It would be a real challenge not to love Castello di Velona. It’s got all the makings of a fantastic hotel, being a member of the Small Luxury Hotel of the World, and poised high on a hill about 10-minute drive from the noble town of Montalcino (known for its famous Brunello wine).
The setting is the thing you first notice. No surprise that this 11th-century fortress (and later the villa of famous Sienese families) would have beautiful views, but these were darned near unbelievable. Sitting at the pool, I was entranced. (It’s a rare occasion for an infamous tan-aholic like myself to turn my chair toward the view rather than the sun.)
The quietness of this hotel was remarkable. I know that there were only 24 rooms, but I really felt as if there might be five. We found ourselves the only people at the pool, and one of only two couples at breakfast, chowing down on decadent sweets and perfectly flaky croissants. You can hear birds here, and only the very faintest sounds of the staff speaking Italian, doing all the dirty work when it came to planning your stay.
The service here was absolutely stellar (and formal—the poor concierge came running out to the pool in his perfectly starched suit to give us updates on the wineries he’d booked for us that day). Later on, he asked just the right questions about what kind of dinner we wanted—and recommended a place with views and reasonably priced food.
After dinner, we drove back late and marveled at the view of the famed Abbey of Sant'Antimo, an attraction located only a few minutes from the hotel.
For it being such an elegant, classy place, Velona could also have been pretentious. But it wasn’t. Our room—complete with fireplace and terracotta tiled floor—was rustic enough that you felt like you were in Tuscany, even with the fancy marble bathroom and welcoming, downy bed. Guests walked around in their bathrobes. Cars whipped up dust when they barreled down the gravel road to the entrance. Couples sat together on stone benches, looking up at the star-filled sky.