Monteverdi: Tuscany’s Hidden Gem
For the first day since arriving in Italy, we decided to enjoy a morning of sleeping in and experiencing the on-property offerings of Castello del Nero, like the highlighted hiking trails (they also have a great heat area to the spa, which is open to all guests). Just as fun was a chance run-in with another agent friend who happened to be touring the property that morning – we met for coffee and chatted, reminding me just why I love this business. The travel industry manages to make a big world much smaller.
From Castello del Nero, we began our hour and a half journey to Monteverdi, the entire reason that we were in Italy to begin with. I mentioned that 3 AM Brunello-inspired invitation that I received to come here by a close industry friend and I’m so thrilled that it all worked out.
Nestled in a hilltop borgo (village), Monteverdi is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Because of its location within a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 13th century, the external features of the property are largely intact – the owner & CEO, Michael Cioffi, who accompanied us on the trip, shared the story of their impossible task of building a pool in the area. It must be under a certain size, must appear a certain color, must be a convincing replica of a natural body of water if seen from the sky. Every element must maintain this sense of place and reverence to the surrounding area.
Their entire journey to create what is now Monteverdi was an interesting story for us to hear firsthand – and they’re just getting started. Michael’s father and Monteverdi’s founder, Michael L. Cioffi, took his family to the region after reading about the world’s best Vino Nobile in Wine Spectator magazine. It was here that they rented a villa just below Castiglioncello del Trinoro, the village that would become home to Monteverdi. Michael Sr. fell in love with the hilltop town and the sleepy community and immediately had a vision of turning the area into a luxury retreat for his family. His children questioned that decision.
This reminds me of my own father, who has the ability to look at something in its undeveloped state and imagine it as something greater. I’ll never forget him taking my mother and me by a dilapidated warehouse where he proclaimed, “I just want you to see the before picture!”…the before picture had a roof caving in and a large rat infestation, but he proceeded to turn it into an incredible warehouse space for his business. His vision included a few less heated tile floors and 5-star service elements than Michael Sr.’s dream, so I can only imagine the process of moving forward with his vision.
Ten years later, though, the travel community and his family are thrilled with what has come about. This 10 room property, soon to be 12, feels like stepping back in time while walking around the cobblestone streets, but as soon as you step into a room – each one tastefully decorated and individually appointed – you see just how much attention to detail was poured into Monteverdi.
The rooms feel like stepping into an Italian version of Restoration Hardware – a comment that the tasteful designer might not love me saying, but I have no other way to compare the earth-toned colors paired with elements of unfinished wood and slender, modern light fixtures. I’ve never been in a place that is so consistently decorated to fit with an overarching theme – right down to the little burlap strings used to tie the napkins at the restaurant, their designer has legitimately thought of it all.
While the property is boutique in size, the types of accommodations can suit any need – from single room options to over-the-top-suites to the private villas on property. My room, featured above, was in the 6-bedroom Muri Antichi, and Monteverdi also boasts a 2 and 3 bedroom villa option. If a villa is on your radar, be sure to book early – these rooms are often the first to go!
Beyond the natural beauty of both the rooms and the village itself, Monteverdi’s hilltop location offers sweeping views of the Val D’Orcia below. Getting to explore this area was the highlight of the trip. For three days in a row, we took day trips to local wineries (like Ciacci Piccolomini d’Arogona, where you can get bottles of wine that would cost well of $75+ in the States for under $30) and medieval towns.
In Pienza, we walked off our three-course lunch through the little town before eating (again!) at a cheese shop, where we enjoyed a Pecorino tasting.
In Montepulciano, which was my personal favorite, we dined at Osteria Acquacheta, an authentic venue where locals gather at family-style tables and mingle with one another. We learned Italian drinking songs and shared steaks as big as my head.
During these day trips, I had the joy of seeing exactly what clients will be experiencing in the area and one afternoon, upon returning to Monteverdi as the sun was setting over those rolling green hills, it clicked. My aha! moment. This is Tuscany. This is what everyone dreams of when they imagine that Tuscan experience – it’s not exactly like Under the Tuscany Sun, although I do love that movie – it’s authentic and untouched. It’s the ability to spend your day learning about world-class wine, interacting with the local artisans in the towns, and retreating to your little slice of heaven in the sky when you come back home to Monteverdi.
And for us, that’s exactly what Monteverdi became. Home.
I would imagine that the experience here is as dynamic as the hotel guests; we happened to have a politician and supermodel passing through (nope, sorry, can’t arrange that one for you), along with the Cioffi family who graciously shared their vision and their hotel with us – although hotel is not the right word, there truly is not a word to describe Monteverdi. None of the conventional words to describe an accommodation truly fit. Thanks to the Cioffi’s vision, it has become a place of art and intellect and hospitality into itself.
They invite artists in residence to share their work and be inspired by the area around them. They have hosted Wes Anderson for a time, during which he wrote the majority of the Grand Budapest Hotel (complete with scene notes on Monteverdi letterhead, which might eventually be displayed in their library). They have local musicians perform on property for guests. They encourage the culinary arts with their spectacular chef, Giancarla Bodoni, the culinary genius behind Miami’s Escopazzo.
Monteverdi has just done this incredible thing with art and hospitality, bundling it all together in such a perfect reflection of the surrounding area, that it truly has a soul.
Monteverdi is not a hotel; it’s an experience.
“The great thing about love and passion and beauty,” said Michael Sr. as he was sharing his story with us, “is that the more you share it, the bigger it gets.”
Thank you, Monteverdi and Cioffi family, for sharing that love and passion and beauty with us, and for giving us as agents the opportunity to see those things grow in such a special place.