Tucked into the hills of Tuscany, Borgo San Felice combines the best of a private villa with the ambiance of a fine luxury hotel.
It is in fact, a little of both.
The one-time medieval hamlet is now a Relais & Chateaux property in the heart of Tuscany's Chianti Classico region. The manor houses, village squares, winding streets and quaint churches of old provide a modern-day backdrop both stately and welcoming.
But the true star here is the Tuscan landscape. My visit in early fall featured vineyard-clan hillsides as far as the eye could see. Groves of olive trees glistening a silvery green. And cypress trees swaying gently against periwinkle blue skies.
When combined with the graceful stone buildings and immaculate landscaping of the Borgo, my L.A. instincts kicked in. I kept thinking I was on a movie set. Surely, this was a Hollywood set designer-version of idyllic Tuscany.
Perhaps. But if so, the designer is divine, not human.
Heart of Tuscany
Chianti Classico, which lies between Sienna and Florence, is the heart of Tuscany. And Borgo San Felice is in the heart of Chianti Classico. In fact, it's part of the renowned Agricola San Felice farming estate, producers of Campogiovanni and other award-winning labels.
Day trips to famous wine-producing towns are popular with guests. San Gimignano, Montepulcino and Montelcino are within easy reach. Siena is less than ten miles away, and even Florence is a doable excursion, an hour and a half drive.
Then again, it is hard to tear oneself away. Borgo San Felice was, after all, a town in and of itself. Twenty-nine rooms and 17 suites are spread out among the "town." Painstaking renovations have preserved wooden beams, terra cotta floors and other architectural details. Room furnishings are country-house elegant, with overstuffed couches, arm chairs and rustic chandeliers. Fabrics, colors and brightly-painted tiles evoke old-world Tuscany. So does the impeccable service that's a hallmark of the property.
Il Poggio Rosso
Surrounded by such singular beauty and peacefulness (at night the quiet is almost eerie), I was happy to dine on bread and cheese.
But alas, that was not to be.
Borgo San Felice is a feast for all the senses. And culinary excellence is another hallmark, thanks to chef Francesco Bracali. He presides over Il Poggio Rosso, the signature restaurant named for one of the estate's wine labels.
The chef hails from his own family's two Michelin-starred restaurant. He is bringing acclaim to Il Poggio Rosso as well. Dishes incorporate artisinal ingredients and wines in a paean to the bounty of Tuscany.
Vineyards and olive groves that surround Borgo San Felice inspire more than culinary endeavors. They're at the heart of the wellness rituals at the Centro Benessere. The 4,000 square-foot wellness center incorporates the products and philosophy of Dr. Paolo Vranjes. I met the Florentine chemist-pharmacist during my stay. His passion for using the elements of nature was impressive as well as endearing. And my body scrub made the whole treatment room smell of new wine, which can't be all bad.
Who is the clientele for Borgo San Felice? On my visit, I saw plenty of middle-aged, active Americans. They're the first ones out on bike excursions, hikes to nearby castles and group treks with Nordic walking sticks.
Certainly, this is a wine-lovers heaven. That's especially true in the fall, when grapes are weighing down on the vine. And, everyone is talking about the harvest. But springtime brings new growth and summer, wildflowers.
I'd love to visit in winter, when wild boars are said to roam the area. The fireplace in the main building would make a cozy enclave from which to enjoy some hearty estate reds. Unfortunately, the Borgo San Felice closes for the winter season.
Spring, summer and fall hardly seem long enough.
Here's what you should know to plan a visit:
- Borgo San Felice is approximately a 2.5-hour drive from Rome.
- Three fully-equipped meeting rooms are available.
- Destination weddings and other events can be accommodated.
- The property has excellent Wi-Fi coverage.
- Staff are fluent in English, Spanish and Italian.
- Packages and promotions are available throughout the year.
- For more information, see the Borgo San Felice's website here.