Paradise Found

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I’m in the midst of Chef Enrico Figliuolo’s cooking-class, but cant resist asking this question…

Question:  What do  Mona Lisa,  global luxury icon Ferragamo,  golf legend Tom Weiskopf, our very own hotelier extraordinaire Radha Arora and Brilliant chef Enrico Figliuolo  have in common?

Ans: They are all connected to  this secluded serene “castle in the woods” ( Castioglon del Bosco) two hours drive from Florence.  Coddled in Italy’s magnificent Tuscan countryside, this 800 year old. 2000 hectare Rosewood Castiglon del Bosco (translates to castle in the woods) not only has it’s own golf course ( designed by golf maestro Tom Weiskopf, it is also Italy’s only private golf course), vineyard, herb garden but also make it’s own olive oil, honey and  grows its own (hold your breath) truffles.

ICONIC LUXURY & MONA LISA 

Time stands still. I’m coddled in true luxury here…be it the luxurious flavors and textures of food, the restrained elegance of the décor (of the  private villas and suites)   and the lush green of the private sprawling golf course. Swimming in the infinity pool overlooking the magnificent Tuscan countryside is an experience I will cherish forever.  As also meeting the dapper dynamo Massimo Ferragamo,  the founder of Castioglone and (son of the legendary Salvatore Ferragamo). Castiglion del Bosco’s Castle was built in classic medieval style in 1100.

It was 200 years later,  in 1318 that Castiglion del Bosco was taken over by the Gallerani family – prosperous merchants who held public offices in Siena. Interestingly, it has been claimed that Cecilia Gallerani, was the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “The Lady with an Ermine” and a muse for the “Mona Lisa”Now you see the Mona lisa connection?

WINE TASTING, TRUFFLE HUNTING AND MORE…

It’s a luxury to have a tutored wine tasting in the midst of the sun-drenched vineyards. And then to pair the local cheeses with the local wines is yet another dimension of learning and joy. All this in the resort’s very own vineyards (there are only a handful of Brunello di Montalcino wine producers.) The quality of Brunello (grape)  production is controlled and monitored and Brunello is among the first Italian wines to be granted the titles DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin) and DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin).And all this in the valley  (Val d’Orcia) a site of ‘outstanding universal value’ declared to be a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

And our very own Radha Arora, the discerning farsighted President of the Rosewood group is the driving force of this unique experience resort. And its in the resorts own Church (with frescos dating to 1345)  where I just prayed in gratitude for being in Paradise.

FROM THE DIVINE TO THE SUBLIME

For me, prayer and gratitude for the food we are blessed with, are equally important. And I’m thrilled to find that this must be the worlds only hotel with it’s own church (where mass is held on holy days). Here, the well known artist Pietro Lorenzetti  has painted the fresco “Annunciazione dei Santi” in the Church of San Michele. And it is right next to it, that Chef Enrico holds his hands on cooking classes. First he took us to the herb garden(  we picked plump artichokes, smelt the intensely fragrant mint and other herbs) and then proceeded to the first floored cooking session area. Here, each of us students chopped vegetables and cooked ourselves as we followed Chef Enrico’s explanations. From useful tips to authentic recipes, Chef Enrico shared them all with us ( I share with you his panzanella recipe)

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Paradise found: Massimo Ferragamo flanked by Azzurra Casini and Chef Enrico Figliuolo

This is one of the simple but delightfully tasty, authentic dishes that the chef taught us in the hands on cooking class. This Italian bread salad is typical of this region.

ROSEWOOD CASTIGLION DEL BOSCO

PANZANELLA

… … …

Ingredients for 4 people

Bread 200 g.

Onion 100 g.

Celery 100 g.

Tomatoes 100 g.

Vinegar 20 g.

Salt to taste

… … …

Cut the bread into cubes and toast in a hot pan

or oven using extra virgin olive oil.

When the bread is cool, season with vinegar and

bit of water, allowing the bread to soak for one hour.

Chop the onion, celery and tomatoes, then season

with salt and oil.

Add the bread to the vegetables to make a salad.

Garnish with basil leaves.

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