Italy — with its sprawling vineyards, rolling hills, majestic monuments, and preeminent art and culture — already feels like a fairy tale in itself. But what if you can enjoy all that and live like a real princess (or prince) in a real castle with real courtyards and real turrets and towers and furnishings fit for royalty?
Actually, you can. Italy’s rich and complex history as the seat of continent-wide religious and military power, once a conglomeration of city-states constantly competing and warring with each other, coupled with numerous invasions from foreign armies, means that there’s no shortage of fortified towns and castles scattered throughout its gorgeous countryside. Many of these historic buildings have now been converted into hotels and bed and breakfasts that travellers — even those of us without a drop of noble blood — can book for our stay in Italy. And while some may cost us a pretty penny per night, many of these castellos, set in the rolling hills of gems like Tuscany and Umbria and Piedmont, are surprisingly affordable.
The Agriturismo Castello La Grancia di Spedaletto was originally built in the 12th century as a fortified agricultural estate that could also accommodate pilgrims on their way to Rome. Prominent previous guests include Carlo d’Angio — or Charles I of Anjou, sometime Count of Provence, King of Sicily, and King of Albania — and Pope Pius II. Today, the agriturismo is beloved by both pilgrims on the Via Francigena and visitors who want to explore the surrounding stunning Val d’Orcia. Tourists travelling with children will be glad to know the castle has both an outdoor pool and a children’s playground.
It’s no surprise the Castello di Monterone has been featured in a list of the world’s best castle hotels by TripAdvisor — what’s surprising is that a room for two can cost as little as 99 EUR a night. This beautiful castle has 18 rooms in total, some of them featuring 19th century frescoes, while the castle itself goes back to at least the 11th century. A medieval — but luxurious — atmosphere was carefully preserved through its restoration: fireplaces, beamed ceilings, stone floors, wrought iron beds. Outside, its noble history is reflected in the manicured courtyards and rose gardens framed by stone terraces. It’s only a short walk to the historic center of Perugia, near Assisi, in Italy’s scenic Umbrian region.
First mentioned in documents dating back to 1042, the Castello di Potentino has a rich and interesting history. It has served as home to various Tuscan nobles and even played host to Saint Catherine of Siena. The castle once served as the base of the charitable works of the hospital order of Santa Maria della Scala but was subsequently ceded by the Medici Duke Ferdinando I to the famous commander-in-chief of the infantry of the Venetian Republic, Marchese Giovan Battista Bourbon del Monte. Now the castle is a lively bed and breakfast that produces its own wine and olive oil. Guests can avail of packages that include wine courses and daily morning yoga.
Castello delle Serre is a historical castle in the heart of Tuscany that has been lovingly converted to an upscale family-run bed & breakfast. Watching the sunset over the castle’s rooftops is something one should not miss.
Castello La Leccia is a castle located south of Castellina in Chianti, overlooking the gorgeous Val d’Elsa. All twelve bedrooms have beamed ceilings and wooden floors and boast views of the surrounding countryside. Breakfast, served in the original lemon conservatory, consists exclusively of locally produced products such as fresh fruit, honey, cheese, cold cuts, eggs, yogurt, jam, and homemade cake. The castle can also be booked for exclusive use, the perfect venue for a wedding, birthday, or private parties.
A luxury hotel and spa in Piedmont — the region in Northwest Italy that borders France and Switzerland — the Castello di Guarene was built in the eighteenth century by local nobleman Carlo Giacinto Roero. Rooms have views of the gardens, the Roero/Langhe hills, or the Alps, and boast of wood or terracotta floors and walls that are either frescoed or covered in silk and velvet. The castle’s spa offers a Turkish bath, sauna, Jacuzzi, hydrotherapy pool, multi-sensory shower, and Kneipp treatment.
A luxurious countryside resort surrounded by sprawling vineyards amd rolling hills, the Belmond Castello di Casole is a Tuscan fairy tale come true. It boasts a rich history: Etruscan artefacts have been found in its grounds, while the castle itself was built in the 10th century. During its restoration, care was taken to use traditional methods and reclaimed materials; its present rooms feature wood-beamed ceilings and stone walls. Modern facilities include a spa and heated pool, while the castle’s extensive grounds feature vineyards, olive groves, scenic paths, and a game reserve with hare, pheasant and deer. The castle also offers activities such as horseback riding, bicycling, golf, and truffle hunting.