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How to embrace the real la dolce vita

Europe

Rome - For those in need of a weekend of pampering and indulgence, this is the hotel — or rather 12th century castle — for you.

Castello del Nero sits atop rolling Tuscan hills, towering over a 740-acre estate of olive groves and vineyards.

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As I drag my battered wheelie suitcase up the gravel path to the grand entrance, I’m relieved that I packed celeb-style sunglasses and my smartest sandals.

This is a hotel where guests lounge in designer swimsuits and dress up — very up — for dinner.

There are 50 bedrooms adorned with frescoes, vaulted ceilings and fireplaces. Each has a different colour scheme. I’m in the red room — no, not Fifty Shades Of Grey style.

Soon, I am sinking into a luxurious tub filled with lavender salts, nibbling at a plate of complimentary grapes and staring out of the white-shuttered windows to the green hills beyond.

 

 

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It is then that I wonder: Is 3pm too early for a glass of wine? For most of us, a bubble bath is as much as we need to trigger the relaxation button, but at Castello del Nero there’s every possible kind of treatment, from an olive oil andpink clay oriental inspired head massage to a sea salt and Tuscan rosemary body exfoliation.

After my facial and massage with extra virgin olive oil, I treat my shoulders to a powerful massage by water jets in the heated outdoor vitality pool.

If you’re feeling more active, there’s a gym, tennis courts and outdoor pool long enough for proper lengths.

We are 100 percent in expensive treat territory here, but there’s a real mix of guests. The hotel’s La Torre Restaurant has a Michelin star, naturally. And the chef is a magician. Pack a loose-fitting dress to wear at meal times.

 

 

You might find that by the third day you’ve had your fill of food, wine and lolling about the pool. But Florence and Sienna are only a 30-minute drive away.

For the adventurous, there are Vespas available to rent.

Alternatively, you can entertain yourself by taking a pasta-making lesson or wine-tasting session in the hotel cellars.

 

 

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Be sure to take an empty suitcase, too. You are going to want to fill it with local wine and bottles and bottles of beautiful olive oil.

* Castello del Nero (castellodelnero.com, 0039 055 80 64 70) offers double rooms from £363 (about R6 000) per night B&B.

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