Castello del Nero, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
The big Tuscan novelty of 2006, Castello del Nero is a top-end hotel set amidst the vineyards of Chianti. Though plenty of other castles and villas in the area now take in paying guests, this is one of the first to offer luxury facilities and customer serviceat prices to match. If you can't do without 24-hour room service, a huge heated outdoor pool, an ESPA holistic spa, two flat-screen TVs in each room (one in the bedroom, the other in the bathroom), cashmere blankets, and an evening turndown service, then Castello del Nero is pretty much obligatory. The 12th-century castle and adjoining buildings were converted by Sting's favorite interior designer, Alain Mertens, into 50 rooms and suites, some of them adorned with restored floor-to-ceiling frescoes. In the historic suites, most of which are in the main body of the castle, Mertens offers a contemporary take on the feudal theme, with antique-style claw-foot bathtubs, Philippe Starck stools, and twisty-columned four poster beds; many also have working fireplaces. The simpler (and cheaper, though by no means cheap) "Tuscan rooms" go for a more subdued, country-house version of the same oldnew blend. A standout feature is an outdoor vitality pool in the shelter of a long arcade. The La Torre restaurant is in the hands of a young Roman chef, Alessio Mecozzi, who uses vegetables and herbs grown on the estate in his light and healthy take on the Tuscan tradition; he also presides over the hotel's afternoon cooking classes.
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