THEY say an Englishman’s home is his castle – and now that’s a travel treat in Tuscany too thanks to a labour of love transforming a dilapidated 12th century pile into a boutique hotel.
Restored by the Italian Baccheschi-Berti family, the Castello di Vicarello, in the south-west of the region, is attracting guests seeking a luxury bolthole with a story to tell rather than repelling invaders.
Having first set eyes on the castle in the 1980s while searching for a countryside retreat in the Maremma region, Carlo and Aurora Baccheschi-Berti fell in love with the place.
They saw its potential and set about transforming the estate to its former glory – and the results are remarkable. Because this is Instagram heaven.
Drawing on their design and textile expertise from running a business importing antique Balinese furniture to Italy, and Aurora’s background as a fashion designer, the couple set to work.
They gradually turned once semi-derelict ruins into the extraordinary estate that stands today, comprising nine individually designed suites, two outdoor pools, a restaurant and award-winning vineyard and olive oil production.
The initial restoration of the castle took more than 12 years to complete and the evolution continues to this day under the supervision of Carlo and Aurora’s three sons, Neri, Brando and Corso.
The next generation of the family plans to bring the number of unique suites to 15 in total, as well as building on wedding business by restoring an 11th century church on the 400,000 square metre estate.
It will continue to be a working estate, too, building on the success of the wine and olive oil business. The award-winning organic wine, founded by Carlo, is blended from grapes grown on the estate.
Now under Brando’s direction, Castello di Vicarello wine is going from strength to strength and will soon be available in the UK.
Dining at the castle is another family affair. Locally sourced ingredients are the foundation and inspiration for meals, with vegetables grown on the estate, and only organically raised meats and cheeses allowed.
You can even pop out to the hen house to collect fresh eggs for a cooking class or for your next breakfast – and where better to start the day than from the courtyard or verandah with views across the Tuscan countryside?
In the evening, enjoy a candlelight dinner under the huge starry sky in Ristorante La Terrazza on the very top of the castle, or ask the staff about “secret” locations for that special romantic meal for two.
Many of the recipes created in the 900-year-old family kitchen have been collected by Aurora in her book My Tuscan Kitchen, and both cooking and wine tasting classes are regularly on offer.
Of the suites, Suite Sassi offers breathtaking views out over the countryside and coastline, and Suite The Spa, all wood and glass with its own steam room and sauna, boasts a huge terrace looking out to the coast.
Stealing the show is Suite Torre, a gorgeous 1,184 sq ft home from home which occupies an entire floor at the highest point of Castello di Vicarello, with 360-degree views over the estate.
For a real, sense of history, Suite Vicario (below) with its stone fireplace, antique daybed and freestanding copper bath is where the castle’s General used to live, and has hosted Knights Templar in its time.
Wellness sessions including spa treatments, yoga and fitness are available. There’s hiking and biking, truffle hunting, horse riding, leather workshops and helping with the grape and olive harvests.
But don’t think the Baccheschi-Berti family will be resting on its laurels anytime soon. In March next year they launch Vico Milan, a seven-bedroom guesthouse in Milan.
The family’s connection with Milan is deep-rooted, having lived and worked there for many years, and Vico Milan was previously Aurora’s showroom from her days as a fashion designer for her brand Bungai,
Before that it was a factory designing and producing legendary Legnano racing bikes. In one of the city’s most sought-after locations, Corso Genova 11, the boutique property is just a short walk to the Duomo.
With a modern Moroccan influence, we’re told it will be “a stylish home-from-home; a place to work, meet and relax”.
Stand-out features will include a green marble bar for cocktails and small bites and there will be a Library and Sitting Room for guests and locals alike to mingle.
Prices at Castello di Vicarello start from 575 euros (about £516) – see castellodivicarello.com. Prices at Vico Milan will start from around 280 euros (£251). Prices are per suite per night and inclusive of breakfast.