By Jennifer Ceaser
You couldn’t ask for a more quintessential Tuscan setting: rolling green hills dotted with stone farmhouses, acres of vineyards plump with famed Sangiovese grapes, vast groves of olive trees, and a quaint medieval village anchored by a 12th-century castle. This is Castelfalfi, an 800-year-old hamlet set deep in the countryside, about an hour’s drive from Florence and Pisa. And it’s now home to Toscana Resort Castelfalfi , a sprawling luxury development that has turned this former farming community into one of the most desirable getaways in Italy.
Set on 2,700 acres, Toscana Resort Castelfalfi encompasses two hotels—including the brand-new five-star Il Castelfalfi—multiple restaurants, a winery, luxury residences and a 27-hole golf course, Italy’s largest. A decade in the making, the Germany-based tourism company TUI Group stepped in to rescue and renovate the crumbling rural village, whose population had dwindled in 2007 to around a dozen people.
The town itself has been transformed into a picture-perfect medieval borgo: Its ancient stone buildings now house a smart mix of apartments and shops, while the dilapidated castle has been reimagined as a gourmet restaurant, La Rocca, a cooking school, and wedding venue. Nearby, an old tobacco factory was turned into a 31-room four-star hotel, La Tabaccaia, which features original wood-beamed ceilings. And the abandoned farmhouses are slowly morphing into upscale villas, whose prices hover in the millions.
But the centerpiece is Il Castelfalfi, a 120-room luxury hotel (from $322/night) that opened in March. Unlike most of the resort, the hotel is modern construction—a sleek, tri-level building nestled into a hillside. “We didn’t want to make a Disneyland version of a hotel or a redesigned castle using materials from the past,” explained Stefan Neuhaus, CEO of Toscana Resort Castelfalfi. “We already have a medieval castle that dates from 1100, so we weren’t interested in reinterpreting what’s already here.”
To that end, the design is contemporary but understated, with furnishings in warm colors—mainly earth tones, sand and beige with ochre accents—that echo the surrounding landscape. “We sought to blend into the scenery and make the hotel be about the views, about nature, about enjoying unspoiled Tuscany,” says Neuhaus.
Of course, the hotel is also about luxury, and you’ll find plenty here: a spacious outdoor pool with vistas of the valley below; a top-notch spa featuring all-natural Sodashi products, an indoor pool and sauna; and the onsite restaurant La Via del Sale, an innovative blend of Tuscan and international cuisine. And for perfectly mixed cocktails, there’s Ecrù, the lobby bar that spills out onto a patio where you can enjoy an apertivo while soaking in unparalleled sunset views.
Activity-wise, the golf course, replete with tee grounds and a driving range, is just down the hill; you can also head out on a high-tech e-bike to pedal around the vast grounds and beyond.
The resort’s own winery hosts tastings in a lovely wood-lined tasting room; you can sample Vermentinos, Chiantis, and Super Tuscans produced from estate vineyards or sign up for a tour of area wineries.
Try your hand at cooking traditional Tuscan cuisine with La Rocca chef Michele Rinaldi at the Rosso Toscano Cooking School, with a spectacular setting inside the Castelfalfi’s medieval castle. And if you fancy a bit of shopping, the village is a short stroll from the hotel; there you can browse several art galleries, visit a woodworking shop, and pick up local wines, cheeses, and gift baskets.
To reach Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, fly into Florence or Pisa airports. Private taxi transfers to and from either airport can be arranged through the hotel.