Castello di Vicarello

Poggi del Sasso, Tuscany, Italy Book from Book from £405 per night

Secluded, magical castle with quirky interiors, 7 romantic suites, 2 pools and jaw-dropping views
As soon as we arrived, we knew this place was incredibly special. The stuff of film sets: a secret 12th-century castle atop cypress-covered mountains, with fairy-tale interiors and enchanting gardens. We climbed stone steps to a cobbled courtyard covered in rose vines, and poked our heads through doorways into extraordinarily characterful rooms. Expect huge fireplaces, stone-flagged floors, vaulted ceilings, arrow-slit windows. Glorious gardens of undulating lawns and beds of rose, lavender and rosemary. On a clear day, you can just see the sea, a line of blue or silver, glinting on the horizon beyond thick forest.

We think this is one of the most unusual and fascinating places to stay in Tuscany. The Castello has been a beloved home to its charming owners, Aurora and Carlo Baccheschi Berti, since 1978. They converted an outbuilding, then the tower, creating 7 amazing suites. After restoration, they filled it with worldly treasures (antique Persian rugs, intricately carved Balinese beds, 1920s Florentine club chairs, glass, brass, books) and added 2 ozone-treated infinity pools, plus a spa. The rest, as they say, is history.

Highs

  • The warm hosts and eclectic interiors make it feel like you are staying a glorious house party rather than a hotel
  • So romantic: the castle's ancient stonework, its palpable history (the tower is 1,100 years old) and its nooks and crannies all ooze atmosphere
  • With 2 infinity pools and a Scandi-style spa (with a hot tub) shared between just 7 suites, guests often get one to themselves
  • The food is simple, but wonderfully so. It's all freshly prepared from home-grown and local organic produce - sign up for a cookery class with chef
  • The gardens are a joy

Lows

  • Room rates are very expensive - though dinner is included during high season
  • Hidden down tiny lanes, it can be quite difficult to find, even with a satnav - be sure to get detailed directions
  • No air con, though thick stone walls and natural ventilation keep rooms quite cool at night (beware of the mozzies)
  • It's very remote - the nearest shops and restaurants are a 20-minute drive, so you'll need a car
  • We've heard that some beds are quite hard, and also narrow if you're used to kingsize

Best time to go

The gardens are at their best in late spring and early summer. High summer is hot and crowded, though the Maremma is a little off the tourist beat, and you can avoid the crowds by staying put - it’s the kind of place you can easily whole away the days poolside.

The castle ups the atmosphere during winter months, when you can snuggle up to a real fire. For the hunting season, come between October and March. For a slice of local life, catch the olive harvest at the beginning of November.

Our top tips

The castle has its very own vineyards; take a guided tour or explore at your own pace - they offer wine tastings, too.

Between meals, take the opportunity to peek into the kitchen: an extraordinary mix of antique utensils, art, state-of-the-art cooking ranges and artful displays of fresh veg under high vaulted ceilings.

Great for...

Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
Wedding
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 7
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome.
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 7 suites are divided between the castle and the garden’s converted outbuildings. Most rooms have some sort of outside space. All but Grotta and The Chinese Room have mini kitchenettes.

The castle rooms are all accessed from the courtyard. They have bare stone and colour-washed walls, and are furnished with antiques and souvenirs from around the world - many from Indonesia, as Aurora and Carlo spent some years living in Bali. Sprone has a rose-draped pergola overlooking a lawned garden. Split-level Giardino has a terracotta stove and a bath with a view of the hills. Also split-level, The Chinese Room has an ornate antique Chinese bed plus a shower room accessed via a spiral staircase. Vicario has fab views and is furnished with a 16th-century fireplace and retro Italian design.

Of the three garden rooms, Mediterranean-style I Sassi has panoramic picture windows, a large bathroom, a huge living room and a wicker-furnished terrace. Grotta is a cave-like room cut into the hillside with great views over the valley and a shaded wooden deck; it's reached by a set of steep and rather precarious steps. Above this, you’ll find Villa Chiesina, a 2-storey cottage. There's a fully equipped kitchen (fridge, dishwasher and gas hob), plus a terrace with a BBQ, and a shaded pergola overlooking the infinity pool.

All but the Chinese Room come with bathtubs; I Sassi has a shower as well.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Meals are served alfresco in the courtyard or, when it’s wet, at long oak tables by a crackling log fire. Resident chef Damit has been with the family for many years and some of the ingredients (oil, vegetables, herbs, honey, and eggs) are produced on the castle’s organic farm. Dinner is served daily during high season and on request the rest of the year.

Though you generally get your own space at dinner, the atmosphere is rather like a family party, with each group sitting under the stars in a pool of flickering yellow light. You might be offered stuffed calamari, spaghetti with caper pesto, tuna fillet cooked in spices, caramelised tomatoes, and tatin di pesche. The wine list includes the estate’s own - Castello di Vicarello or Terra di Vico.

A typical lunch might include panzanella (with tomatoes, olives and parmesan), vitello tonnato (cold veal in a tuna sauce), fresh salad (from the garden) and ice cream. At breakfast there’s fresh fruit, home-made yoghurt, pastries, toast and preserves. Fresh orange juice, eggs, prosciutto and cheese are also available. All suites, except Grotta and The Chinese Room, have kitchenettes, so you can whip up a snack or light meal with ease.

If you want to eat out, there are several trattorias and Montecucco wineries within a 10km radius, and more restaurants in Paganico (20km).

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Kitchenette
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Dive into one of the 2 swimming pools, then lie on a lounger and soak up the view; one is an infinity pool with sweeping vistas, the other is hidden among olive trees
  • Go hiking from Vicarello’s own land into the woods of Macchia Mediterranea, then down to the Ombrone river; or drive to 1,700m Monte Amiata, which hides secret valleys and well-marked trails
  • Step into Aurora’s 11th-century kitchen and join an Italian cooking course - follow her seasonal, regional recipes using the castle’s own produce
  • Go horse riding cross-country from Vicarello and become a Tuscan cowboy; there's also a riding school a 25-minute drive away
  • Book a massage in the spa (Ayurvedic, Shiatsu or reflexology), which also has an outdoor Jacuzzi, a yoga space, a sauna and a Turkish bath
  • Hire a bike and enjoy miles of hilly but largely traffic-free roads; Vicarello can arrange a picnic for you to take with you
  • Play a round of golf at Punta Ala or Pelagone golf course (55-minute drive)
  • Explore historic Tuscan towns - hilltop Montalcino for Brunello wines, tranquil Castiglione d'Orcia for its fortified rocca
  • Head for the coast - Grosseto, Porto Ercole and the beaches of Tuscan’s Argentario coast are 30-45 minutes away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Hunting
  • Swimming
  • Trekking
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children are welcome, particularly from age 2 upwards. Young children may be considered a disruption by any peace-seekers among the guests, but Vicarello is child-friendly and most suites have kitchenettes.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Giardino and Sprone can connect to make a family apartment; Villa Chiesina and Grotta can be combined. Extra beds and baby cots are available.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Children's meals:

Children's meals are available on request; all suites except Grotta and the Chinese Room have kitchenettes (ideal for preparing kids' snacks and baby food).

Kid Friendly:

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