, take a breather, mellow out and seriously get away from it all (without being too far away from luxury outlets, truffle territory and vineyards of course). CompareRetreats.com founder Dervla Louli checks out the resort for her own stress-free retreat experience under the Tuscan sun.
Put away your filtering photo apps because you won’t need them here. The sunrises and sunsets put on a show every day and my favourite place to see them rise and fall was beside the infinity pool. Early risers can take in the fog and clouds coming in over the mountains by looking out over the balcony outside of the huge gym about thirty minutes before sunrise.
The resort is 20 minutes west of Siena, 45 minutes southwest of Florence and 2.5 hours northwest of Rome. Peretola Airport in Florence is the nearest airport to the estate served by international flights from major European cities. Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa and Ciampino and Fiumicino Airports in Rome are further away but serve more international routes.
Castello di Casole is a Timbers Resort and member of the Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Collection that has won over 25 awards since 2008. Travel + Leisure awarded it the #1 resort in Europe three times, and Condé Nast Traveler listed it on their Gold List twice. The five-star 4,200-acre resort has a boutique hotel, residences, villas, a world-class spa and wellness centre, pool, two restaurants and a chic bar.
The estate was initially owned by the Bargagli family dating back to the 1600’s and then became home to movie stars and Italian nobility. Nothing was lost during the restoration process of the estate. The architects and artisans used traditional methods and reclaimed materials for everything (bar the modern kitchens and baths) to minimise the environmental impact and preserve authenticity. What I loved most about the resort was the long list of optional activities, including horseback riding, hiking, truffle hunting, cooking classes.
Guests can choose between four different types of accommodation during their stay that range from hotel suites to authentic farmhouse rental properties. The Limonia Suites was my favourite thanks to the private garden, split-level layout and spacious en-suite. Large groups and families can check out the Barbagli Penthouse, which sleeps six and has a private patio. The suite was a minute stroll to the wellness centre, spa, pool and restaurants, which was very convenient. Sandy Burden, Timbers Resorts’ Director of Design & Interiors, personalised each hotel suite and villa with different custom colour schemes, local antiques, and Italian fabrics, so everything looks and feels authentic.
The two restaurants on site, Ristorante Tosca (fine dining) and Pazzia (casual dining) offer up fine Italian produce prepared in different ways. What I loved most about both of these restaurants is that they happily made dishes from the menu without oil, dairy products, and salt on request.
The pizza at Pazzia is prepared in front of guests in a traditional pizza oven. It’s a bold claim, but I challenge you to find a lighter more delicious pizza anywhere else in Italy. While the pizza may not be gluten-free (we are in Italy) there are many healthy options and vegetable-laden dishes in both restaurants.
Breakfast is a buffet, with an optional menu at Tosca every morning. The buffet is not very large, but there are enough choices to cater to all dietary requirements. The staff are very helpful if you want to order anything off the menu.
The Spa and Wellness Centre
The pièce de résistance of the property and the main reason for my visit is the stunning 5,400-square-foot Essere Spa and wellness centre. The converted wine cellar has restored stonewalls, vaulted ceilings, Murano glass, marble features and mosaic tiles. The seven treatment rooms, relaxation areas with water features, steam rooms, pools inspired by Roman baths and large locker rooms transport guests back to the 1600s thanks to original arched-doorways and local antiquities that are displayed around the spa.
Spa treatments incorporate olive oil, grape seeds and skins, rosemary and ingredients native to Tuscany. The local ingredients are perfect if you prefer organic and natural pampering. I experienced the massages and facials, which are excellent.
The hot-stone massage is a deeply relaxing treatment that I recommend. Make sure to tell your therapists if the stones are a little bit too warm for your liking. I like them hot, but everyone is different. The gym is very large and has all the equipment necessary for intense workout sessions. Yoga classes are also available daily.
Thanks to the serene setting and indulgent spa, the guests are all very at ease. They often strike up conversations with one another at the pool and even at dinner. At other hotels and resorts, this may seem a little overfamiliar but not so at Castello di Casole. Once you know about this place, it’s a little bit like you’ve joined a secret members club.
Castello di Casole promotes an appreciation of the finer things, pared back to the essence of what makes them great. You’ll be greeted with champagne on arrival and a crimson-red Ferrari parked at the front of the hotel to match the scarlet one-piece that the owner is in lounging by the pool, but that’s not what this place is about. We had great conversations with two businessmen travelling over from Grand Cayman, a couple from Boston and a family from India. A small cycling tour was also at breakfast one morning, and there were honeymooners keeping to themselves, too.
Castello di Casole is the place to go when you need to reset and relax. The property is very grounding, and everything you need is on site: so you don’t need to leave unless you are keen to explore, hike or hunt for truffles. It’s not targeted at detoxers, but it’s ideal for relaxed wellness travellers who want to ensure healthy options are available.
Children and families are welcome here. It’s a good option if you’re a bit of a health and fitness nut but your travel partner isn’t. They’ll be able to enjoy pizza, pasta, and wine while you avail of healthier options.
Upcoming Retreat Programmes
Castello di Casole is hosting a four-day yoga retreat in 2018 which will help guests unwind, re-energise and find balance. The retreat includes all of the below and starts at approximately US$1,028 per night. For booking enquiries contact email@example.com.
- 3 hour guided bike tour
- 4 nights accommodation
- A 50 minute Essere classic relaxation massage
- A 50 minute Essere manicure or 50 minute Essere pedicure
- A 60 minute yoga or Pilates – one private class for two
- Access to Essere spa and fitness club
- Bottle of estate wine
- Bottled water and soft drinks from the mini bar
- Daily breakfast
- Internet access
- Valet parking
- Welcome drink upon arrival
Castello di Casole, Località Querceto, 53031 Casole d’Elsa SI, Italy