Hotel Review: Il Borro Toscana
From the moment I stepped into the Il Borro Tuscan Bistro in Dubai (you can read that review here) I was fixated on the large painting in the back, in their private dining area. The picture was the entrance way to the original Il Borro. A gateway and road flanked by cypress trees.
It was my mission to see the original. I looked at google maps, and I saw the location. The villa, the village, the bridge, I even spotted their three pools. I wanted to know everything about the villa.
One weekend I finally made it out there. It was winter time already, so I’m sure the grounds are better looking with more greenery, but I was overcome regardless, by the lack of noise. The calm and tranquility that is Il Borro is one for the books.
The grounds showed distress made by the Nazis, but the people who lived in this 1000-year-old village did not budge. They kept living in the worn torn area all the way until 1993 when Mr. Ferruccio Ferragamo bought the land and built the Il Borro we see today.
Mr. Ferragamo’s goal was to keep the village as original and as organic as possible. Only the inside of the houses changed. The outside walls are all the same. Each suite is named after the occupation of the person who had once lived there, or by another identifying description. My room, for instance, was called “Tramonto” which means sunset. I can only assume it was called this because of the high view I had over the valley and the way the sun shone into the room at sunset. It was a lovely light that I have only ever seen in Italy. A sort of golden glow.
Upon arrival to the estate, I was warmly greeted and shown my suite in the village. I fell in love with the suite even before I opened the door! It was quaint and oh so elegant. My little medieval cottage for the weekend. The furnishings were sweet and comfortable. The loft bedroom and bathroom were full-on luxurious. I wish I could make that little cottage into my permanent home. There is something about the Italian way of building buildings that resonates with me. The stark way the walls meet the ground on the outside, perhaps? In America, the houses are all surrounded by bushes and trees. I must read more about Italian architecture….
Next, a tour of Mr. Ferruccio Ferragamo’s art collection revolving around wine and the cellars. The art gallery’s curator, Martina Becattini was extremely clear when showing us the artwork, explaining to us art novices about the way the art was produced and how the art was placed to show how wine was represented in mythology, then how wine was viewed by the church, and on to how wine is the bearer of all sins. “From Mantegna to Warhol. Stories of wine.” It’s worth a visit even if you’re not staying at Il Borro. The art exhibition, while lovely, is more than just an exhibition. It is a journey through Il Borro’s history and its succession of inhabitants, from the Medici to the Hohenlohe and the Savoys, all the way to the Ferragamos.
The story of wine told through the eyes of the masters such as Mantegna, Durer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya, Manet, Picasso, and Warhol. Impressive and understandably a pride to Mr. Ferruccio Ferragamo.
Below the art gallery, is the location of the Il Borro wine cellars. Our wine tour led by the local vintner, Niccolo Chiodi, took us for a walk past hundreds of oak barrels telling us all about the grapes and the process. And then, the wine tasting! It was an event I had been looking forward to for days. One does not usually finish the glass of wine set out before them, but I decided I would drink to the last drop. They were all so good. Niccolo started us off with the good wine, and the offerings became increasingly better. We tasted the Chardonnay (my favorite) and the Syrah, and wines made with Sangiovese grapes and then a mix.
We finished the tour, were led out the big wooden doors close to where the stables used to be and headed back to our rooms to rest.
Dinner was to be had in Il Borro Tuscan Bistro in Florence, but I will write about that event another day. We returned to our rooms after driving back from Florence, utterly exhausted but excited to see the sunrise in Il Borro.
Breakfast at sunrise in Il Borro was a feast. All sorts of meats and cheeses and bread and cakes. One particular chocolate muffin should be renamed “the chocolate muffin from heaven.” I think I ate three each morning.
There were other guests in attendance as well. I asked the maître d’ where they were from. I was told another hospitality company was there having a company retreat. I did not have a chance to meet any of them, but it was good to know that Il Borro was open for company retreats as well.
After breakfast, Chiara Fedi gathered us all up in a jeep to have a tour of the Il Borro grounds, all 1000 hectares of it. We saw the modern stables, the golf course, the honey bees, the most beautiful white cows, and of course, the vineyards. We sat on a bench in one particular vineyard on the side of a hill. Chiara pointed out to the distance and said, “Everything you see is owned by Mr. Ferragamo.” We took in the scene and appreciated for just a second what kind of life he and his family must lead. To be surrounded by such beauty all the time… I am so grateful I was invited and had the chance to experience this glorious place.
Back in the Borgo, or village of Il Borro, Chiara gave us a guided tour. We started in the main square where we found kiwis growing above our heads. Straight in front of us was a building that held a grand show of mechanics produced by the priest who led the village after the war years. He put together a feast for the eyes…a show about the fall and rise of the village using mechanical puppets and lights. Truly a fascinating show. I’m in awe how he accomplished it all. He started building in the 1940’s and finished the product in the 1960’s. There is another room in the village set aside for another show as well, the story of Pinocchio. Fascinating to see how the priest engineered it all.
Next, off to the centuries old church. Enough space for 40 people to sit comfortably, I can imagine the village people congregating every Sunday to hear the Priest preach his words of hope.
A truly fascinating remnant of the old ways are the local artisans who have shops in the village, as if nothing had changed. There was the artist, the leather worker, the jeweler, etc. (More on the artisans in coming issues.) It was so comforting to know how much Mr. Ferragamo appreciated the old ways and tried his hardest to keep the local Tuscan culture alive.
In the afternoon, I went on an adventure with The Pemberley Magazine's Tuscan photographer, Gianni of Riccardo Pieri Photography. We scaled the walls and unearthed the most precious photo opportunities. Well, not exactly, I went to the reception and asked if they could open the gates to the villa so I could have a look, and Gianni could take pictures, and they graciously opened the gates for us. What lay before us was the most spectacular view of the Villa’s fountain and garden and the village on the ridge. I would go on about them, but I think the photos are the only way to do them justice.
Later, I was due to have a private cooking class with Chef Andrea Campani, but he was busy being the successful chef he is, so instead, I was invited to the spa. A cleansing facial and the best massage I have ever experienced were just what I needed. Nothing makes you feel like new more than a spa day. The jacuzzi was set in a room with high vaulted ceilings, the “relaxation room” had a view, and like I said before, the facial and massage were life-changing. I wish I could have taken a dip in the infinity pool but it being the winter time it may have ended with frostbite!
It’s been a full day, but it wasn’t over yet. We were to experience the fine dining option at Osteria del Borro. I learned this week that Osteria means a very casual café, so I’m guessing they were alluding to irony when they named the five-star restaurant.
My guest and I were graced with food cooked with royalty on the mind. Wine, pate, venison, chocolate, and meringues. There was so much good food to taste. I’m afraid words would in no way do justice to Chef Campani so I must relay my thoughts through the pictures that are before you now. I wholeheartedly believe Chef Campani is due for a Michelin Star. And I would like to take home a case of the meringues.