How would you describe it? Charming, intimate, peaceful, dreamy, refined and classical.
Who’d love it? Couples, couples, couples! This Tuscan sanctuary oozes romance and begs to be enjoyed with the love of your life. Ben and I had our 3rd year wedding anniversary during our stay and we couldn’t have asked for a more idyllic location to celebrate. Castello Banfi offers a very exclusive and private environment for love birds who want to escape the world and relish each other’s company whilst “under the Tuscan sun”. The heavenly atmosphere also presents the ultimate backdrop for an unforgettable wedding. Couples can practically transform Castello Banfi into their own “personal castle” – it really is the stuff of dreams!
What were the rooms like? Akin to a quaint micro-village, Castello Banfi is home to a modest collection of luxury suites and elegant rooms, each with its own unique interior design scheme. Our “junior” suite was both delightfully spacious and deliciously cosy thanks its open-plan layout, plush fabrics, hand-made embellishments and ultra-comfy furniture. Incorporating all of the signature Tuscan design elements which evoke a relaxed, homely vibe along with effortless elegance (e.g. earthy materials, weathered finishes, warm tones, and tasteful decor), our room was evidently crafted to support our absolute pleasure and well-being. At the end of a blissful day, I was able to crack open a complimentary bottle of wine, ensconce myself in a velvet “throne” and gaze upon the sun-kissed vineyards from my shuttered window. I felt like an Italian princess living in a castle with her perfect prince by her side.
How was the food? Sunset vineyard tours and wine-tasting sessions are just the beginning at Castello Banfi. Premium Tuscan cuisine, created with fresh, locally-produced ingredients, is also celebrated at the hotel’s two restaurants: La Taverna and Sala Dei Grappoli. While Ben and I didn’t get to experience the La Taverna menu, we snuck into the restaurant to admire the medieval setting beneath vaulted arches of the historical wine cellars. We decided a dinner at Sala Dei Grappoli was a gastronomic opportunity which couldn’t be missed. So, we treated ourselves to a fine-dining event at this contemporary restaurant and decided to ignore our travel budget for a night. I tried the homemade pasta with wild boar sauce, while Ben devoured the pork fillet wrapped in crispy pancetta. Needless to say, we both died and went to heaven.
How was the service? From the waiters and gardeners to the cleaners and receptionists, all of the staff at Castello Banfi dedicate themselves to providing the ultimate guest experience. The team is evidently united by a mission to excel at hospitality, as every possible detail is taken care of with grace, professionalism and discretion. When our “rustic” Land Rover arrived at the grand entrance gates, a porter instantly arrived with a buggy and drove us to the check-in area. When I snuck into reception to organise a luxury massage for Ben’s anniversary gift, the staff contacted all of the spas in the local area (which were completely booked out) and managed to make my dream gift come true. The team at Castello Banfi seemed eager, even hungry, to go above and beyond for its guests. Ben and I were royally pampered and we couldn’t have had a better customer service experience.
What’s the vibe like? Refined and relaxed. Ben and I had been on the road and living out of a tent for many months before reaching Castello Banfi. It was the perfect place for us to enjoy a “holiday from our holiday”, freshen up and start to feel human again. I’m convinced the Tuscan countryside has special healing powers – it offers a sense of peace, serenity and inner bliss that’s hard to come by. Lazing beside the hotel’s pool, which offered envious views of the rolling vineyards under a tangerine sunset, I was completely content. The angelic flower garden, with it’s private pergola looking over the rolling Tuscan Hills, was just as divine. With a good book and chilled glass of wine in hand, I treated myself to a good hour in this perfect part of the world. It felt gloriously decadent.
What’s unique about the place? Once Ben and I got past the fact that we were staying in a castle which was beautifully preserved and nestled amongst 7,100 acres of Tuscan vineyards, Catsello Banfi’s unique history captured our fascination. Centuries before the founding of Rome, the ancient Etruscans settled in one of Tuscany’s most strategic encampments, known as Poggio alle Mura (where Castello Banfi now resides). During the early middle ages this community defended against waring republics and roaming bandits, protecting locals who were farming wheat, olives, fruit and grapes for wine. The noble Placido families were guardians of the Castello Banfi fortress for over 500 years until after the Second World War, when the Mariani family acquired the epic estate. Renovating Castello Banfi’s historic castle and surrounding vineyards, their hard work lead to a highly acclaimed hotel along with a “Renaissance” of Tuscan wines – pretty amazing stuff!
What were the highlights? Quite simple, everything. But, if I had to choose a highlight, I’d have to say Castello Banfi’s passion for quality, home-grown produce – it was truly inspiring. At every opportunity, guests are immersed in Tuscan wine and culinary traditions. When Ben and I first arrived, we were welcomed with a glass of Castello Banfi wine along with a beautiful bag of biscotti. If we’d had more time up our sleeves, the Tuscan cooking classes and vineyard tour would have been right up our alley. Luckily, we got a chance to check out the hotel’s L'Enoteca Wine Bar, which was packed to the brim with locally produced beverages along with artisan foods and original crafts – perfect souvenirs for our loved ones back home. When a sample of Tuscan sheep’s cheese and premium prosciutto was planted next to Ben, his eyes went wild with excitement. The man loves his cured meats and European fromage. All of these moments (and more) made our visit to Castello Banfi an extraordinary Tuscan experience.
Castello di Poggio alle Mura, 53024 Montalcino, Siena, Italy.
Tel: +39 0577 877700
'Happiness Hunter' Sophee Southall is the writer, photographer and social media addict behind the travel blog Sophee Smiles - 'Explore. Experiment. Find your Happy Place.'
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