Above: Borgo San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

Tuscan Recommendations Revisited

Although always on the lookout for new hotels to review, we also want to ensure that longtime recommendations still deserve to be a part of the Andrew Harper Collection. There are so many wonderful places to stay in the Tuscan countryside, it would be a shame to waste time at a property that was past its prime. I resolved to re-review our three lowest-rated hotel suggestions in the region and determine if they could compete with more recent openings. As always, we visited anonymously and paid the full rate so that our experiences would be the same as any other guest’s.

Borgo San Felice

Vitiarium vineyard, Borgo San Felice - Photo by Andrew Harper editor

Two of the three hotels were just 15 minutes apart, set amid soul-stirring scenery in the heart of the Chianti Classico region northeast of Siena. We stayed first at Borgo San Felice, an entire village turned into a resort. (Official road signs still point the way to San Felice.) Vineyards surround the property, including the unique Vitiarium. There, starting in the 1980s, the village owners assembled some 270 grape varieties from around Tuscany in order to preserve indigenous vine stock. Experimentation with local grapes continues to this day: In the winery’s shop, we picked up some bottles of Pugnitello, an aromatic and well-structured red you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. (I highly recommend reserving one of the winery’s private “Thematic Tastings.”)

The village of San Felice itself comprises a cluster of honey-colored stone buildings interspersed with cypresses, umbrella pines, grapevine pergolas and terra-cotta urns overflowing with blazing-red geraniums. Many structures are labeled according to their original functions, such as the former school, woodshed and curate’s house. Other charming vestiges of old village life remain, such as the metal sign of the greengrocer. The 60 rooms and suites occupy various buildings throughout the village, and many of them offer private outdoor space. Most impressive is the Suite Loggia, with its splendid covered terrace adjacent to the former palazzo. But I prefer the more colorful décor of the Suite Legnaia, which comes with a garden patio.

Interested to see how we would fare if we reserved a more modest accommodation, I booked a Prestige Room, one step up from the entry-level category. It occupied part of the second floor of the former laundry, but the lodging transcended the building’s humble history. Beneath a beamed ceiling was a striking junior suite-like space, which succeeded in offering a sense of place while feeling contemporary and stylish. The padded headboards edged in velvet, embroidered drapes and framed architectural drawings made the room feel plush, as did the hardwood floors. Mirrored wardrobes lined the hall to the bath, where the spacious shower stall and tub were clad in brown travertine, giving them an ancient appearance. Handmade tiles in a red-and-white harlequin pattern added eye-catching contrast.

Bedroom of our Prestige Room, Borgo San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga - Photo by Andrew Harper editor
Bath of our Prestige Room, Borgo San Felice - Photo by Andrew Harper editor
Shower detail in our Prestige Room, Borgo San Felice - Photo by Andrew Harper editor
Table set for breakfast on the patio - Photo by Andrew Harper editor
Pergola leading through the vineyards - Photo by Andrew Harper editor
Pugnitello wine tasting, Borgo San Felice - Photo by Andrew Harper editor

One afternoon, we reserved an hour of private time in the spa. Housed in the former olive oil mill, it had original vaulted brick ceilings that set off an otherwise airy décor with powder-blue stenciled walls and cushioned wicker loungers. I regretted not booking a treatment as soon as I saw it, but the amenities were ample consolation. We enhanced our legs’ circulation by wading through hot and cold Kneipp pools and after sweating in the sauna, we cooled off in eucalyptus-scented experience showers.

Above: Borgo San Felice, Castelnuovo Berardenga

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