Great Golf Top 100
The Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Magazine

Castelfalfi - Under the Tuscan Sun

Posted:

Our love affair with Tuscany goes back a long way. We Brits adore the rustic charm, not to mention the weather, excellent food and wine. Add some great gold to that, and it’s the perfect short break…

 

Castelfalfi cannot be typecast as just another golf and spa resort, because that would be like saying local boy Michelangelo was a pretty good painter and not much else. If you want to play some amazing golf and be pampered, then this is the place to be. But a visit to Castelfalfi is an opportunity to experience so many other things, that it’s going to be hard to cover even half of what is available in the space allocated.

After a short flight I arrive in Pisa, pick up my rental car and head off for Castelfalfi. It’s just over a 30-minute drive, so I relax and let the Tuscan countryside pass before me in all its splendour.

I could have flown to Michelangelo’s home town of Florence, which is about the same distance, but ever since I was a boy, I have had an urge to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. If I play my cards right, I should have time to visit and experience the city before my return flight.

c1

MEDIEVAL VILLAGE. An authentic medieval Tuscan village, Castelfalfi is perched high on a hilltop and surrounded by its very own vineyards. When you come to Castelfalfi you enter an Italian

experience for all your senses. There are two hotels to choose from here, the charming La Tabaccaia, which is housed in a restored tobacco factory, and the latest edition, the five-star Hotel ll  Castelfalfi, only completed last year. I am booked in to the latter, but I plan to explore both.

In no time at all, I am weaving my way into the hills. The sun is beginning to set, creating an orange glow over the stunning countryside. Foolishly, I drive towards the golf course rather than staying on the main road to the hotel.

The course appears before me with the dramatic view of the castle and surrounding village in the background. If I had just stayed on the main road, then I would have arrived at the main entrance directly. Instead, I end up traversing an unmade backroad up to the village (not, I hasten to add, the correct route to golf course!).

After my rather unusual off-piste route, I finally arrive and am swiftly checked in. As befitting a five-star hotel, my accommodation is exceptional, and I enjoy views out over the rolling hills. I have just two days to try to squeeze in as much as I can, including a round of golf, spa, viewing the real estate and tasting the award-winning food and Castelfalfi wine. Yes, I can already hear the murmurs of sympathy.

TIME TO TEE. The next day, after a good night’s sleep and an exceptional breakfast, I head off to the golf course, by the correct route this time.

c3

My visit coincides with Northern Europe suffering from the dreaded weather, dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’, which is depositing snow across the UK, while here in Italy there are exceptionally strong winds. Despite the unusually wet and windy weather here in Tuscany, the crew at Castelfalfi have worked tirelessly to keep the course in a playable condition. They can do nothing about the wind, but the way I play it could very well be an advantage.

There are a total of 27 beautiful holes, divided between the tricky 18-hole mountain course and the nine-hole lake course. My mission is to see as much of both courses as I can in one morning, as my afternoon schedule is looking busy. I set myself to the task at hand and get to work.

FACING THE MOUNTAIN. The mountain course is hardest of the two, and the one everyone wants to play, so it’s where I decide to start. The first hole gently leads me in with a nice uphill par-four, with water hazards left and right. It will obviously pay to try to control my rather impressive slice. All goes to plan and I move on.

The second, sneakily, has water just before the green, like a wet sentinel waiting to pounce. Miraculously, I manage to hold it together and land safely. It’s all going quite well, so far. Too well, in fact…

I am on form until the par-five hole. This hole has a 90-degree dogleg left, with water bordering the fairway all the way to the green. My natural inclination to deposit my ball there is, unfortunately, up to scratch!

But I can forgive the course for taking a few balls, it is truly spectacular, and the surrounding countryside is just as good as all those movies that make you want to move here and grow grapes. It’s at the ninth that I become truly unstuck. This is a gorgeous par-three, from an elevated position to the green below. On a normal day I don’t think that it would cause as much of a problem, but the wind is really gusting from left to right, so my shot is going across its path.

My first ball gets halfway before it suddenly decides that it would rather go sharp right and decides to place itself into the thick scrub. After about three attempts, all resulting in the same abject failure, I decide that this hole is not going to give itself up to me and walk down to see if I can recover any of my wayward balls. Having all deposited themselves well and truly in that uncompromising scrub, I decide that I am rather too attached to my skin to attempt to rescue them.

THE LAKE. Time is short, so I decide to move onto the lake course, although the word lake worries me slightly. This course has a plethora of par fours and fives, with only one par three. A less challenging, but by no means easy, course, the lake does come into play on several of the holes. Luckily for me, the fairways are reasonably wide and I’ve learned that it’s actually more sensible to play safe with a strong wind. I thus complete my round without losing any more balls.

How would I rate my performance today? Well, during his life, Michelangelo was often referred to as Il Divino, which means the divine one. I cannot say that my performance falls quite into that category.

c5

EXPLORING THE LAND. In the afternoon I meet up with Elisa, who shows me around some of the resort’s real estate, which is available for sale and rent. We also skirt around the nature reserve

that borders the course, trying to spot some of the wild boar that apparently live there.

One of my lifelong dreams has been to own a traditional Tuscan farmhouse, and there are some beautiful dwellings here. With old rustic farmhouses aplenty, Castelfalfi has renovated some very special properties. There are also new developments, all truly magnificent, along with restored village houses and apartments, but an authentic Tuscan farmhouse is my dream. We visit I Bianchi, one such property that is available, having been recently been renovated and brought into the 21st century.

These properties are quite literally made from the surrounding land. They are built from solid, locally sourced stone that just blends into the surrounding countryside. On entering the home, I find myself in a vaulted living room and adjacent kitchen. The ceiling is quite spectacular and it’s hard to believe that such a grand space was originally used to house the livestock. As well as a living room and kitchen, there is also a bathroom and large bedroom. The stairs leading up to the first floor open out onto a large open space, complete with sofas, the perfect area for relaxing. Further on, there are four large bedrooms, all with their own bathrooms. The outside space has a pool with relaxing/sunbathing area, an outbuilding and good-sized garden. The property is tastefully decorated and furnished with colours that match the rustic charm of the property and surroundings. It’s all quite lovely.

c4

On our return to the hotel we drive by the nature reserve and, as if on cue, a wild boar comes up close to the fence, giving us a perfect view. We complete our afternoon tour with a visit to the sister hotel La Tabaccaia. I have to say, it really has a lot of charm, giving guests a choice between the luxury of the main hotel or the ambience of La Tabaccaia, a really hard choice if I am honest. That night I am spoilt to a meal at the hotel’s top restaurant, La Via Del Sale, which has the honour of having executive chef Francesco Ferretti at the helm. The food is exceptional, and it also gives me a chance to taste some of the Castelfalfi wines, all of which are a perfect complement to my meal. I hasten to add that wild boar was not on the menu.

c2

PISA. It’s my final day and I plan fulfil my childhood dream of visiting the Tower of Pisa before my flight home. I say goodbye to Castelfalfi and set off on the short drive back to the city.

After dropping the car off at the airport, I jump on the Pisa Mover, a train shuttle service that goes directly from the airport to the train station in the city centre. It’s only a couple of kilometres and takes no time at all. It’s then a 15-minute walk through the city to the tower, but the sun is shining, and it gives me a chance to experience my surroundings.

I head north, crossing the river that runs through the centre and on through picturesque backstreets and grand squares until, suddenly, the tower appears before me. And, yes, it is leaning in a rather disconcerting but fascinating way. It’s a beautiful structure and well worth the walk. Unfortunately, my time is limited, but at least I have seen the famous tower and can tick another ambition off my list.

With such a short travel time from the UK, Tuscany really lends itself to both the weekend visitor and for people who want to stay longer. You get to test your golf mettle but can also go exploring with two of the most romantic cities nearby, as well as countless other quaint villages. So there really is no reason to not visit Castelfalfi.

Our love affair with Tuscany goes back a long way. We Brits adore the rustic charm, not to mention the weather, excellent food and wine. Add some great gold to that, and it’s the perfect short break…

 

Good to know

Toscana Resort Castelfalfi

Castelfalfi, 50050 Montaione, Firenze, Italy

Phone +39 0571 890169

www.castelfalfi.com

To book your stay go to the Castelfalfi Website or visit www.GreatGolfHoliday.com

Castelfalfi