Destination Dispatches: Caprese Living at Castel Monastero

- Mary Gostelow, arguably the most-traveled, and most-traveling, lady of the 21st century. She is owner and president of The Gostelow Report, essential monthly market intelligence briefing for the top levels of the hospitality industry. She is also contributing editor to Elite Traveler, The Private Jet Lifestyle Magazine and EnRoute.

Easy, breezy, Caprese.

One of the best of those tomato and mozzarella salads I had recently was at Castel Monastero, in Tuscany, Italy. We were sitting outside on the terrace of the 76-room hotel’s La Cantina restaurant. Our wood table, with awning over it, was set with crisp linens and Riedel glasses. And the olive oil was deep golden yellow and the sun was bright-bright in a clear blue sky, even in September. The caprese was six large bits each of beefsteak tomato and buffalo mozzarella, and oh, the taste.

This is an amazing village rather than a mere hotel. An entire 300 acres of hilltop used to be a village, going back many centuries. Now Eleganzia Hotels & Spas has spent more than a small fortune converting it to a rambling but perfect luxury complex. Our room, 14 Blue, on the second floor of a three-floor house that is part of the Blue Block, is my idea of the ideal Italian home. Satin-smooth wood floors, pale mushroom-hued walls and heavy wood ceilings and shutters, complementing a fresco on the wall behind the California-king bed. There’s also an ultra-modern FrancisFrancis espresso machine, and the WiFi works effortlessly everywhere, even around the three outdoor pools.

On which tack, this is the hotel whose spa hosts Dr. Mosaraf Ali, author of Dr. Ali’s Women’s Health Bible and Dr. Ali’s Ultimate Back Book, and who regularly looks after Morgan Freeman, Sylvester Stallone, Prince Charles and a host of other Royals. The spa has thermal pools, and lots of anti-aging facials. This is also the hotel that hosts a Gordon Ramsay restaurant as well as the aforementioned La Cantina, mainly occupying the giant, centuries-old, barrel-vaulted wine storage cellar.

I love it here. Twice within the first 15 hours of being at Castel Monastero I have taken one of the hotel’s free mountain bikes for a really grueling peddle through lush vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see. In between such exercise I also slotted in a work-out in the open-sided gym above the spa, and recovered with another perfect dish, sharing a Bistecca alla Fiorentina T-bone with my husband. Dolce vita.

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