3 Best Country House Hotels – 2017 Platinum List

Castello del Nero, Trasierra, and Cliveden House

3 Best Country House Hotels – 2017 Platinum List

Formal gardens at Castello del Nero

Castello del Nero

Tuscany, Italy


Set in a medieval castle in the Chianti wine region, this property epitomizes the beauty of Tuscany. Here, general manager Fabio Datteroni describes its allure

I grew up in Tuscany. I am 49 years old now, and this is my 34th year in the hospitality business. I started at a very young age, as a bellboy—my main duties were opening doors, sweeping floors and cleaning keyholes. After a while, I was allowed to say hi to the guests, and it went from there. I sacrificed my summers doing that, but it was a very good investment.

Castello del Nero opened as a hotel in 2006, and I have been here for six years. I love this hotel. The owners really care about bringing happiness to the guests.

Before 2006, the castle was a home, as it has been for all its life. It has been here since the 12th century, and in those 900 years it has been owned by three families, starting with the del Neros and Torrigianis. In 2000, a new owner [property developer Robert Trotta] took over from the old family, who had difficulty owning such a large property, with no proper heating or plumbing. Now it is beautifully restored, with vaulted ceilings, luxurious bathrooms and 740 acres of land. Guests can take a walk and explore the countryside—we have deer, rabbits, porcupines and wild boar. It’s very romantic. We also make wine and olive oil, have a vegetable garden and will soon have our first honey harvest. Everything we produce goes to the hotel guest.

The castle is historic and authentic—we kept as much as possible during the restoration. Some rooms have frescoes from the 18th century. The entrance floor is original, and the tower has a beautiful room that used to be the dining room of the castle. Below this is the old kitchen, which is now the bar—the original fireplace, which was once used to cook all the food, is still there.

Our location is perfect, midway between Florence and Siena, each 30 minutes away, with a complimentary shuttle. There is the small village of Tavarnelle close by, and we encourage guests to take a walk and go see real life, meet real people, eat a sandwich with Pecorino cheese and Tuscan ham. And then from here you enter the fairy tale of Chianti wine country—one medieval village after another, vineyards, olive groves, pine forests, lakes and little windy roads. Just minutes away is the Antinori winery, famous worldwide for its Tignanello, the first to be named a Super Tuscan wine. Also close is Badia a Passignano, an abbey where monks still live and the cellars keep the old barrels used for Antinori wine.

We have 1,200 different wine labels at our two restaurants, and we have regular tastings in the ancient cellar. The restaurant La Torre serves Michelin-starred Italian cuisine, and has outdoor tables overlooking the hills. Our chef will give you cooking classes, and the bartender will show you how to make cocktails. We also have a huge swimming pool, tennis courts and a luxury spa by ESPA. There is golfing, cycling, horse riding and even hot air ballooning nearby. Also close by is an observatory, and together with its members we can organize private stargazing experiences directly at the hotel—people are really crazy about that.

But my biggest suggestion is to spend a couple of days doing nothing. Lie down on a sunbed by the pool, roll off to have lunch, then roll back on afterwards. All of us are running around all year long, so to keep running on vacation isn’t fair. Give yourself the gift of doing nothing.

If you ask me what I am most proud of at Castello del Nero, I have to tell you it is my team. Now more than in the past, what people look for is the human touch­—contact with real people—and we try as much as possible to hire locals. We train them, we grow them and in return, we get loyalty.

Our people stay here for a long time, many since the beginning. The best thing we can offer to our guests is genuine hospitality.




Seville, Spain

In the early ’90s, Londoner Charlotte Smith transformed this 16th-century villa into a rustic-luxe hideaway in the Andalusian hills. Yoga, horseback riding, tennis and even flamenco music are among the property’s charming diversions.



Cliveden House

Berkshire, U.K.

A storied piece of British history for 350 years, this grand estate has hosted luminaries from Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin to Henry James and Edith Wharton. Today, the Grade I-designated house, built in the 1850s, serves as a lavish hotel on 376 acres of National Trust grounds.