Deep into the heart of Tuscany, there is a place to take you away from the touristic frenzy of Florence. The only noises to hear while at Castel Monastero Resort and Spa are the birds singing and steps ticking on the 1000 years old pavement.
I’ve been staring at the ceiling in the past 20 minutes and I have the feeling it is the best-looking terracotta ceiling I have ever seen. It is obvious a traditional technique for Tuscany, where I am, but what makes it so attractive is the perfectly preserved shape with not even a small mark of age or rain. Before I lose myself too much into believing I have a passion for ceilings, I understand it is an effect of the perfect massage I receive from the extraordinary Elena, a therapist with low voice, ”golden” hands and more than 20 years of experience into all kinds of massages. She spent many years in India and she admits that, since 10 years, she decided to ”follow her hands” and just read the body signs. Therefore, her treatments become more than very well applied techniques but soul healing massages that release all muscles and mental tensions.
Elena is one of the special characters within the Castel Monastero Spa, in the middle of Tuscany. Flavia, the leader therapist, has 30 years of experience and a gift that allows her to calm inner energies and bring deep relaxation to her patients. In any case, there is no doubt that coming to the Spa for a ”soul cure” is almost a must for any visit to the resort within the fortified village. Specially in this direction, the concept adds detox cures, yoga and physical exercises, all meant to transform a vacation into a cleansing and profound stress release journey. Behind the walls of Castel Monastero you find the real treasure. Graziella, the general manager of the property, is a discrete presence but one woman like no other. Investing the energy to make a 1000 years old story the greatest in Tuscany, Graziella focuses on the perfect service and therefore she has built a team of specialists in all the fields that define a 100% pleasant stay.
The one-of-a-kind resort is oriented towards high quality relaxation since its beginning as a luxury destination, in 2009. For the new comers, Enzo, a genuine Italian gentleman, plays a fascinating introduction, pointing all the architectural details and service features meant to underline the uniqueness of Castel Monastero compared to all the other destinations Tuscany has to offer. Originating as a monastery established in year 1044, the construction has an obvious positive energy that I felt since the first time I stepped inside the central piazza five years ago. Since then, I have been visiting Monastero almost every year but I feel I have never enjoyed it as much as I do now. The explanation is again related to the experience mix which I have discovered little by little. Instead of getting used to it, I feel it more intense as the time goes by. And this an obvious effect felt by any of its guests.
The complex treatments are naturally followed by long hours under the Tuscan mild sun next to the two outdoor pools or the two indoor ones. Coming as a unique add-on for all the region, the Spa offers an indoor Thalasso pool, which means water with high salinity that improves all body functions, relaxes all muscles and regenerates the skin. The healthy spirit is declined into the food offer too, but it gathers all the traditional local ingredients I can think of. For a light lunch or a casual dinner, the logical choice is the more relaxed restaurant – La Cantina – a very interesting recipe of traditional dishes and a classical design adapted in a cellar where wines were made until the 1970’. For breakfast and dinner, the central piazza holds La Contrada by Gordon Ramsay, the only gourmet restaurant to be found in the middle of Tuscan nature.
The attention to details clearly makes a statement about the luxury vocation of the place. Starting with the central piazza of the main fortress, I am followed by a star engraved all around, from the coffee cup to the metal plates signalizing the different buildings of the hotel and named ”contradas” as the districts of Siena city, found 20 minutes away. The star, today the graphic identity of Castel Monastero, is inspired from the heraldry of the Chigi Saracini, a well-respected family from Siena who owned the property for many centuries and transformed it into their country house for hunting and for making wines. The same perfect balance, between local tradition and five stars excellence, is felt in all the 70 rooms and apartments spread across the property who actually represents and entire village. The unique atmosphere comes from the mix of vintage furniture and the perfectly harmonized bathrooms smelling like ginger and lime. Everything keeps its original medieval shape but looks new and fresh.
While the massage comes to the end, Elena goes to the window and pulls the curtain to let the sun light flood the cozy room. I am completely relaxed and realize I have been smiling all the time since I arrived. Special places don’t need words for their special stories. Special places have special people who put feelings in the light, in the flowers, colors and flavors. The only thought to survive in my mind is the dinner reservation. Since this year, 29 years old Chef Stelios Sakalis prepares one of the most ingenious Michelin level menu to taste in the area. Can’t wait to discover the new experience: Tuscan cuisine with Greek accents. I think I will start with the liver pate covered in mandarin jelly…
For more information and reservations www.castelmonastero.com
Gordon Ramsay is a guest chef at Castel Monastero, all the details at www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com
Castel Monastero is part of The Leadings Hotels of the World, all the details at www.lhw.com