Whilst we were enroute to a Tuscany wedding, we decided for a brief stay at Hotel le Fontanelle. Nestled in the middle of the rolling verdant hills of the countryside in the heart of Italy’s Chianti region, it was wonderfully set up for a couple of days to unwind before the festivities. The hotel was a 30-minute drive from Siena through miles and miles of vineyards and cypress trees. Getting there was actually an attraction in itself!
The hotel is a bit tricky to find but having made no wrong turns (surprisingly!), the best advice I can give is to follow the directions provided by the hotel to the letter. Do not rely solely on Google Maps or the satnav. As we admired the scenery, the winding country roads led us up to a prestigious large iron gate which marks the entrance to Hotel le Fontanelle’s 80 hectares estate lined with vineyards and olive trees.
Whilst we sat down in the hotel lobby or more accurately described as an elegant Tuscan living room, to wait for our passports to be processed we browsed through the fascinating photo album detailing the history of the gradual but faithful reconstruction of the property. The main part of the hotel dates right back to the thirteenth century and the owner has made sure that as much of the original architecture is maintained around further expansion and renovation plans.
We were staying in a suite detached from the main hotel building thoughtfully separated by a botanical garden and a row of typical cypress trees. The kids loved ambling through being surrounded by a kaleidoscope of butterflies and a vast array of flora and fauna. As we were whizzed over in the golf carts to our suite, a storm cloud gathered in the horizon. In any other place we would’ve been disappointed, but the Tuscan countryside is beautiful in any weather. It was hardly tough to look at!
The suite we had was spacious even for a family of four. Despite the fact that our quarters were recently built, the rooms exuded the essence of Tuscany and the local traditions with terracotta floors and a beamed ceiling. Being situated on top of a hill, the views from the room of the Chianti valley down below was breath-taking.
Naturally, being a hotel set in a vineyard, there are wine tasting tours to experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Hotel Le Fontanelle caters for the family too. There are also plenty of activities for the kids such as having a splash in the outdoor and indoor swimming pool as well as free access to mountain bikes to explore the valley. I enjoyed a morning cycle ride along the narrow country roads which evoked memories of my childhood gliding down the hills on my first bike holding firmly on to my hat. After all the driving from Cinque Terre, my wife took full advantage of the Wellness Centre which was fully equipped with a gym, sauna, Turkish bath and jacuzzi. During our stay I was told that there are plans in place to in expand the spa facility too.
My favourite experience was just simply sitting on the Belvedere Terrace whether it was for breakfast or for dinner at the "Restaurant La Colonna". The terrace was the perfect setting for an Italian alfresco dining experience with panoramic postcard views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. I found myself constantly switching between looking up at the scenery and back down at the exquisite food served in front of me. As the sun set and the light cycled through its warm tones in the distance over the rolling Chianti hills marked with lines of cypress trees, I thought to myself “This is quintessential Italy”. When you close your eyes and think of Italy, this is the Italy you see.