Once upon a time, you were sitting in your office cubicle daydreaming about what it would be like to be a king or queen. But today, you can turn that fairytale reverie into reality, thanks to Italy, the land of great food, gorgeous landscapes, and rich history. The boot-shaped country also happens to be home to some of the most spectacular castles-turned-hotels in the world (and here, you thought it was all ruins). To help you get a taste of the finer life, we’ve compiled a list of eight Italian castle hotels that merit the word “wow.”
A castle hotel might trigger fantasies of lavish chandeliers and ornate tapestries, but this medieval Tuscan property swaps opulence for an inviting, intimate stay. The family-run bed-and-breakfast, which is a short drive (or 45-minute walk) from Siena, houses only three guest rooms, including an apartment and two-story tower room with a spiral staircase. There’s not much to do here in the way of activities, but that just gives you more time to admire the Italian countryside setting.
Situated in a restored stone castle built in the 15th century among rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, this 15-room hotel has hosted guests like Leonardo da Vinci and poet Francesco Redi. Our guess is that they were in it for the scenic views. And with an outdoor infinity pool overlooking the countryside, gorgeous gardens with front-row seats to the hills, and rooms (some with balconies) that look out onto the courtyard and green landscape, there are plenty of spots to take in the scenery. Better still? The setting only looks more idyllic after a few glasses of vino. Conveniently, the property still produces wine on site (guests can tour the working wine cellar and taste-test the vinos).
This restored 14th-century castle, which was originally created as a fortress by the Bevilacqua family, is designed to impress visitors before they even arrive at the main entrance. Guests enter through a long drive that’s flanked with pine trees, and pass through an enclosed passageway first. Once on the grounds, this romantic vibe only continues. Outside, manicured lawns surround the castle, and a vine-encased gazebo adds to the property’s elegance. Inside, the reception area is outfitted with a beautiful glass chandelier and heavy tasseled curtains; the hallway is dressed in old mahogany furniture, large oil paintings, and a gargantuan Chinese vase; and the elevator is regal with marble siding and a gold-framed mirror. There’s also an on-site rustic wine cellar with tastings. Even the rooms are styled with antique furniture and museum-worthy artwork (though amenities are modern). And just in case you’re looking for a change of scenery during your stay (you won’t), Vicenza and Verona are an easy drive away.
Before this 74-room property was making honeymooners’ dreams come true, it was an 11th-century monastery, and later a castle and residence for a noble family. And while isolated it may be (it’s the centerpiece of the surrounding vineyards and lush Tuscan countryside), there are still plenty of activities to keep guests occupied, including a full-service spa that offers facials, massages, and body treatments; two outdoor pools; a large fitness center; and a gourmet restaurant owned by Gordon Ramsay.
Vacationers looking for a retreat with preserved medieval character should book it to this 13th-century castle, located on a hill just outside Perugia. The façade has been maintained, as have the interior details, including wooden staircases, bits of ceiling frescoes, and more. Spend some time inside the castle walls — the spectacular bar with stained glass windows, on-site restaurant serving local fare, and steam room and sauna should keep you happy. But make sure to get outside, too. There’s an outdoor pool with views of the Umbrian countryside, well-maintained gardens for strolling, and an accessible rooftop with 360-degree views of the bucolic landscape.
Formerly a farmers village that was born around the medieval Banfi Castle, Castello Banfi – Il Borgo has been restored and transformed into a luxury resort. It’s home to high-quality red wines (vineyards surround the area and vinos like Brunello and other Super Tuscans are produced here). The hotel also offers free wines in the guest rooms and tastings in the wine shop. But you don’t have to be a wine enthusiast to enjoy your stay. Visitors also come for the chic pool with a view of the vineyards, two restaurants, glass museum, and charming ambiance (picture stone and brick pathways, cyprus trees, terra-cotta flower pots, ivy crawling over stone walls, and a charming rose garden).
Nestled in the pastoral Umbrian countryside, this 23-room hotel takes up shelter in a 14th-century stone manor. The olive trees, orchards, gardens, lake, and spa and sauna on the grounds surely make for a tranquil getaway, but those looking for something a little more action-packed won’t have to look too far. The property also offers tennis, bocce, mountain biking, horseback riding, and an outdoor freeform pool with views of the verdant Umbrian valley.
It’s not hard to see why Castello di Petroia lures couples looking for a romantic, removed getaway. Set on a lush 800-acre estate, the hilltop castle dates back to the 11th century. And while it was first restored in the 1980s, it still manages to hold onto much of its medieval charm (each of the 13 rooms have historic touches, including stone arches, wood beams, and frescoed ceilings). Only adding to the serene vibe are footpaths, olive groves, and a seasonal outdoor pool.
Now, watch our video on stunning European castles you can actually spend the night in.