A 12th-century castle with epic views over the valley which has one of the most beautiful, though remote, settings in Tuscany. It comes with the atmosphere of a true refuge. The rooms are vast spaces of tranquillity and light, filled with the scent of flowers outside. A labour of love, Neri admits it is a constant tug of war with Aurora his mother (a fashion designer by trade) when it comes to how to furnish each Suite. He looks for a second too long at a mirror on the wall, it is unclear whether that is a battle he once won or lost.
Later, we are seated at a long banquet table in front of a roaring fire and introduced to a chef who looks so excited to feed us I would question his sobriety. The next five courses he produces are so plate lickingly good I forgive him for any substance abuse. Fresh pasta in fresh pesto from the garden, homemade tiramisu, pigeon from the valley and deer tartare which transpires the youngest son shot in their estate forty minutes towards the coast from here.
A couple of glasses of their own award winning organic wine it begins to feel like home. So ensues an Italian hand gesture lesson led by Neri. Determined to learn rude ones we whizz through the basics – ‘what do you mean’ (a finger purse) and ‘I beg you’ (prayer clasp to the chest). In the midst of practising a chin flick motion Carlos father enters. He sees what we are up to and not before flashing a wink to the class he erupts into an Italian tantrum, full of advanced gestures far outside our level of expertise. It transpires we have been learning ‘go f*** yourself’. There is no question that this is the very authentic dolce vita.