La Dolce Vita
Bringing it closer to its goal of creating the ultimate Tuscan wine destination, the Montalcino-based Castello Banfi wine estate and castle inaugurated a much-anticipated boutique hotel in March. At the foot of the castle walls, Il Borgo offers 14 rooms and suites, each with unique fabrics and furnishings, flat screen televisions, Internet connections and complimentary estate wines. Because of the castle's high elevation, most rooms benefit from long views over iconic Tuscan landscapes of rolling hills and cypress trees.
"The idea is to create an extraordinary Tuscan experience," says owner Cristina Mariani-May. "Part of the experience includes a cooking school, wine tasting events, a reading room, pergola garden and all kinds of sports, cycling, tennis, swimming and leisure activities that guests can engage in without ever leaving the property."
The 7,100-acre estate already houses the Giovanni F. Mariani Museum of Glass with glassworks dating back to the 5th century BC, an American-style tasting room and gift shop and two restaurants: an informal Taverna for hearty Tuscan fare and the Michelin-starred Il Ristorante specializing in refined Mediterranean cuisine. Il Borgo is
the result of a massive restoration project that brought an almost-abandoned 18th century hamlet back to life. Prices range from 400 euros ($530) for a double room to 850 euros ($1120) for a suite in high season. Located two and a half hours from Florence, one third of the Castello Banfi estate is planted to vines for production of Brunello di Montalcino, among other wines. For information, www.castellobanfiilborgo.com.