A certain romance of Tuscany and Umbria

(Sam Fishwick’s Castle of Reschio)

We arrive at Castello di Reschio, a 1000-year-old hilltop castle on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, newlyweds. Few things could top my own wedding, but even my wife thinks Reschio could have done the impossible.

The 36-room hotel, which opened last year, is within easy reach of beautiful places like Spoleto, Assisi, Gubbio, Cortona, Montepulciano, Florence, Siena, and even Pisa. But once you’re here, why would you want to leave? The estate itself is the size of Islington. Eager for adventure, white stallions can be saddled and ridden from the stables to explore its rolling oak and chestnut forests, lakes and olive groves (electric bikes are also available). The staff was the friendliest I have ever met. We felt less like a hotel, more like royal guests.

That’s not far off the mark. The estate was purchased in 1994, then in a dilapidated state, by Count Antonio Bolza, whose family was once ennobled by the Habsburgs. Count Benedikt, Antonio’s son, a gifted architect, has restored 29 of the dilapidated country houses around the estate with his wife, Donna Nencia, selling them to wealthy Umbrian wannabes. They and their family lived on the property for 11 years before raising enough money to begin turning their chateau into a res publica.

The weather does wonderful things here. Somewhere in the 40-minute drive from Perugia, the centuries slip by. The sun rises in the east in Umbria and sets in the west in Tuscany. Aside from the gentle interruption of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that’s all you’ll do to look at the clock. The pool, a sparkling disk flowing into lush grass under swollen maritime pines, is perhaps the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Inside the castle courtyard, a large glass conservatory with potted palm trees and plush sofas welcomed us into another world.

Our room was, frankly, bigger than our London flat. I will long long for his study, his oak camp bed, his cavernous walk-in closet, and his bar (without a TV, it’s also an admirable choice). Etruscan window seats, tall steel fire grates, claw-foot bathtubs and otherworldly Poggibonsi lamps are all made from local materials and built in the estate’s workshops, and designed by the Count. In fact, everything has been designed specifically for Reschio or selected from some market in the neighboring city. I have never been to a place not only so vast and impressive, but with such exquisite care put into every little piece of furniture.

Some of the happiest hours of our lives were spent in the bathhouse, a magical grotto deep within the castle’s ancient cellar. There we were massaged by a flickering fireplace and left to wallow like smug hippos in a candlelit Roman bath. At lunchtime, we dined like royalty at Ristorante Alle Scuderie. Think wild game ragout with homemade tagliatelle, Isolana sea bass with zucchini and local potatoes, and a terrific chocolate tiramisu. Sculptures by Nic Fiddian-Green (the one with the horse’s head from Marble Arch) adorn the gardens like giant chess pieces. An Umbrian jazz band tinkled as we sat on the restaurant terrace overlooking the lush Niccone Valley, enjoying the estate’s own wines. If only, among the Venetian silk slippers and Florentine sun hats in the castle’s bottega, there had been a T-shirt that said “I love Reschio” to take home.

Rooms at the Hotel Castello di Reschio from £685, including breakfast (reschio.com)

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