Italy is currently in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 10, 2021, Italy has several restrictions on arrivals. Some arrivals need to quarantine for 14 days while others must present a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival. Check the list here. Please note that tourism is currently heavily restricted and arrivals from the UK are currently banned. Take note of any border restrictions in your home country for your return prior to any travel. Please note that this blog post serves as a reference for travel later in the future. Nonessential international travel is not recommended at this time.
Imagine a stone walled castle set amongst miles of lusciously green, rolling hills surrounded by vineyards, sunshine, and clouds so close that can literally walk through them. That’s what awaited Tor and I on our visit to Castello di Vicarello in Tuscany. When Tor was offered to do a fan convention in Rome, we knew we had to make a stop outside of the city, just to the north, in a family-run castle that brought all of our modern day fairytales to life.
The honey-colored stone walls of Castello di Vicarello have seen 900 years of history pass through them. Situated near the small village of Cinigiano, the castle is now an award-winning hotel, boasting some of the most beautiful suites that feel like a dream from which you never want to wake. What drew me to the property initially was not just the history of the castle, but the remote location of it. Despite being less than an hour from Grosseto, the castle is almost in the middle of nowhere, making it the perfect place to unwind and unplug (there is no cell signal but there is WiFi, if you can’t really unplug).
Carlo and Aurora, along with their sons, have owned the castle for 40 years, and they try to make each experience as personal as possible for their guests. Just like at Deplar Farm back in Iceland, all meals are prepared in house using organic vegetables and herbs from the castle’s gardens, and guests usually dine altogether at a grand dining table in a glass room just off the kitchen. Besides using the pool or spa in spring and summertime, there’s also horse riding, wine tasting (yes please), and cooking classes. The popular Tuscan town of Montalcino is less than a 90 minute drive away, making it the perfect day trip should you want to venture out into society from your castle in the clouds.
There are 8 suites you can stay in at the castle. Tor and I were placed in the two-room Suite Vicario, which felt just like how a royal room in a castle should feel. In the living room, a massive daybed faced a large wood burning fireplace (which we lit one day during a lengthy and quite severe thunderstorm). In the bedroom, a four poster bed surrounded by windows is what welcomed us at the end of each day in the castle. Since there’s only 8 suites, there’s not a ton of staff at Castello di Vicarello which makes it feel all the more personal and private.
The adventure to get to Castello di Vicarello was just that – an adventure. After taking a 90-minute high speed train on Trenitalia from Rome, we disembarked in Grosseto where we picked up our rental car. Since we were planning on seeing more than one spot in Tuscany, renting a car was essential. We then drove less than an hour away to our destination – Castello di Vicarello. Google Maps took us most of the way there, but as we approached the castle we decided to follow the signs instead. As we were driving in, a big black cloud appeared and hovered around the region.
A storm was brewing. We drove down a very bumpy dirt road through the trees as the rain began to pour. And when I say pour, I mean pour. We finally made it to the end of the dirt road and came across big gates, signaling our arrival at the main entrance. Once we pulled up partway up the driveway, we were told to leave the car and all our belongings there as we were to relax and take a load off from our adventurous afternoon while the staff took care of everything. Being treated like a king and queen at a castle in Italy? Yes please!
The rain didn’t let up for a few hours, but we weren’t disappointed. Our stunning and quite large suite was so comfortable that we didn’t mind watching the clouds roll in and pass through the castle grounds. Being so high up in the hills meant we had a panoramic view of everything down below, except when the clouds rolled through. As I stuck my hand out of one of our bedroom windows and touched the clouds, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had found heaven.
A knock came at our door around 7 pm, asking us if we wouldn’t mind heading down to the living room at 8 pm for drinks. We dressed up and headed down at 8 pm on the dot to be greeted by one of the castle’s co-owners, Carlo. He immediately offered us some wine (I very rarely say no to a glass of red these days), and the three of us sat down and enjoyed a lovely conversation ranging from travel, food, wine, to even politics (all in good fun). The other co-owner, Carlo’s wife Aurora, was the head chef during the nights we were there, as their regular chef was on vacation. After our cocktail hour with Carlo, she cooked us hearty Tuscan meals that would have made the Italian side of my family very jealous. Being cooked a delicious Italian dinner by the lady of the castle was certainly a treat we were not expecting, and we happily indulged in dishes of burrata, fish, and Italian desserts.
Castello di Vicarello is a pet-friendly hotel, with the owners’ precious dog Uva (which means “grape” in Italian) having full reign of the property herself. Since Tor and I were missing our fur babies back home, we immediately bonded with Uva, and anytime we went on walks around the property, she was always right behind us or leading the way, occasionally stopping for some playtime.
One day, Tor and I decided we would spend the afternoon in nearby Montalcino, however just as we were stepping into our car, a massive thunderstorm came in and thus wrecked some havoc on our plans. The staff quickly ushered us back inside and sat us down at a long dining table across from a fireplace, where they whipped us up a treat of bread, wine, and cheeses as the storm passed by. There’s something romantic about listening to a thunderstorm raging overhead while you’re inside a castle surrounded by 900-year old walls.
Two nights were not enough here at this stunning castle in the clouds. I felt like an Italian royal staying in a place so rich in history as well as modern luxury with my very own Prince Charming. We may have had to endure more thunderstorms than we had imagined on our visit, it was just all a part of the spring charm in Tuscany. If a castle in the clouds is your ideal kind of escape from the crazy, hectic world out there, then Castello di Vicarello is the castle for you.