One of the most enjoyable ways to soak up Italy’s culture is to stay in its historic castle-hotels. Set in vast expanses of gardens, olive groves and vineyards, these storied properties are hundreds of years old, and instantly take you back to a time of louche elegance and refined hedonism. Here, we’ve brought together the best Italian castles you can actually book, including former royal residences, medieval hamlets transformed into luxury resorts, and country retreats surrounded by renowned vineyards.
Open your windows onto one of the world’s finest wine-producing valleys at the Castello di Velona, a thermal resort in the Val d’Orcia, home to the prestigious Brunello di Montalcino varieties. Two types of accommodation are available in a restored 11th-century castle in Tuscany: Monumental Rooms, rendered in traditional Tuscan castle-style; and the contemporary Unesco View Rooms. Natural thermal water runs from the taps and the sunset can be enjoyed from private terraces. Take away a bottle or two of the hotel’s own wine, considered one of the best in the area.
Italian royalty once holidayed at this Renaissance castle in Guarene, just an hour from Turin. Built by amateur architect Carlo Giacinto Roero in the 18th century, its entrance hall and 15 bedrooms are a historical attraction in their own right, featuring a display of traditional womens’ attire from the 17th and 18th centuries. Guest rooms and suites are just as grand, and look out over the Unesco-protected landscapes of the Langhe, the gardens or the Alps.
The 13th-century Relais Castello Bevilacqua is one of the most storied castles in this list: originally a defensive fortress, it underwent significant restorations in the 16th and 18th centuries, served as a German command post during World War II and afterwards as a Salesian college. Restored by the Cerato family in the early 1990s, it now offers opulent period accommodations, hanging gardens and a restaurant specialising in Venetian cuisine.
The task of reimagining this medieval hamlet was entrusted to legendary Neopolitan designer Federico Forquet in the 1960s. Located an hour’s drive south of Siena, it’s surrounded by the award-winning vineyards of the Mariana family (producers of the Banfi brand), which you can explore on guided horseback tours. Sample the celebrated final product during tasting sessions in the historic cellars, or paired with Tuscan cuisine at on-site restaurant La Sala dei Grappoli. You’ll also have access to an 18-hole golf course.
Situated in the Umbrian countryside, 3km (1.8 miles) outside Perugia, the Castello di Monterone dates at least from the 11th century. There are 18 rooms in which minimalist decor highlights the property’s medieval charm, with beds and furniture handmade by specialist wood and iron artisans. For an immersive experience, book the Camera del Drago, a room with an original tile portraying a dragon. Overlooking the castle’s 13th-century well, it’s said to be the resident ghost’s favourite spot.
Built over 900 years ago by the Republic of Siena, the Castello di Vicarello is set in 100 acres (40ha) of olive groves, farmland and vineyards. Each room has a unique feature, from panoramic views in the Suite Torre to a hot tub fashioned out of a huge wine barrel in the Spa Suite. Breakfast shows off ingredients from the estate’s gardens, bees and hens, while candlelit dinners are served on a terrace overlooking Tuscany’s Maremma countryside.
Accommodations at Castello di Spaltenna are in rooms and suites in the castle itself, two private villas, and the self-catering Spa apartments, located a five-minute walk away in the walled medieval village of Vertine. All feature classic touches such as handmade Tuscan furniture, wrought iron or four-poster beds and richly embroidered fabrics. Explore the vineyards and medieval villages of the Chianti region. Dine at Il Pievano, the Michelin-starred in-house restaurant where over 500 varieties of wine are available.
Situated in the heart of the Chianti region, this 9th-century castle was originally owned by the Machiavelli family. Tours of the property are followed by tastings, allowing you to sample Bibbione’s olive oil and Merlot and Sangiovese wines. Accommodation is provided by self-catered one- or two-bedroom apartments, some featuring antique fireplaces, or the Il Poggio villa, which sleeps up to twelve and has its own garden and pool. All guests have access to an infinity pool with Chianti views.
Sicily’s Castello San Marco was built at the end of the 17th century for the Prince of Palagonia, and amazingly survived the earthquake of 1693, the biggest in recorded Italian history. It’s situated practically on the slopes of Mount Etna. The building houses rooms and suites that could sleep a pampered prince, set in fragrant gardens of lemon, orange and olive trees. On-site amenities include a pool, an illuminated tennis court and a Sicilian restaurant.
This beautiful four-towered castle in Tuscany is just a 15-minute drive from Siena and an hour from Florence. The place has been carefully restored to keep intact the beautiful brickwork, the high ceilings and terracotta flooring. There’s a welcoming, intimate atmosphere, and the staff are very helpful booking tours or day trips around the area. Make sure you book a table at the nearby farmhouse restaurant owned by the same family.
You’ll feel like Venetian aristocracy when you arrive at this castle hotel in Venice by boat via the Grand Canal entrance. It was built during the 15th century as a nobleman’s house, during Venice’s wealthy empire era. Wander up the grandiose marble staircase into your magnificently furnished period suite. Art lovers will delight in discovering hidden masterpieces, and food lovers will be charmed by the restaurant, which serves up Venetian cuisine at its most refined.
In the northern region of the Südtirol, there’s a distinct culture that’s kind of a mix between Italian and Austro-Hungarian. This castle is a Tyrolese dream nestled in a pristine landscape. You’ll have views of the jagged peaks of the Dolomites and the little towns below. The hills around the castle are covered with vineyards, and the owners produce their own wine here, so be sure to pay the wine bunker a visit.
Ione Wang contributed additional reporting to this article.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.