Il Borgo at Castello Banfi. “A little slice of paradise in the Tuscan Countryside”

My early flight to Rome from Palermo had been cancelled , I managed to find another flight on a different airline. Things looked a bit brighter in Rome when we finally picked up our luggage and collected our rented vehicle: a fabulously rakish, low slung, turbo prepped Italian sports car . However that joyful enthusiasm was premature. The car started to cough and rattle just as we approached the small town of Orvieto , in Umbria. The light show which exploded across my instrument panel, and the accompanying concert of beeps and blips that followed, was at once entertaining and scary. A few hours later , after a visit to the local car mechanic, we were back on the road. With a quick flick of the wrist I shifted into third gear, and then I punched the gas with deliberate purpose. The engine roared and the car shot forward into the fast lane, quickly accelerating past a long line of trucks. Thetachometer needle was now venturing into uncharted territory. The scenery around me was nothing more then a blur, but I did not care. I had only a few hours of light left and did not want to drive into the Tuscan country side in the dark.I quickly glanced over at my wife on the passenger seat next to me, she smiled back with confidence. Her knuckles, white from gripping desperately at the dashboard before her, told me a different story. We would have both agreed:" this day had not started well".At dusk we turned on to the road leading to Castello Banfi. We were struck by the castle’s massive stance , perched high upon a hilltop dominating over the valley below. I rung the bell at the gates of Il Borgo at Castello Banfi and their team swiftly picked up our numerous bags, escorted us to the Reception, and then our suite. The moment, we walked into our suite, I knew that this was going to be "the" experience of a lifetime.Suite # 14 was elegantly decorated. The king size bed was luxurious and delightfully comfortable. The bedding was crisp white, soft as silk, with big fluffy pillows. There was a comfy couchwith a cozy throw, and plenty of good reading light. A lovely table and two chairs were perfectly placed before the window with a view of the valley below. There was a charming, quaint office in the next room, with a view of the pool and the vineyards. Around the corner, a super sized closet area. The bathroom was astonishingly big, gracefully designed in every detail. From the terracotta tiled floors, to the pristine porcelain double sinks, marble countertops, and a bathtub, certainly built for two. The walk-in glass shower was lined with extraordinary hand painted tiles; this place was pure indulgent luxury. Yet what made this bathroom special was an unexpected, set of large double windows, with a panoramic view of the surrounding hills.The next morning we began to explore the Castle’s grounds, and see all it had to offer. Originally Il Borgo, was a group of buildings that were part of the working village within the walls of this 13th Century Castle, and at one time, about 300 people lived and worked within the Castle walls. There is a wonderful Store: “Enoteca” where you can sip and purchase the Banfi wines of your choice. You can eat at two fine Restaurants within the castle’s walls.

The Taverna Banfi is an upscale trattoria, which serves hearty, rustic, county food made with the freshest local ingredients, I strongly recommend the Pici pasta and the Ribollita soup. For those seeking a more exclusive culinary experience, there is also: Il Ristorante Castello Banfi, a one star rated Michelin Restaurant. I had an unforgettable tasting dinner there. It lasted well over 4 hours and severely tested the stitches holding the front button of my pants. While walking around the castle grounds do not miss The Giovanni F. Mariani Museum of Glass, which traces the evolution of wine and glass from the 5th century BC to present. The Biblioteca ( the Library) is a private space for the guests of Il Borgo. This large room is anchored at one end by a large fireplace, with a warm crackling fire. Sit in any of the plush couches while perusing through one of the many wonderful books available. This is an elegant, charming, and cozy spot where you can rest your tired feet, have a lovely conversation, or spend some quiet moments sipping on a glass of Banfi’s famed Brunello.

There are many things to do while you stay at Il Borgo, maybe go for a short drive into the old medieval towns of Montalcino and Pienza or venture into nearby Siena. The hotel concierge can even arrange for horse rides through the vineyards or the beaches near Grosseto.
I did not do any of those things; I just stayed at the castle. I ate at the restaurants everyday with prodigious appetite, took naps, sat under the pergola by the rose garden, sipping on a glass of wine. I explored every inch of the castle walls and took innumerable photos, and watched the sunset everyday I was there.
What was truly magical is that I forgot about work. I never checked the computer, I never once called my office. Instead, my wife and I went on many walks in the surrounding countryside. We enjoyed breakfast in the room, as the beautiful morning light painted the view before us with shades of golden and amber autumn colors. I felt alive and " Happy!"

My father used to say: “ A man should know when he is lucky” . As I stood there at sunset, holding my wife close to me, shielding her from the cool wind, breezing softly across the valley below, I knew “exactly”, just how lucky I was to be there! This place was pure magic for my soul.

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