The new Castelfalfi resort in rural Tuscany allows you to live your own Tuscan dream by buying real estate, through holiday rentals, or by staying in the boutique hotel.
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of rebuilding a ramshackle farmhouse in a beautiful rural setting and living the good life?
I’ve spent hours lost in books like Under the Tuscan Sun, fantasizing about a romantic life in the Tuscan countryside. Inevitably in those ‘escape to the country’ books, there are plenty of hurdles in the way: indolent building contractors, leaky septic tanks, and vermin in the walls. Imagine if you could have the farmhouse restoration fantasy, without all of the headaches.
At the Toscana Resort Castelfalfi, you can do exactly that – on a variety of different budgets.
First, let me say, I am not actually in the market for a ramshackle Tuscan farmhouse, but I am always in the market for a great travel experience. When I first heard about the Castelfalfi resort, it intrigued me from the start.
Castelfalfi was a rural Tuscan hilltop village, which, like many others, had been virtually abandoned after the wars. Agriculture was hard, jobs were scarce, and young people set off for the cities, to find their fortunes. They never returned, and the village slowly crumbled and died. Eventually, the regional council put the entire thing up for sale and multi-national travel giant TUI swooped in and bought it – castle, village, agricultural land and forest reserve; 1,100-hectares in all.
Now TUI could have done what so many others have done before: levelled the entire village and started from scratch. We’ve seen it happen around Europe, particularly along the coastlines; concrete, package holidays, and not a local to be seen for miles. It probably would have been easier and more cost-effective but TUI was looking to pilot a different kind of project; one that would benefit the local people, honour the landscape and traditions of the region and bring life back into this abandoned Tuscan village. And thus, Castelfalfi was reborn.
Castelfalfi is a multi-stage project. It began with a world-class golf-course (As a non-golfer, I’ll have to take their word for it, but it sure was beautiful to walk through), the restoration of the former tobacco factory into a beautiful small hotel, and a revitalization of the village restaurant (both of which I’ll get to in a minute).
Up to this point, it sounds like a typical resort but, in addition, Castelfalfi has invested heavily in their vineyards and olive production, including building an olive oil pressing facility that has become vital to the neighbouring communities. At the moment, they are producing three wines and a beautiful extra virgin olive oil.
Currently under refurbishment are the Castello, the 800-year-old castle, and surrounding streets. The castle, due to open in May, will house conference and wedding facilities, as well as a fine-dining restaurant overlooking the rolling countryside.
The surrounding buildings, or Borgo, will have shops on the street level with condominiums above. The shops will be leased to local artisans and will feature traditional products from the region. Already in place is a small deli, selling local meats, cheeses, wines and convenience items for the residents.
Many of the condominiums have already been sold as holiday escapes to a United Nations of residents: British, Canadians, Germans, even folks from as far away as Hong Kong. (Sounds a bit like Brussels on holiday in Tuscany!)
But one of the most interesting parts of the project goes back to the ramshackle farmhouses I mentioned at the beginning. If you have the dream (and the budget) to restore a farmhouse, you can do it at Castelfalfi, without the headaches. Choose your beautiful ruin, consult Castelfalfi’s architects, and sit back while someone else takes care of all of the work.
I had a chance to see a few of those currently under construction (tromping through muddy Tuscan building sites is the price I pay to report back to you dear readers) and they are going to be stunning: original details, modern fixtures, private pools and a view that is indescribable.
Wherever possible, the houses are being restored using the original materials and traditional methods, while employing local artisans. It’s another way Castelfalfi is benefiting the local community and traditions.
For those of us who have Tuscan dreams, without the requisite renovation budget, some of the houses will remain the property of the resort and will be let out as holiday rentals. Enjoy long days admiring the rural views while soaking in your private pool… heaven.
Or, like I did, you can stay at the La Tabaccaia hotel inside the former tobacco factory. While technically a 3-star property (mainly because the restaurant is a 5-minute walk, rather than on-site) you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing. Rooms maintain the rustic details, like the huge wooden ceiling beams, but have all the modern comforts you need, including rain showers, flat screen TVs (which I can’t imagine you’d ever want, what with the view) and wifi. (Standard Double Rooms start at around €95.)
There is a great buffet breakfast in the morning, a beautiful sitting room filled with art books and exceedingly helpful and friendly staff. The hotel staff is happy to arrange a whole variety of activities for you, revolving around food, nature, golf, or excursions to neighbouring towns.
If you stay anywhere on the property (or even if you don’t) you have access to the lovely trattoria-pizzeria, Il Rosmarino. The menu, devised by chef, Francesco Ferretti, features regional specialties and, of course, Castelfalfi’s wine and olive oil. If you can’t decide from the long list of Tuscan favourites, just ask the warm and cheerful manager, Elisa Franzini, for her suggestion. You won’t be disappointed.
In my next post about Castlefalfi, I’ll be sharing the fun ways I filled my days in Tuscany (despite less than co-operative weather.) Hints: If you know me, you’ll know they involve regional foodie finds, Tuscan cuisine and photographing that amazing landscape. Stay tuned!
Getting to Castelfalfi from Brussels:
Castelfalfi is 60 minutes from Florence airport or 40 minutes from Pisa.
- I flew with Lufthansa from Brussels International airport via Munich to Pisa.
- Direct flights to Pisa from Brussels Charleroi are also available on Ryanair.
Looking for more of our favourite hotels in Belgium and beyond? Visit our Hotel Reviews page to find out where we’ve been sleeping. For more great restaurants around the world, check out our Restaurant Review page.
I spent 4 days at Castelfalfi, as a guest of the resort. However, all opinions are, as always, entirely my own. I would like to thank Cecilia Sandroni and the rest of the Castelfalfi staff for their warm hospitality during my stay.
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