Lucy Daltroff takes in the rolling hills of Chianti as she enjoys a stay at the 5-star Hotel Le Fontanelle
It turned out to be the perfect combination;- after visiting the many wonderful art venues of Florence to come and relax in a 5-star hotel set among the rolling hills of Chianti. Hotel Le Fontanelle is a privilege to go to, and almost a way of life. Its website advertises the hotel as a “gateway to an amazing journey into Tuscany”. The other guests I spoke to did not seem to look at it as a gateway – on the contrary, they were quite loathed to leave. I could see their point. The hotel is just one of the rare places that feel peaceful and at one with nature while offering top service and facilities.
It is open between April and October each year and once ensconced I defy anyone not to admire its location. Originally a 13th-century hamlet it had become abandoned for many many years until in 1999 the Bolfo family saw the potential of the place, perched on top of a hill, just 20 km from Siena and an hour from Florence. They fell in love with it at first sight although the ancient farmhouse and buildings were in poor condition.
A huge 7-year restoration project began, to convert the whole area into the resort that it is now. The main villa, now the hotel, has retained many of its original medieval architectural features so that the unique brick arches, ancient porticoes, stone columns and al-fresco terraces add to its distinctive Italian charm.
Inside there is a well-furnished lounge, library, bar, à-la-carte restaurant, health club, and an exclusive collection of luxurious rooms and suites. Original furnishings are finished with Italian linens while artisan accessories, sit comfortably alongside inspiring artworks. As general manager, Phoebe, explained “ We have lots of windows and few curtains, to allow the landscape to filter into the hotel so that our guests can fully participate in the charm of the Chianti atmosphere”
Each of the 36 rooms has its individual floor plan and there is a selection ranging from Florentine Classic, Prestige, Deluxe and Suites, some with adjoining rooms suitable for families. Room facilities include a Bottle of Vallepicciola Chianti, fluffy robes, slippers a selection of Bulgari products, air conditioning, WiFi, and snacks and drinks
Although I had no time to sample the 6 0 sqm – double depth indoor pool with its large open-arched windows it did look extremely tempting, the large outdoor pool less so, as the weather was getting cooler. There is also a Turkish bath, sauna and jacuzzi in the spa area, along with a menu of treatments. A gym is available and access to local running trails while complimentary bikes are also on offer to all guests
In the gardens over 350 different species of shrubs, flowers, trees, and aromatic herbs have been planted and in one secluded area, I stumbled upon a well labelled Italian botanic garden. A sacred space, it was given a new lease of life by Miss Giuseppina Bolfo also known as” La Signorina”, who owns the hotel, and sets the comfortable but elegant tone of the place.
It was Miss Bolfo who introduced the many varieties of medicinal plants and aromatics in the spot where originally the local nuns grew their herbs for use in natural medicines. Many of these are now picked daily by Hotel Le Fontanelle’s dedicated Tuscan Chef, Daniele Canella, who uses them in his authentic seasonal menus at the La Colonna restaurant where one night I had the privilege of trying the Tasting Menu.
Elegant to the eye and fabulous to eat, the meal ranged from a colourful marinated vegetable starter of different textures followed by a creamy risotto, while the main of smoked roe deer, pomegranate and turnips were exciting to eat. The puddings kept coming, accompanied by a local dessert wine.
Apart from this fabulous menu, two other specialities mark out the hotel. It’s very own helipad and of course, in this special area, a vineyard. Vallepicciola is just a short drive away and the 6000sqm vineyard grows Sangiovese, Pinot Nero, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay grapes and is also the perfect setting for wine-tasting experiences. Great fun although for me just too many varieties to appreciate – even though they were punctuated by lunch!
Hotel Le Fontanelle also offers cookery classes at a nearby restaurant and school for chefs. Our teacher was the wonderful Nonna Ciana and we were shown the professional way to roll out pasta, which is a real skill but with much encouragement, it was astonishing how good our finished results turned out to be. So we made a whole meal with a little help from our friends and sat down afterwards to eat the delicious results. A great experience and especially nice when there is someone else to clear up, after the floury signature mess we had all left behind!
A twenty-minute car drive from Hotel Le Fontanelle is the magical city of Siena known best perhaps for its atmospheric Palio horse race held twice a year in the summer while Dotted around the countryside are many less well-known yet equally enchanting towns and villages such as Panzano, Castellina, Greve and Radda. Tuscany just never disappoints.
Tell Me More About Hotel Le Fontanelle in Chianti
Hotel Le Fontanelle SP 408 km 14.7 Località, 53019 Pianella SI, Italy 53019 Pianella, Castelnuovo Berardenga (SIENA)
T: +39 0577/35751 – +39 0577/1607249
Double rooms at Hotel Le Fontanelle start from €359