It was the local Tuscan aversion to golf resorts that led to the opening of the COMO Castello del Nero, just before the epidemic. Once owned by the aristocratic Del Nero family in Florence, the estate in the Chianti area has been practicing farming and traditional Tuscan lifestyles since the 12th century. But by the 1980s, it had gone through several changes of ownership and had fallen into the hands of a large international development company that had its eye on the Greens.
Fortunately, society triumphed, the deal fell through, and nature and traditions were preserved. The estate found better management under the control of an American real estate investor, who instead converted it into a small hotel and left farms and vineyards intact. The result is not another contrasting set of lanes in a beautiful setting, but a living testimony to history.
He first opened it as a spa destination, which worked well enough to last for several years, before the lack of a gourmet kitchen became an issue. That was when COMO Group became involved in buying the hotel in 2018. It was a fitting alliance, as COMO is the standard bearer of luxury wellness the world over, with a portfolio that includes havens like COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali and Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
It is the first COMO outpost in continental Europe and, according to local Florentine magazine, fulfilled an important ambition of COMO founder, Christina Ong, who has a strong allegiance to Italy and who resided in Castello del Nero in the early 2000s.
Mrs. Aung told The Florentine in 2019. “I admire the way they can connect history with modernity and come up with the most amazing results. Italians may be masters of the Baroque, but they also understand the way simplicity resonates in its own unique and powerful way, from design to food.”
Now COMO Castello Del Nero is a 740-acre historic estate with 50 rooms and suites, many of which overlook the surrounding Chianti countryside. The castle’s historic frescoes and vaulted ceilings remain intact, while Milanese interior designer Paola Navon introduced a light, modern “como aesthetic.” One of my traveling companions said that the result was like visiting my “great aunt’s house”.
Except here you are allowed to touch everything, sit on any chair and settle for a long time in the clawfoot bathtub. The design is quietly luxurious yet not intimidating and elegant but never grandiose, even with the luminous frescoes above the freestanding beds in the luxury suites.
The location, between Florence and Siena, makes it accessible to a number of excellent restaurants, but there are also good reasons to stay on site. Fine dining restaurant La Torre is awarded a Michelin star for its thoughtful take on Tuscan produce, while there is always a more casual option. In the winter, guests can relax at La Taverna, a bar in the original 12th-century kitchen with a selection of pastas and other simple dishes. In summer, a lighter version of the same menu is available poolside or inside the suite.
There is an excellent wine list, but very little of it is drawn from the vines found in all of the postcard scenes. Currently, only about a third of Sangiovese grapes are used, producing about 14,000 bottles per year. The first model, 2019, released last summer, and 2020 is coming soon. The idea is to export it with olive oil to other Como properties around the world.
In turn, Italian properties import COMO’s signature therapeutic expertise (and divine-scenting spa products, which are also found in guest rooms) and draw on a variety of Asian traditions, from Ayurveda to Thai massage, plus more standard spa fare. Yoga is free.
Of course, vigilance doesn’t just come on the carpet. Other activities that guests can lose themselves in include walking around the vineyards, truffle hunting, wine and olive oil tastings, and cooking classes. On campus, guests can direct visits to Renaissance cities or set out in the Fiat 500 to explore the area, with stops at home wineries such as Podere la Piaggia, where owners will dish out pecorino and prosciutto bowls, followed by homemade pappardelle with the perfect pesto.
This is well above average, if you ask me.
Getting there: For anyone traveling from the UK, Inspiring Travel Company offers packages Which includes a three-night stay in November with flights and transfers.