Monday, May 4, 2015

Tuscany - Monday - 5/4/15

Today I woke up feeling good at a normal time, 8:30am. Finally! All it took was a quiet room and one week of getting used to the time difference. Room service arrived right on time, at 9:30am. There were two excellent cappuccinos, american coffee, espresso shot (Eric was going all out today!), two croissants, two yogurts, and crackers. It was a pretty good and light breakfast to start the day. I'm glad we decided to have it delivered so we could enjoy our upgraded room a bit more. 

We were pretty much already packed due to the room change yesterday so no stress there. Eric checked his credit card and noticed the Westin incorrectly charged us for my two free reward nights. Well you know that pissed me off! I felt extremely frustrated because I couldn't immediately make a call due to the international charges. Instead I sent an e-mail to the Platinum "help" department and will ask the concierge at our next hotel in Tuscany to help me call.  What a terrible mistake the Westin made and I'm almost shocked it even happened. Anything is possible in foreign countries!  

In other breaking news, the front desk called to announce they found Eric's undies! Wow, now this was shocking. We thought for sure they were long gone.

By 11am we had all our bags in the lobby. We checked out and everything went smoothly, except Eric's undies hadn't arrived yet! Uh oh. I wasn't going to wait around for a pair of undies! The good news was that they didn't charge us the 30€ it cost to wash our 9 pairs of underwear and 4 pairs of socks. Holla! Just in the nick of time, the dry cleaning man showed up with a clear plastic bag containing Eric's undies! These CK boxer briefs will now always hold a special place in our hearts, haha. 

Eric's long lost CK boxer briefs

The cab arrived almost immediately after and good bye Florence! The cab ride to the rental car station at the airport only cost 24€, which was much cheaper than I expected. The rental car area at the Florence airport is one small building with a small station for each company. Very low key. 

The lady at Budget was very nice and helpful. She gave us an automatic Mercedes, which was a nice upgrade from what I booked. It was a nice car and pretty new. It'll be perfect for driving in the countryside. 

Our Benz in the middle. This shot was taken several days later

She also said that if we get pulled over, the cops will require an international driver's license. Well, thanks for telling us beforehand! Budget never advised us about this when I made the reservation over the phone, and it also wasn't in the fine print. I guess Budget doesn't care if we have one so they don't mention it, but the Italian cops do so it'd be nice if they threw us a bone! Luckily, a colleague at work travelled to Tuscany last year and got pulled over. He was given a ticket for almost 200€ for not having this license! He had told me about it and Eric made sure to go to AAA and purchase this silly permit before we left. Typical European scam, but better safe than sorry. It only cost about $30 but still.... 

When we found our car we got the air condition kickin' because the sun was in full scortch mode! Once Eric settled in the driver's seat, we reviewed the directions. We printed detailed directions from the hotel and we also had google maps on Eric's iPhone  We knew we had to get on the A11 but I figured we'd clarify with the guy at the booth when we drove out. Here we go! 

Eric followed the exit signs and before we knew it, we were on the road. There was no check out booth and no guy to clarify anything with. We were confused immediately! It took about ten minutes of driving and we finally had our bearings. For a few minutes I had that sinking feeling in my stomach because I thought we were about to get lost in a foreign country. At every traffic circle there were ten different signs in Italian and I had no idea where to look to make sure we were going the right way. Thankfully Eric figured it out and we were fine!

There was one toll for 1.5€ and otherwise it was smooth sailing and a pretty easy drive. As I mentioned on the train ride from Rome to Florence, the Italian countryside is incredibly green and picturesque. I took in as much scenery as I could while I guided Eric and in about an hour we were turning into the entryway of our hotel. 

At first we thought we messed up, because we were on a one way road with several twists and turns and we couldn't tell where we were going. It happened to be right and here we were, at Castello di Casole. We drove up this beautiful pathway lined with huge trees and it made for quite the grand entrance. 

OMG wish I was there now!

Grand entrance to the Castello di Casole

All the buildings had the quintessential Tuscan architecture. 

Tuscan architecture at our hotel

I saw a fancy Lambergini and a Ferrari parked in the circle drive. Turns out they belong to the owners of the hotel. Hmmm...I wonder if they're still single...(Just kidding!)

Belongs to the owner of our hotel

Turns out there are only 38 rooms total, which is perfect, nice and private. Eric later read that they have a helipad available for those who prefer to arrive in style. We walked in and were greeted by a younger American blonde guy who worked for the hotel company (Timbers). He said he worked at their Aspen location last. Cool job! 

We were each given a cold glass of prosecco and lead outside to the terrace. I was completely blown away and it takes a lot for me to say that! The scene was out of a storybook! It was more gorgeous than I had expected. 

We were blown away by the storybook setting

These pathways near the pool lead to the hotel's more modern suites

The company owns 4,200 acres of land in Tuscany which was our view at that moment. It looked exactly as you dream it would. Eric wasn't saying much and I knew it was because he was taken aback. After he recovered from his stunned silence, we both agreed that we wished we had skipped Florence and Rome altogether and spent the full two weeks here! 

Combine the rolling green hills, mountains, and castle from the 1700s that was converted into this estate where we now stood, and you have yourself heaven on earth. I was thrilled and almost wanted to jump up and down with excitement! Thank goodness we had 5 full nights here. 

Below us was a spectacular infinity pool surrounded by luxurious chairs and enormous umbrellas. The last time I felt this kind of bliss was when we arrived at the Four Seasons Bora Bora for our honeymoon (my advice: work hard and you can play hard). 

We sat at a table on the terrace outside and were approached by a staff member asking if we wanted to order lunch while we waited for our room. Eric had meat filled tortellini with cream sauce and it was out of this world. I literally wanted to scoop it up with my hands and shove it all in my mouth at once. I ordered a chicken salad which came out with mixed greens, tomatoes (all the tomatoes in Italy so far have been top quality and that's coming from someone who doesn't even like tomatoes that much), and tender shredded roast chicken. Add some fresh bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper and you have yourself a wonderful lunch in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. 

Eric ordered a glass of their house wine (10€) and he said it was best he's had in Italy so far! After lunch, we ordered more wine and just sat on the terrace taking in the views. I excitedly sent my mom a few pictures and Eric did the same. The wifi worked well and is included in the rate which is always a nice touch. 

Relaxing on the terrace with a glass of vino

By 3pm we were given a brief tour of the property and taken to our room, although I'd say a more accurate description is suite. 

Entrance to our suite

It was large and spacious and one of the coolest rooms I have ever stayed in. I loved the decor which was high-end and Tuscan chic.  You know you're in a nice hotel room when you want to steal ideas for your own home! 

Enormous and comfortable bed. I loved the beamed ceilings.

Our living area

The bathroom looked like a luxury Italian spa! First off, it was huge and had marble floors and a beautiful porcelain tub next to antique mirror the size of the entire wall. Everything in the bathroom is by a brand called "Devon and Devon" and I want this stuff in my bathroom at home!  There was a huge rainfall shower with many fancy looking and confusing knobs. Of course we had our robes and slippers and all full size free products which is always nice. I never bother with a bath, but I will definitely use this beauty! 

I mean - this is one of the most luxurious bathrooms I've ever been in!

I definitely enjoyed a bath in that tub. To the right is a heated towel rack

Gorgeous shower!

I want all Devon & Devon in my next home

As soon as the hotel employee left I started snapping shots of the room. I photograph all rooms I stay in when traveling and it's important to do so before you mess it up. 

View of living area from the bathroom

I loved all the artwork too! There were 6 framed photos that together made a large map of Italy on one wall in our living area. 

I want this in my own home

We had our own private entryway which had four lovely paintings of the Italian countryside (which I also want!) 

Where can I buy these?

They were kind enough to leave us a free bottle of their house wine (worth 40€) and everything in the mini fridge was free. We also get free water bottles throughout our whole stay. 

Wine from the hotel's own vineyards

There's just something about a free mini-bar that makes you feel good inside

Everything in our suite was Tuscan chic, from the vaulted wood beamed ceiling, country style chandeliers, and wooden shutters on all our windows (how cool!). This place just keeps getting better! We unpacked and changed immediately into our bathing suits. 

It was 80, sunny, and beautiful out and there was a serene infinity pool that had our name on it! To think I almost didn't bring a bathing suit! I never thought the weather in early May would be warm enough for a pool. I was wrong because the forecast says it's going to be this nice the whole week. We packed a bag (brought sunscreen too), made the 1 minute walk to the pool, and picked two chairs. Almost immediately the preppy pool boy was bringing us extra towels and putting up our umbrella. Good service. 

The pool scene was extremely quiet and peaceful. What a welcome change this was compared to the week we just had! We both got right in and swam to the edge overlooking the view. Was this really happening? Euphoria!!!! I felt so lucky! The water was heated perfectly and felt comfortable. 


There aren't words to describe how magical this felt

We relaxed for awhile. I read the latest Travel & Leisure while Eric browsed the travel guidebook. 

Eric reading


As the afternoon went on, more people showed up. I'm sure everyone stops at the pool after a day of exploring and wine tasting. There was only one child, a cute little Italian boy who was about 2 years old. Otherwise, it was all couples, except for one mother/daughter pair. There was one babymooner, which I found interesting. Not sure I'd want to be in wine country when I can't drink wine. 

Stairs at the pool area leading us back to our suite

We stayed for several hours and went to our room, which was right off the main terrace. I filled up the porcelain tub and added bath salts and bubbles. I'm pretty sure the last time I was in a bathtub was almost 2 years ago during our honeymoon. Eric opened our bottle of wine and we had a nice time relaxing before dinner (no room for Eric in the tub). 

We decided to eat at the bar for dinner. It's called "The Bar", but it's actually a bar/restaurant with lots of comfy seating. I brought my wine with me in an effort to save a few bucks and Eric ordered a glass of red from another region nearby. The prices here are high, borderline outta control high. We didn't mind because we knew we'd only eat at the hotel a few times. There are plenty of other options nearby. 

Eric wanted caprese salad as an appetizer, and they split it onto two plates for us (maybe it's an Italian thing, but I like it!). 

Caprese Salad

I had chicken with mushroom sauce and vegetables and Eric had linguine with meat sauce. 

My chicken entree

Eric's pasta - small portion for the large price

As expected, everything was great and we were satisfied. There is one formal restaurant on the property which is located right across the terrace. We'll likely try it tomorrow night. It's also where our breakfast is served. 

After eating we took a brief stroll around the property. It was so dark in the distance because there's nothing out there!  Eventually we made it back to the room and our first day in Tuscany was complete. 

View from our room - below is the main terrace and check out the sunset in the right corner!

Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!

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