Picturesque and serene is what springs to mind as you approach the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa. Situated off the beaten track and nestled into the hillside amongst an expansive two-mile estate, the hotel is about an hour’s drive from the bustling cities of Pisa and Florence and two hours from Cinque Terre, sitting high between Apuan and Appenine Mountains of the Serchio Valley.
Serchio Valley is exactly what you would picture Tuscany to feel like. From the surrounding local wineries and medieval towns, including the picturesque Barga, (more on that in a moment) to the genuine Italian mentality and authentic restaurants, each reflecting the true essence of Italy.
We flew British Airways into Florence via London City and then took the train to Pisa as we wanted to take in some of its famous sites before we reached the remote location of our hotel.
Gone was the city hustle and bustle of London life which we wanted to escape after a busy Summer, instead we had nothing but peace and quiet and the freshest air around us to help slow down our brain and catch up on some of life’s simple pleasures such as reading. We knew Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, had sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside and a vast outdoor pool that overlooked the valley and as our primary purpose was to chill for a few days we needed as little distraction as possible to put us in a relaxed mood and that’s why the remote location appealed.
The hotel was a dream, we had a spacious room with a fabulous double bed each that was super comfy. We also had a balcony that overlooked the pool and became our go to place in the morning, praying for sunshine (it was October after all) catching up on reading and making plans for the day ahead.
On our second day we decided to hike out to Barga, we’d spoken to our helpful concierge the evening before and had made loose plans to explore (weather dependent). The hike to Barga was further than expected, tiny bit hilly and we got a little lost a few times but it was worth it – Barga was the cutest, very Italian, with lovely, friendly people. We walked along it’s cobbly streets, took in some of the sites including the Cathedral and then settled in a cute deli/bar da Aristo which was run by a local character (and his family we think), who we were sure was famous for something at one point. The place was beyond charming and we would say it’s an absolute must for anyone planning a visit to Tuscany. The cured meat platter and alcohol (we had prosecco and aperol spritz) were delicious and cheap. The entertainment came from our bearded host, an older man who looked a bit like Santa Clause. He loved the attention and we loved him. After whiling away a few hours in this rustic local favourite, we made our way back to the hotel. One of us hiking back and the other getting a taxi.
Arriving back at our hotel, we decided to take advantage of the indoor pool and spa facilities to help our achy legs before dinner in the restaurant downstairs. Dinner was divine, we’d been told by friends that Tuscan beef was a must so ordered a T bone to share. Wonderfully cooked and with a side of roasties and tiramisu for dessert, washed down with local wines and prosecco – was just what we needed to energise again after our hike and relaxing swim.
We don’t know what it is about holidays but after dinner we were ready to retire to bed so checked in with our concierge on his thoughts on weather for the following day, he predicted sunshine and we knew we would spend the day by the pool and not leave the hotel. And, that’s exactly what we did, we spent our penultimate day soaking up the sun by the pool reading and drinking champagne, prosecco and snacking. Our hotel had booked us in for a wine tasting before dinner so we did that and met a lovely group of people from the States who we ended up continuing our evening with.
Sadly, all good things come to an end and so we had booked a spa treatment for our last day to try and prolong that relaxing feeling. We booked the spa’s signature Volcanic Face & Body Treatment; a complete face and body treatment that has been designed to create a unique sensory experience with the use of diorite, a volcanic rock. The combination of a scrub, massage and being cocooned in a wrap was heavenly, absolute bliss – it was another level relaxation that we didn’t know we were capable of and the perfect way to end our trip.
We’d achieved our goal of a relaxing so much we are now we are planning our return… We hope you’ll have us back!