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Top castle getaways in Italy

Many medieval fortresses have been turned in hotels

30 March, 20:28
Top castle getaways in Italy

(ANSA) - Rome - Italy is replete with fabulous, medieval castles turned hotels.

A top 10 has been compiled to give holidaymakers some pointers on which they might want to head for first. Five of the monuments in the ranking, produced by on the basis of customer ratings, are in Tuscany with the gold medal going to Castelletto di Montebenichi, in the heart of the Chianti wine region. Built on a hilltop overlooking the hamlet of Montebenichi, halfway between Arezzo and Siena, it is an excellent starting point for discovering the area's art, nature and gastronomy. From Montebenichi, the Chianti road winds through woods, apple orchards and olive groves, vineyards, medieval villages and more imposing forts. Southwest lies Montalcino, birthplace of the world-famous Brunello wines, and southeast is Montepulciano, renowned for its Vino Nobile. Also near Montebenichi are the so-called Crete Senesi territories, whose distinctive clay soil creates extraordinary landscapes often described as lunar. Here lies the tiny spa town of Rapolano, whose sulphur-calcium hot springs come out of the ground at 38°C. Florence, Perugia, Orvieto and Assisi are an hour's drive away, while Siena and Arezzo can be reached in under 30 minutes.

Other towns rich with jewels of Renaissance and medieval art and architecture such as Cortona, Pienza and San Gimignano are all within easy reach too. The hotel itself, which dates back to the 12th century, is a treasure trove of art, including historic paintings, drawings and frescoes, as well as Greek, Roman and Etruscan terracotta sculptures, bronzes and ceramics.

The castle's large private park, which merges with the gently sloping Tuscan hills, contains a panoramic swimming pool with a small sauna, as well as a gym with a jacuzzi mini-pool.

The Castello di Spaltenna, located in the village of Gaiole in Chianti, is ranked second. A fortified monastery with a cloister and a bell tower dating from around 1000 AD, it is a splendid example of medieval architecture. Surrounded by vineyards and woods, its grassy terraces overlook an idyllic valley in the heart of Chianti. Its restaurant offers tradition cuisine and a large selection of local and national wines. Facilities include a heated indoor swimming pool for winter and an outdoor one with a waterfall, both with views of the surrounding countryside. There is also a Turkish bath, sauna, gym, spa and tennis courts, while horseback riding and golf facilities are available nearby. Just 20 minutes away from Siena, less than an hour from Florence and a few minutes away from small towns such as Radda, Panzano and Greve, the Castello di Spaltenna is ideally located for wine-tasting excursions as well as exploring nearby churches and abbeys. The hotel offers a variety of special packages, focusing on passions such as health and fitness, wine and food, biking, trekking and horseback riding. Also in Tuscany are the Castello di Tornano, which is situated in an 11th-century hamlet, and the Castello di Gargonza, which is part of a 13th-century fortified village in the lovely Val di Chiana, and where the poet Dante Alighieri once stayed in 1303. Palazzo Guadagni, in the heart of Florence, is a Renaissance manor with views over the city and the surrounding hills. The Abruzzo region is represented in the ranking with the Castello Chiaiola. Also ranked are the Castello dell'Oscano in Umbria, Liguria's Grand Hotel dei Castelli, Lombardy's 18th-century Castello del Belvedere, which overlooks Lake Garda, and Castello Orsini near Rome.

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