The hotel consists of the original hunting lodge, an austere square block, and a new U-shaped wing, joined by a lobby that is more like a large garden room. To the right and left of the building, vineyards shoot off on the bias, and behind it, olive trees in parade-ground precision march down a long finger of a hill. The house wine, from those vineyards, is very good, and the restaurant, which is excellent, makes extensive use of products grown on the grounds.
A storm had come through the night I arrived, and the following morning was brilliant—hard cornflower blue sky, light that brought out the folds and pleats of the landscape, and a wind like the wake of a wide-body. I drove to the little town of Castiglione della Pescaia, which sits primly on a promontory a few miles up the road, and for an hour explored its cobweb of streets before conceding that it was a day to be inside looking out.
I worked off the chill in the spa's compact hydrotherapy area and then waited for my Holistic Back, Face, and Scalp Massage with Hot Stones by the heated pool. The four treatment rooms are outfitted with chromotherapy lights. My room was set on blue, but it registered as gray-white, the sort of cool light that in a movie might signify a cleft in the space-time continuum. It may have worked subconsciously, it may have been the jet lag, or it really may have been Sabrina Duboit's very good hands, but by time we reached the facial, I was asleep.
If a November stay was cozy, I can imagine a May or June one being more like a house party. There's a small heated pool to one side of the old building and, just next door, the Trattoria Toscana, which received a Michelin star last year. It would also be an ideal time for exploring the hill towns in the Colline Metallifere.
One of the delights of staying at Castello del Nero is getting on familiar terms with an heirloom—until the 1980s the building had been owned by exactly two families. Some first-floor rooms (notably 115 and 116) are covered in original frescoes, and many of the antiques in the building are from the house, too. The rooms have just the right quirkiness quotient—they're anything but cookie-cutter. I'd love to have a bathroom like the one in room 102. It's a small chapel of a space done in minty pinks and cool gray-blues and adorned with delicate frescoes of antique symbols and scenes, all of which can be appreciated from the tub in the middle of the room.
The setting is sensational. The building crowns a hill, and the view across the valley is a marvel. Dun brown fields flow easily around silvery olive groves, old oaks stand conspiratorially along the edges, and here and there stands of cypress and rows of vines are stitched tightly into the terrain.
Castello's spa, while vest-pocket size, is the most luxurious of these three. It draws on the terme tradition in its laconium (mild heat), caldarium (high heat), ice fountain, and svelte little outdoor hydrotherapy pool nicely screened by a hedge and sheltered by an arcade. The showers are walled and the floors are covered in a deep olive stone from northern Italy called ardesia. The relaxation room has chromotherapy lighting, but what holds you here is the valley view.
Every spa has its own "ritual" these days, and the one here—a 90-minute treatment that consists of a scrub with the olive oil grown on the property and a Balinese-influenced massage—is done very well. Here, as at L'Andana, the training Espa is known for has really paid off. Coming out of a clinical tradition, therapists in Italy are usually pretty matter-of-fact, offering a service rather than orchestrating an experience. At Castello del Nero and L'Andana, Espa created a corps of therapists who understand why the latter is the heart of a boutique hotel spa.