We spoke to Juan Miquel, General Manager at one of our most stunning hotels in Tuscany about the history of the castle that towers above the hotel, and the transformation of the estate into an acclaimed centre of hospitality.
Why build a castle here?
Castello di Poggio alle Mura was built because of its strategic position between Siena and the Tuscan seaside – the Maremma area. It served as protection for the Siena region of Southern Tuscany and attacks from the sea.
Then the ancient hamlet surrounding the castle arose in the 18th century. It served as the dwellings of farmers who toiled for the landowners. Today these homes have been re-styled into luxurious rooms and suites.
Why was this such an important location in the Middle Ages?
Because of its strategic location, just over 12 miles from, the town of Brunello, and 44 miles from Siena. In the opposite direction sits the marvelous Tuscan seaside. The castle was established for safety reasons in the Siena region. Consider that we are near the “Via Francigena” which connected France with Rome – many attacks came this way!
Are there any particularly interesting tales from the castle’s past that guests should know?
The complex as we know it today developed for the most part between the 9th and 13th centuries, but its origins are most certainly even more ancient. Certain subterranean excavations are still visible today and some stone urns and ceramic vases unearthed during the most recent restorations lead us to conclude, in fact, that there was a settlement on this spot in the era of the ancient Etruscans. The “conci” – white stones traditionally used in the construction of Roman arches – found in the main portal of the Castello seem, on the other hand, to indicate the site’s successive transformation into a Roman Villa. A long history!
How did the castle end up becoming the centre of a luxury hotel and winery?
Banfi was founded in 1978 thanks to the will of the Italian-American brothers, John and Harry Mariani. From the beginning, the goal of the two brothers was to create a state-of-the-art winery combined with the best vines for the production of premium wines.
Together with the Mariani family, Ezio Rivella, one of Italy’s foremost enologists, understood that due to the richness of the soils and the privileged microclimatic position, the property would have a great capacity for development. In those years, the brothers, John and Harry, also purchased Bruzzone, a historic winery in Piedmont. Founded in 1860 and specializing in the production of sparkling wines, today they are known as Banfi Piemonte.
Positioned at the confluence of the Orcia and Ombrone rivers, the Banfi estate extends along the southern slopes of the township of Montalcino, across 7,100 acres of land. One-third of the property is devoted to specialized vines and the balance is shared between olive groves, wheat fields, plum trees, truffle stands, forest, and scrub. Our soils are extremely rich and uniform which favor complexity in red wines.
The hotel was opened in 2007 as a result of the restoration of the Castello di Poggio alle Mura and the hamlet. Having such a spectacular setting and seeing the high demand of luxury services in the Montalcino area made it a wise decision to restore the borgo and create a food and wine destination.
It is also important to point out that we also have many visitors that come to dine at our restaurant “La Taverna”, or at our gourmet restaurant “Sala dei Grappoli”. I would suggest everyone not staying on property visit us and enjoy this wonderful food and wine destination.
I suggest that guests take one of our complimentary e-bikes and have a tour of the property. Runners can follow our paths to the Ombrone river, and in the evening enjoy a wonderful vineyard picnic in the vineyards. This is an absolute must.
What can guests expect from a stay at Banfi Il Borgo?
Our guests find what they expect from Tuscany when they visit us. With all comforts of today’s world, Castello Banfi – Il Borgo really is a home away home. Consider that when we are fully booked we only have 14 rooms which ensure tranquility and privacy. From our side it allows us to anticipate our guests’ needs and to exceed their expectations. It is basically like staying in a private home with all the services of a 5-star property.
For food lovers, our cooking classes in the farmhouse are not to be missed. They cook the whole morning with our chef and then have lunch together while he does a wine tasting of his own selected wines (depending on what they cook that day).
What are some local sights that visitors should see during their stay?
They should do basically two day trips. They should visit the villages of Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano, so they can enjoy a wonderful Val d’Orcia tour with some winery stops for wine and olive oil tastings. The second day trip we always suggest is a Siena tour and it is always a must when visiting our region.
To secure your next getaway at this wonderful hotel, book today!