We left Florence in bright sunshine the next morning, studiously ignoring the sat nav until we were at the bottom of the hill, then following it through Florence and out into the countryside.
Today’s plan was to drive to our next stop, Montalcino, via San Gimignano. Unfortunately, we didn’t get away from Florence quite as early as we had planned and didn’t arrive there until lunch time.
We knew that in season San Gimignano is heaving with tourists, coach loads arriving constantly. However, we had (foolishly) assumed that on a Wednesday in September it wouldn’t be so bad. After driving round the town for half an hour and finally finding one of the 4 car parks which were actually allowing you to queue, we got within one car of the entrance only to be waved on by the police.
Sadly, we drove back to the motorway promising that we would get up early the next day and return before it go too busy.
Before we knew it the motorway had given way to less busy roads, and then eventually we were climbing again. The address of the hotel was Montalcino, but actually we drove through the village and out the other side. MrS was not impressed when the road turned to rocks and gravel but our encounters with other traffic meant we pursued the route the sat nav was taking us. Finally, covered in a film of grey dust we pulled into the reception of Castiglion Del Bosco.
Once again the car and our luggage were whisked away and we were shown round the hotel.
“Located within the UNESCO-listed Val d’Orcia in the Brunello di Montalcino wine-making region, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco is a 5,000 acre country estate founded by Massimo and Chiara Ferragamo (yes, those Ferragamos). The 800-year-old estate comprises the ancient castle ruins, a medieval church and the Borgo, a historic village that now forms the heart of the resort.”
The resort – I hesitate to call it that because of the wrong images it will conjure – is stunning. Comprising a leading winery, two restaurants, its own organic kitchen garden, a cookery school and a golf course. The old town buildings have been turned into 23 beautiful suites and apartments and the restored farm buildings into 10 villas. Our suite was on the top floor, so offered fantastic views of the valley.
Once we had finished our tour and seen the infinity pool, to be honest San Gimignano didn’t really stand a chance. We were only booked here for two nights – only one full day – and as tempting as all the wine tours and cookery activities looked we decided to use our time here to rest before hitting Rome.
With some of the afternoon left, we took the opportunity to take photos, notably in the ruined castle and the kitchen garden. MrS went for a run in the gym with its panoramic view of the valley below and I took advantage of the vast bath in our suite (it was too big for me to lay down in, my toes wouldn’t reach the other end!).
I had checked out a few restaurants in the area, but not booked anything, which turned out to be a good thing as the hotel was actually quite a way from everything. We ate in the Campo Del Drago on both nights of our stay in the end, the second night having the amazing 7 course tasting menu.
The restaurant operates as a stand alone venue and was definitely popular with non residents, including locals. One thing we did find was, with pre dinner drinks they like to offer snacks. Not just olives and nuts, but practically mini meals. Fortunately we were wise to this the second night and didn't eat them prior to the taster menu!
We would have loved to have visited a vineyard but our day spent by the pool was completely restorative and just what we needed. If you have a car you can easily spend a whole week in this area . We decided that we hadn't had anywhere near enough time at Castiglion Del Bosco, or in Tuscany so we have added this to our "must return to" list.