The wondrous Castello di Casole
PHOTO: The infinity pool at Castello di Casole (c) Sery Kim
So much of travel, I find, is discovering things you never knew COULD exist. From properties to countries to even a unique method of traveling like a first class cabin, travel has become a quest for the unattainable -- or at least the pursuit of something which would make your friends jealous on social media. For me, travel can be rather a limitless series of the familiar, particularly the ultra-luxurious. After two years of this kind of travel, I think I have a pretty good lock on luxury. I feel I have seen and certainly stayed at some of the best properties in the world so it is incredibly hard to impress me. In fact, I would say that the tangible things other might find impressive -- the thread count on a sheet, the depth of variety in a wine cellar, the particularly kind of spa products or a Michelin starred chef -- don't impress me. I actually expect these things: I expect to find the fabulous to be the ordinary whereas everyone else expects the ordinary and then are surprised by the exceedingly fabulous.
This is why Castello di Casole has grown itself into a very special place in my heart.
PHOTO: A welcoming appertivo while waiting to check-in (c) Sery Kim
When I agreed to come back to Tuscany, I came with not a great previous experience. The other property I had visited earlier this year was not luxurious, in any way, and the food was sub-par. I wish I could just chalk it up to the opening of the property but it was everything from the lack of friendly service to the uncomfortable bed and the hollowness of the decoration. (And to think I have repeatedly turned down the chance to visit Il Borro, ugh!) At that property, I didn't feel I was in a beautiful villa in Tuscany. I felt I was in a bad bed-and-breakfast in the most alluring part of Italy.
So with these low expectations, I chose to accept Castello di Casole's invitation because someone I knew had gotten married here -- and the photos appeared in VOGUE. I mean, if a VOGUE wedding is held on a property then it must truly be special!
I'm so glad I did.
PHOTO: The bathroom in my Suite Grandiosa at Castello di Casole (c) Sery Kim
Driving to Tuscany, itself, is always a breathtaking experience. Even if you have seen the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, there is something about the scenery and knowing you are in ITALIA which fills every chamber of your heart with happiness. I always feel, whenever I am in Italy, as if time has stood still and that whatever stresses I may feel can blow away like the gentle breeze. This is never more true than in Tuscany where there is a complete and utter lack of buildings. Everything from skyscrapers to roadside gas stations, Tuscany just sits empty ... on purpose, with a geological/architecture society heavy on ensuring Tuscany remains TUSCANY.
PHOTO: The old tower built in 998 anchoring Castello di Casole (c) Sery Kim
Castello di Casole actually abuts the famous Bulgari family estates. 4,200 acres comprises this property which has both a hotel as well as 38 villas which have been fully bought out. Every detail has been sublimely crafted by the Timbers Resort, the American company which is based in Snowmass, Colorado.
Of particular note should be the spa service. The Essere Spa is housed in one of the many Etruscan buildings, and the "Couples Room" is the best. It is located below ground level and is enormous, with two tables, a jacuzzi spa tub which could easily fit six people and a shower. I had one of the several body treatments available called the "DIVINO" and, I can say with absolute authority, it was the best spa treatment I have had all year.
PHOTO: The Couples Room at Castello di Casole (c) Sery Kim
Inspired by the vineyards on property, the service is both a body scrub and a massage. Christina, the therapist, is incredibly thorough and "absolutely loves" her job which anyone who spends time in her joyful presence can tell. Also, the Essere Spa actually makes their own fantastic products and the smells emanating from the the combination of grapeseed oil, honey, wine and brown sugar will just melt your heart. I mean, seriously! How can I buy this stuff in America? (Of course you can't! BOO!)
PHOTO: The unbelievable house-made products at Castello di Casole's Essere Spa (c) Sery Kim
Christina spends 50 minutes scrubbing every dead cell from your body. If the wafting smells of grapeseed and honey don't ease every stressed out cell in your body, then her vigorous yet soothing scrubbing action will. After a nice shower, she than engages in a 70 minute full body massage using another house-made product of pure grapeseed and essential oils.
I am not quite confident I stayed awake for the whole thing but I remember the languorous movements of Christina's hands helping my body ease the grueling suffering I put it through. I have been walking between 7-8 miles every day the last two weeks I have been in Europe, and then in addition to that I have also been running and lifting weights in my own form of "two-a-days" to prevent myself from getting fat while abroad in the Land of Pasta and Gelato. Thankfully since I have been so militant about it, I am actually going to go home having LOST weight, thank goodness!
PHOTO: Appertivo hour at Castello di Casole (c) Sery Kim
I seriously think I would fly to the property just to have more spa treatments. I didn't have enough time to do a facial or one of their manicures and pedicures, but I am definitely going to come back in October and have a real go at the spa menu -- also I am seriously tempted to get married here and indulge in their "bridal package," which is a 200 minute "Luminance Facial, Signature Manicure & Pedicure, Honey Glow Body Massage for 395 euro. Heck! I might just go my bachelorette party here, haha.
PHOTO: Bar snacks at the wonderful bar here at Castello di Casole (c) Sery Kim
After the spa treatment, I had to have some down time to recover from my down time but of course quickly ended up on the patio overlooking the Tuscan countryside. The Aperol Sprtiz here is divine -- I would know since I had several -- but it really is the food which will move you. I can't even begin to tell you how fantastic the food is here: such high quality, inventive and really really fun!
More on the food later but I have to say I am so glad I came here to Tuscany. I really am seriously considering buying a property here or getting married here but, at the very least, I am coming back and THAT really is the highest compliment I can give to any property: the knowledge that they gave to me something which I never expected but always wanted.
Now that's luxury!!!