World-famous Tuscany — cypresses, green hills, art, culture, wine, truffles, pasta and … Pinocchio. Pinocchio!? Definitely! the little guy made of wood that always fascinated me even as a kid. Now he’s casting his spell over me again. But this time not just in my imagination, but right here, in his Tuscan home.
Castelfalfi is centrally located in Tuscany between Florence and Siena. And Pisa is also not that far away.
It was just a few years ago that Castelfalfi was still a ghost village. Or, as the Italians call their abandoned villages, a “paese fantasma“.
Then, however, in 2007 TUI (Tourism Union International, the Anglo-German travel and tourism company) bought and restored the derelict village for 250 million euros and turned it into a dreamy vacation resort.
Il Castelfalfi – a TUI Blue Selection
We are driving through the familiar Tuscan hill country, with its pines, cypresses, olive groves and vineyards. At last we’re back in Tuscany!
And there it is, sitting amidst a sweeping green idyllic landscape: the 5-star Castelfalfi Resort.
On arrival, we find a stylishly appointed lobby holding among other fine decorative elements a flower-laden table.
But, what draws me immediately is the terrace in the wonderful garden.
Before I can start exploring further, we are welcomed by Rabab Latrache. She is the Marketing & Communications assistant for the Castelfalfi Resort.
She is eager to show us the resort right away and invites us into her car. A bit nonplussed, I ask her if we couldn’t go on foot?
With a smile, Rabab tells me:
“Signora, the resort spreads out over more than 2,500 acres!”
Anyway, we get into the car and let Rabab chauffeur us first through the little village. Right through the pedestrian zone of the medieval borgo all the way to the castello.
Riding in the big Mercedes and with Walter aiming his giant camera, we are ogled like we’re visitors from another planet.
I try to look like an important travel writer.
We shoot our first pictures on the borgo terrace. The view of the surrounding hills is a knock-out!
In the land of Pinocchio
But before I can lose myself in a reverie, Rabab is already inviting us back into the car.
She wants to show us the surrounding estate, the 27-hole golf course and the casali.
These former farmhouses were refurbished into luxurious villas that now are for sale or rent as vacation houses.
Our friend Mario falls for one of the casali, so much so that he’s on the verge of buying it.
Let’s see what he can negotiate with Rabab…
The next stop on Rabab’s whirlwind tour is a very special casale.
“This is where the carpenter Gepetto lives” she says. The father of that rascally Pinocchio!
I look questioningly at Rabab. With a twinkle in her eye, she explains that in 2002 Oscar winner Roberto Benigni made the Pinocchio movie here in Castelfalfi.
Now, that lights my fire…although I also saw Benigni’s Pinocchio, the little rascal always comes to mind from the Pinocchio cartoon series.
Childhood memories flood through me. Under my breath, I sing softly “Little puppet, cheeky little boy. The world is big and you are just a little toy”. La la la…
But our bustling Rabab once more pulls me out of my daydreams and my mind movie ends. She is about to surprise us again.
At the resort’s hunting lodge, she wants to show us the resort mascot Ghigo.
Well, I mean – what can I say… Ghigo is a wild boar, a cinghiale!
Alas, today he is not showing himself in his enclosure. Later, on the menu, we discover the following entree “Pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale”.
“R.I.P Ghigo”, escapes my lips.
But Rabab knows why the wild boar was a no-show today. He was sulking. Because of the horses that they had recently stabled next door.
Whatever, I don’t have time to ruminate about it. That’s because Rabab is already racing off with us again, explaining along the way how they make wine and olive oil in the traditional way at the resort.
Proudly, she then shows off the fairly small but choice winery.
Borgo Castelfalfi – a village awakens from a deep slumber
We drive back to the borgo. Our marketing expert guide explains that the village had been slumbering long enough. Now its time for reviving the place through cultural and art events.
Currently, the Tuscan artist Franco Mauro Franchi is exhibiting his sculptures and paintings.
As fate will have it, we bump into the artist in the borgo!
Rabab stops the car on a dime to greet him.
Excitedly, she introduces us to the sculptor as “Swiss journalists”.
We take in the inspiring exhibition in the castle cellar. Franchi’s sculptures of the female figure are fascinating, the show colorfully staged.
More information on the resort
In Castelfalfi Resort 112 stylishly appointed rooms and eight suites are available. Also belonging to the resort besides the golf course is a spa with indoor and outdoor pools that spreads over nearly 10,000 square feet.
Beyond that, on the estate they produce high-quality wine and olive products.
The resort also offers guests a range of activities — from hiking, to horseback riding and Vespa scooter tours.
No chance of ever getting bored here!
In the Castelfalfi Resort you can choose among the hotel’s own restaurant “La Via del Sale”, the gourmet restaurant “La Rocca” or the rustic pizzeria “Il Rosmarino”.
You can find our separate write-up on Castelfalfi’s culinary highlights here.
Castelfalfi Resort impressed me the moment I set foot in it. The wine estate operation and the environment are in harmony. Enjoyment and sustainability are the top priorities.
Castelfalfi was restored according to principles of ecological construction using traditional materials like wood and stone. TUI therefore has retained the historic charm of the original. You can’t get more Tuscany than this.
And I’m sure it was not by accident that Roberto Benigni chose the exclusive backdrop of Castelfalfi for his Pinocchio movie. Because the enchanting hills surrounding the village know how to tell the most beautiful fairy tales.
Getting there and day-trip tips
Arriving: Fly or take the train to Florence. The drive by rental car from Florence to Castelfalfi is about 40 miles and takes roughly 50 minutes.
Recommended day trips: San Gimignano (17 miles, 26 minutes by car), Volterra (20 miles, 36 minutes’ drive), Siena (44 miles, 56 minute drive), Antinori Winery (31 miles, 53 minutes by car).
Il Castelfalfi, TUI Blue Selection
50050 Montaione, Florence
Our thanks go to …
A thousand thanks to Rabab Latrache of Marketing & Communications in the Castelfalfi Resort, for the complete and entertaining tour through the resort — and the hospitality.
Getting to know the resort in this way was an experience all its own!
More impressions of Castelfalfi