CASTELLO DEL NERO
Swapping her business suit for an apron, Lysanne Currie dives into a cookery course at the Italy’s luxurious Castello del Nero, in the Chianti wine region
Honestly, what could be easier than slinging together a quick spagbol? For a stressed business leader, it’s often a faster (rhymes with pasta) way of filling myself up after a frantic day slaving over a boiling laptop. Well, turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong. Ever since I enrolled on the cookery class at the Castello del Nero, I’m a woman transformed. Just call me the Penne Princess.
However, before my tastebuds were titillated, my eyes feasted on the immediate surroundings: this is one jaw-droppingly beautiful hotel, simultaneously opulent and homely, with terracotta floors complementing the vaulted ceilings and spacious bedrooms, kitted out with colourful, soothing fabrics. Set into 12th century stone walls, high windows afford magical views of the surrounding 740 acres of vineyards, cypress trees and olive groves (and if you’re lucky, the odd grazing deer, too). Suffice to say, this place is dripping with history, with ancient frescoes and mosaics galore and medieval family crests hanging above fireplaces.
Since checking in, I’d headed (with perhaps slightly indecent haste) for the wine-tasting evening; studying the hues and learning how to differentiate between notes, while gathered around the large wooden table in the cellar; all thoughts of work, emails and tablets immediately out of the window. Word to the wise: there’s a ruby Brunello on offer here known as “Meditation wine” – and let’s face it, you really can’t get more relaxing than that. There’s a spa here too, which helps.
So after discovering the hotel had a cookery class (held from Mondays to Wednesdays, subject to availability) I was raring to get stuck in. Soon, under the guiding hand of Michelin-starred executive chef Giovanni Luca di Pirro, our small, collaborative class (which can accommodate up to six people) learned how to create gorgeous cuisine, Tuscan-style, from ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and spinach to homemade tagliatelle with chianina beef ragout; instructed in the art of bringing out these vibrant or subtle flavours from the locally sourced ingredients.
Best of all, of course, we got to eat it all afterwards. I’d amazed myself with how just great tagliatelle could really be. Oh, and I’m now the proud holder of a diploma – awarded to everyone who takes the class (along with a Castello del Nero-branded apron). No more rushed ravioli or supermarket-own pasta bake for me. Penne Princess? Pah – I’m the Quattro Formaggi Queen!
Getting to Castello del Nero
easyJet flights to Pisa depart from Bristol, London and Manchester with prices starting from £71.50. CityJet, British Airways and Vueling flights to Florence depart from London City with prices from £104 (all prices based on a return journey).
Room prices at Castello del Nero Hotel and Spa start at €430 (£370) on a bed and breakfast basis.