A Weekend at Rocca di Castagnoli

It seemed as though winter simply did not want to arrive in Italy this year. On the last weekend in October the beaches near Rome were full of Roman’s that were enjoying a beautiful sunny and warm day a the sea. Rome is famous for its Ottobrata Romana – the Roman October which can be described as an Indian Summer but these glorious sunny, warm autumn days rarely ever go all the way through to November. This year they did, however as if with a magic wand on November 1st autumn suddenly hit with a cold, windy and rainy day. This is it, I thought, winter has arrived and I better start thinking of cuddling up by the fireplace.

On Friday, November 4th however we woke up to a glorious, yet crisp morning so my husband and I decided to pack our weekend bags and drive up to Rocca di Castagnoli for the weekend. What better place then the Chianti Wine Region to truly enjoy the beautiful fall colours?

Laura, Rocca di Castagnoli’s manager was hospitable as always and is thrilled to have guest all year around. Emanuela met us at 10:30 pm when we finally made it and had turned the heating on in our apartment (the Lungo) a few hours earlier so we arrived to a nice cosy home in the Roccca.

The drive to Rocca di Castagnoli itself is quite magnificent. Almost from the very moment you leave the A1 highway you find yourself winding along the soft Tuscan hillsides and through the colourful and prestigious Chianti vineyards. However if you arrive at night as we did, all is not lost. Waking up in Rocca di Castagnoli, out of season is a delight to be savoured. Only two other apartments were occupied while we were there and obviously everyone came to enjoy the countryside this time of year when it is private and quiet. Even the family with children were extremely discreet so the feeling was that of having the entire place to yourself.

We awoke to a silence that was sublime as much as it was strange coming from a bustling and noisy city such as Rome. The view from any point of the Rocca was quite breathtaking as our eyes explored the soft autumn colours of the Tuscan countryside that unravelled from the height of Rocca di Castagnoli down through the valley.

Rocca comes from the word Roccia meaning Rock and was the stronghold or fortress of a village or town. In this case, Rocca di Castagnoli is the fortress of the hamlet that was built around it, called Castagnoli. Today, this medieval village has been completely restored and belongs to the winery that carries the same name and that is located just below the Rocca. When you stay at the Rocca di Castagnoli, you are in fact living in a medieval hamlet that is also a working winery. Each apartment name carries the name of the last inhabitants that lived in each apartment /home: Giulis, Mazzina, Filomena, Cesira etc. As they are all women’s names I cannot help but wonder what the living expectations of the men were compared to the women’s in this village.

The apartments are all quite large and as they were not built to be “a hotel room” but rather come from antique homes, they are quite irregular in shape and size. I loved this fact as there are no two apartments alike and each one has a series of nooks and crannies, internal steps and hidden corners. The castle itself is quite extraordinary and I could not help but think how much fun it would be to be a child and play hide and seek here.

After breakfast we drove through Gaiole in Chianti, the closest village where there is a coffee shop, supermarket etc. (5km from Rocca di Castagnoli) and made our way to Arezzo, one of Tuscany’s ancient and beautiful cities with important works of art from Piero della Francesca and Cimabue. The first weekend of every month, Arezzo becomes particularly lively as one of the best Antique markets sprawls out through the entire historical center of the city. There really could be few better backgrounds to a good antique market then the medieval city of Arezzo. The city in which Roberto Benigni filmed his Oscar winning film La Vita Bella is elegant and lined with great little osterias and trattorias where you can enjoy an exquisite Tuscan meal.

In the late afternoon we drove back to our fortress and turned on the fireplace more for the romantic effect then the actual heating. Rocca di Castagnoli has a very efficient heating system in which there are pipes running under the terracotta tiles making every apartment warm and cuddly throughout the winter.

For dinner we drove down to Gaiole in Chianti again and had dinner at the Osteria al Ponte, the restaurant owned by Rocca di Castagnoli. It was a wonderful culinary experience during which time we tasted all the specialties of the area and season: Tuscan “crostini” (pates) Ravioli with sage, home made Pici pasta with wild boar sauce, Chianti style Tripe (I admit, I skipped that and let my Italian husband Andrea enjoy that) all accompanied by a lovely Rocca di Castagnoli Chianti Classico, DOCG wine. What can I say, Rocca di Castagnoli simply has an excellent mix of quality and friendliness in all its products, whether they are offering you accommodation, wine or dinner.