Places to stay: Novanta90 off-grid hotel, Tuscany

Get back to nature at Novanta90, a hotel high in the Tuscan hills that opens its doors for truffle hunting, wild swimming, hiking and seriously good food for a brief spell each summer.

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Novanta90 Tuscan Hotel review

 

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I’m not sure I like the term ‘experience hotel’ – it sounds a little like the Kellerman Resort from Dirty Dancing. And it doesn’t begin to describe all the delights that a stay at Novanta offers. The hotel, the name of which means ‘Ninety’ in Italian, is open for just that – the ninety days of summer. Tucked away high in the Tuscan hills, it’s a retreat from the madding crowds that celebrates the best of la bella vita.

Guests arrive in Land Rovers, driven up an extremely windy and rocky path – it takes a while, but once you arrive at this eyrie, based in the stone buildings of the abandoned mountain village of Borgo di Gello and overlooking the valleys and far-off mountains, you simply can’t help but relax.

Daily life here is all about trying new things. Hand-carved wooden plaques outside the kitchen announce the day’s activity – on Monday you might be up early to hunt for truffles in the misty forest, on a Tuesday guests could head down to the river for a picnic and a swim in a waterfall. And once a week there’s an extremely decadent lunch at a nearby farm, where neighbour and butcher Fabrizio cures his own delicious meat. My favourite, though, was the four-hour hike to the monastery of La Verna. The trail winds up into the high hills and through a forest glade, then emerges out by this Franciscan sanctuary, the final destination for many a pilgrim.

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Novanta is definitely already a thing of beauty, but the four young Dutch founders are still restlessly keen to improve their self-made sanctuary. This summer they invited artists to stay for a week of residency, creating artworks around a theme of ‘light and dark’. Over the week I stayed there, beautiful light installations took shape in the trees. The lovely Yeliz of Yummie Life Naturals was also in residence, foraging for herbs to make homemade oils and creams that will grace Novanta’s bedrooms next summer. She showed some of us how to make a decadent body oil with ingredients from the garden.

There’s plenty of time to do very little at Novanta, too. I spent most afternoons reading in the garden, where hammocks and swings await the weary traveler. There’s nothing more peaceful than swinging under a shady tree with a book while the resident chickens (they are so friendly that they like to come up for a cuddle) nibble at the grass around your feet.

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Rooms are all different at Novanta but they all tie in to the laid-back farm feel, with earthy colours, hanging shelves made of branches and big soft beds. You can also stay in Novanta’s fun Tentsile tents, suspended in the trees, or in a charming treehouse, a brand new sky lodge or a cosy stone cottage.

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The food is just as special as the place, and usually locally sourced. Chef Jeroen magics up a wonderful array of Italian-Dutch fusion (bet you didn’t know that was a thing) and guests all eat together at the huge wooden table outside. Conversation is lit by fairy lights once the sun sets over the valley far below.

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Like many of the best things in life, Novanta is here for a good time, not a long time. Swap real life for the good life for a few days and get off-grid.

STAY THERE:
Novanta90 opens for June July and August each year – it’s also possible to stay in spring and autumn (a lovely time to go walking and truffle hunting). A week staying in the Tentsile tents costs from €495 for a week, the treehouse and the studio bedrooms from €795 for the week. A food package including breakfast and a four-course dinner costs €196 per person for a week.

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