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I dived into the Tuscan sun. At least, that’s how it felt.
I was at the spa at Monteverdi Tuscany, a luxury property embedded in a medieval hilltop town in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I had the sensation of floating above the rolling hills at the spa’s hydrotherapy pool, which is modeled after Roman-style baths. With bare walls on both sides of me, I would have thought I was in an underground basement had it not been for the large window at the end of the pool, framing a tree-topped slope.
During the hour before my treatment, I had scrubbed myself at the hammam and braved the spa’s chilled sensory shower and freezing cold plunge pool. But when it was time for my massage, my masseuse found me where I chose to settle: rapt and warm by the pool window. With the spa to myself, there was no reason to share my front-row view of the sun blanketing the landscape in glowing shades of red and orange.
My mind and muscles had all but unclenched when I lay on the massage table downstairs, located in a couple’s suite with an outdoor patio equipped with two travertine baths. Still, Bernadetta, my masseuse, pulled out all the stops, kneading away knots while I drifted out of consciousness.
What I found at the spa was reflected throughout my stay. Despite the property’s remote location, kind and capable staff have been handpicked and stationed everywhere, with key figures acting more as hosts than employees.
Indeed, this is a family-run business, where staffers treat guests like they’re returning home.
Michael Cioffi, an American lawyer who owns Monteverdi, stumbled upon the hotel’s location, Castiglioncello del Trinoro, about 15 years ago. The hilltop town was on the brink of extinction. Most residents had left, roads were in bad condition and buildings were in ruins. But Cioffi was moved to action by the town’s history, which dates from the neo-Paleolithic and Bronze ages through to the times of Etruscan sun worshippers and Renaissance philosophers.
He found a partner in Ilaria Miani, a designer known for restoring old Tuscan buildings, to help save and preserve the town. They interviewed Castiglioncello del Trinoro’s last residents and went to work redesigning the village, stone by stone.
One of the best parts of the resulting property is the simple experience of walking from point A to point B. The hotel — composed of 18 guestrooms, several restaurants and bars, a spa, an art gallery, a culinary center, a Romanesque church, a pool and a yoga room — is not contained by a single structure, but scattered throughout multiple locations.
It’s quite easy to imagine you’re in a different era, especially when you encounter the site’s old ruins, excavated just a few steps from the hilltop pool. And there’s no wonder that there are multiple outdoor seating areas and terraces — Monteverdi is a place to see and just be.
Narrow cobblestone walkways act as thoroughfare for the property, and they meander up and down slopes that provide different angles for expansive views of the surrounding valley.
From my Luxury View Suite’s bedroom, I enjoyed these postcard-lifted vistas from small windows. From my living room, I could see the Romanesque church and the village square. The room, like most of the interiors here, is restrained and austere — a sign of respect for these buildings’ rural and peasant past.
While the focus is on the beauty outside, I admired that each guestroom complies to the minimalist aesthetic differently, drawing on unique raw materials — from straw and linen to oak and travertine — for dramatic effect. While the influence is rustic, modern touches such as lighting systems and outlets are subtly incorporated, as are decadent bathtubs and/or rain showers.
The moody ambiance is found throughout the property, in part to keep with UNESCO’s expectations to maintain original exteriors — and perhaps in part to contrast with the friendliness of the staff.
Executive chef Giancarla Bodoni — who was poached from her own organic Italian restaurant in Miami — oversees all the dining establishments at Monteverdi. Breakfast at Oreade, lunch at Enoteca and particularly a multicourse Chef’s Table dinner at the newly completed Culinary Academy all show the depth of her gastronomic chops. I was just as pleased with a simple white-bean soup topped with grassy olive oil as I was with a more complex dinner dish of handmade pasta topped with truffles; the love and high-quality ingredients in Bodoni’s cooking was palpable all the same.
And while it might be obvious that a boutique hotel in Tuscany serves great wine, I was impressed that we sipped the highly rated varietals from Tenuta di Trinoro, a small-batch vineyard that we could spot from our perch at Monteverdi.
During my stay, Cioffi’s son (also named Michael) happened to be visiting with friends. He acted as innkeeper, sharing with us his love for Monteverdi and treating my group like long-lost friends. We mingled over cocktails at the lounge and over a special dinner set up in one of Monteverdi’s three villas — a six-bedroom masterpiece with an outdoor terrace — where Michael arranged for his favorite local musicians to play an impromptu concert. By the end of the night, we were all singing out of key around an acoustic guitar.
Cioffi may have saved this village out of love for its history, but that night it was clear that a new chapter had begun.
The DetailsMonteverdi Tuscanywww.monteverdituscany.com