Away Game: A certain romance of Tuscany and Umbria

 (Castello di Reschio by Sam Fishwick)
(Castello di Reschio by Sam Fishwick)

We arrived at Castello di Reschio, a 1,000-year-old hilltop castle on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, just married. Few things could beat my own wedding, but even my wife thinks Reschio might have done the impossible.

The 36-room hotel, which opened last year, is within striking distance of gorgeous spots like Spoleto, Assisi, Gubbio, Cortona, Montepulciano, Florence, Siena and even Pisa. But once you’re here, why would you ever want to leave? The estate itself is about the size of Islington. White stallions, yearning for adventure, can be saddled and ridden from the stables to explore its rolling oak and chestnut forests, lakes and olive groves (e-bikes are also on hand). The staff were the kindest I’ve ever known. We felt less at a hotel, more like guests of royalty.

That isn’t far from the mark. The estate was bought in 1994 — back then in a dilapidated state — by Count Antonio Bolza, whose family was once ennobled by the Hapsburgs. Count Benedikt, Antonio’s son, a talented architect, has restored 29 of the ruined farmhouses around the estate with his wife, Donna Nencia, selling them to wealthy would-be Umbrians. They and their family lived in the property for 11 years before raising enough money to begin making their castle home into a res publica.

Time does wonderful things here. Somewhere on the 40-minute drive from Perugia, the centuries slip away. The sun rises to the east in Umbria and sets to the west in Tuscany. Aside from the gentle interruption of breakfast, lunch and dinner, that’s about all the clockwatching you’ll do. The pool, a shimmering disk that flows into the lush grass beneath puffy maritime pines, is perhaps the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Within the castle’s courtyard, a great glass conservatory of potted palms and plush settees welcomed us into another world.

Our room was, frankly, bigger than our London flat. I will long yearn for its study, oak campaign bed, its cavernous dressing room and bar (no telly is also an admirable choice). The Etruscan window seats, tall steel fire grates, claw-footed bath tubs and otherworldly Poggibonsi lamps are all made with local materials and constructed in the estate’s workshops — and designed by the Count. Indeed, everything has been designed specifically for Reschio or picked out of some neighbouring market town. I’ve never been somewhere not only so vast and impressive, but with such exquisite care put into every little furnishing.

Some of the happiest hours of our lives passed in the bathhouse, a magical grotto deep within the castle’s ancient wine cellar. There we were massaged alongside a flickering hearth and left to wallow like smug hippos in a candlelit Roman bath. At mealtimes, we dined like kings at Ristorante Alle Scuderie. Think wild game ragu with homemade tagliatelle, Isolana sea bass with zucchini and local potatoes, and a terrific chocolate tiramisu. Nic Fiddian-Green sculptures (him of the Marble Arch horse head) bejewel the gardens like giant chess pieces. An Umbrian jazz band tinkled away as we sat on the restaurant terrace gazing out at the lush Niccone valley below, enjoying the estate’s own wines. If only, among the Venetian silk slippers and woven Florentine sun hats in the castle bottega, there’d been an ‘I heart Reschio’ T-shirt to take home.

Rooms at Hotel Castello di Reschio from £685, including breakfast (