In a recent trip to Italy, I had the opportunity to stay at a Relais and Chateaux hotel many of my clients have been raving about over the last few years. I hopped on a train from the busy (and beautiful) metropolis of Florence and headed to the serene countryside of Cortona Italy.  Relais Il Falconiere & Spa is set amidst gorgeous gardens, vineyards and olive groves just outside the town of Cortona in the heart of Tuscany. It’s conveniently located about an hour and a half south of Florence and two and a half hours north of Rome (by car).

Under the Tuscan Sun

Il Falconiere overlooking the historic town of Cortona

This family-run villa (since 1860) overlooks the stunning hillsides of Cortona where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed in 2003. The film made the town world famous and inspired the name of the Tuscan Sun Festival, which is held in Cortona every year and features classical music, art exhibits, and other cultural events.

The moment I drove onto the long driveway leading to Il Falconiere, I was transported into the charming world of the owners, Ricardo and Silvia Baracchi. Ricardo, Silvia, and their wonderful staff greeted me with hugs and kisses as if they have known me a lifetime. After a quick introduction to everyone, I was guided down a gravel road through the vineyard and olive grove to a section that used to be a farmhouse but is now converted into a beautiful villa where the cooking school is located. This was also the area where my Junior Suite was located.

Traditional Tuscan Style Villa

Luxury Junior SuiteThe suite was large with a cozy feel, and just recently renovated. The décor reflected the elegance of traditional Tuscan style with unique pieces from local artisans throughout the villa, with the personal touches you would expect to find when visiting someone who takes a lot of pride in where they live. Although there were the modern amenities of a five-star resort, I still felt like I was being pampered by old friends at their lovely villa instead of a hotel.

Cooking classes by a Michelin star Chef

Chef Silvia giving a cooking classSilvia is a Michelin star chef whose passions run deep as she oversees the cooking and the 23-room chateau. Ricardo spends most of his time expertly taking care of the winery. Soon after my check-in, I joined a cooking class with four other guests where we learned how to make “Cantucci” (almond cookies), Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Pici pasta with cherry tomatoes and beef with green tomatoes and black olives. I’m not much of a cook at home, but I must confess I really enjoyed being in the kitchen with Silvia and participating in the class. I could hardly wait to get to the best part – sampling the results at the end!

Full-Service Spa

Full service Spa at Il FalconiereIl Falconiere also features a fabulous free full-service spa that includes use of the “Wet Area”, which includes a steam room, sauna, chromotherapy shower, and hydromassage pool with chromotherapy and relaxation area to relax in. I was told that they feature a unique “chocolate massage”. I’d say it is worth a try at least once!

In the evening, I was invited to have dinner at their elegant but relaxed Michelin star restaurant set in a 17th century building out on the terrace as the Tuscan sun was setting. The restaurant’s ambiance is romantic and breathtaking. Silvia prepared some delicious dishes for me, including those that we got to prepare during the cooking class, paired with wines which are also those produced by the same winery of the Baracchi family.

Michelin Star Restaurant

Michelin Star RestaurantIn the evening, I was invited to have dinner at their elegant but relaxed Michelin star restaurant set in a 17th century building out on the terrace as the Tuscan sun was setting. The restaurant’s ambiance is romantic and breathtaking. Silvia prepared some delicious dishes for me, including those that we got to prepare during the cooking class, paired with wines which are also those produced by the same winery of the Baracchi family.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the delicious meals and fabulous service at Il Falconiere. It was indeed sad to think that I had to leave the next morning.  I could have easily stayed here another four to five days.  The region has so much to offer and Il Falconiere is a great spot to set out from each day.  Coming back might just be the best part knowing you will be received like a member of the family.

The best part of my job (and a large part of my client consultations) is discussing our love for extraordinary travel experiences with some of the best food and wine the world has to offer and helping them discover their next vacation of a lifetime.

If Il Falconaire sounds like an experience you’d love to have, I’d love to help you plan your next incredible vacation.

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