Castel Monastero Tuscany

| November 23, 2010

As part of a trip to Italy, Katie Parsons, Cox & Kings’ PR Executive, spent 3 days and 2 nights dining on delicious Tuscan food at the Castel Monastero and exploring nearby medieval towns and beautiful countryside.

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After turning off the road to Monastero d’Ombrone, the driving directions come to an end with a simple ‘You have arrived’. So where was it? There was no obvious sign of a hotel, just a small cluster of houses at the top of a hill. What the directions didn’t say is that the small cluster of houses is the hotel.

Castel Monastero is the heart of a beautiful medieval village in the Tuscan hills of Chianti, near Siena, surrounded by vineyards and sunflowers fields with sweeping views of very little else.

The hotel’s owner bought the entire village of Monastero d’Ombrone and converted the restored 10th century monastery and neighbouring houses into a 72-room luxury boutique hotel, opening its doors in 2008. The small chapel, the oldest part of the hotel, is still used most Sundays by villagers and staff, although the congregation rarely exceeds 10.

Gordon Ramsey is Castel Monastero’s executive chef. Whilst he’s unlikely to be found in the hotel kitchen, he does make regular visits to ensure the quality of the food meets his high standards. Contrada is the gourmet restaurant overlooking the hotel’s piazza, which gave me the difficult task of choosing between dishes such as salted cod gnocchi with olive oil foam or tea-smoked trout with beetroot ice cream to start, followed by veal tortellini or a saffron risotto for the main dish.

La Cantina provides a more relaxed setting in the cavernous medieval wine cellar serving authentic and traditional Tuscan cuisine alongside an impressive wine list. The tasting menu offered a not-to-be missed opportunity to try a different wine with each course, of which there are at least 4: a sharing platter of hams, cheeses, bread and olive oil to start, followed by the first main pasta course, a second main meat course, and dessert - a divine tiramisu.

For pure indulgence, a visit to the hotel’s spa should certainly be made. From massages and body scrubs, to Tuscany Dream and a Thalasso detox, there is a wide range of treatments on offer. And if all the Tuscan food and wine starts to take its toll, Dr Mosaraf Ali, personal doctor to Prince Charles, Claudia Schiffer, Richard Branson and the Sultan of Oman amongst others, has designed an innovative diet programme, exclusive to the hotel, based on aspects of nutrition, movement, relaxation and massages.

For those with time, the hotel can arrange cooking courses and master classes designed by Ramsay and the resident head chef, which allows guests to learn how to create traditional Tuscan dishes.

Hiring a car is essential for getting the most out of a trip to Tuscany and the hotel is perfectly situated for exploring the Chianti region – the options for day trips are endless, with Siena, Florence and the picturesque hill towns of Monteriggioni and San Gimignano all less than 90 minutes away.

Relax & Explore by Cox & Kings offers a 4 day / 3 night stay at Castel Monastero priced from £940 per person, including international flights with British Airways to Pisa, car hire, accommodation in a superior double room and breakfast daily.


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