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Tuscan Tranquility

A weekend at Relais La Corte Dei Papi

Picture yourself under the Tuscan sun, sipping Negronis by a fabulous pool, next to original 18th-century buildings, amidst exuberant gardens. A short walk away is your fabulous spa suite, with its own sauna and jacuzzi. Total bliss, total privacy. You can relax entirely in the privacy of your room. A stay at Relais La Corte Dei Papi near the Etruscan town of Cortona, in Tuscany, offers its guests exactly that, a luxurious haven for physical and mental wellness.

Located amidst Surrounded by expansive woodland, on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, this hotel embodies the epitome of an Italian country house. In fact, “La Corte” refers to the courtyard formation of the property. Its ancient buildings maintain an aura of reassuring solidity that makes guests feel safe immediately upon arrival. The large main house forms the central hub, with a reception room, kitchen, dining areas, bars, and a splendid Renaissance events room that looks as if one had stepped into the dance room of a palace. The classically furnished interior blends period pieces with the ultra-modern, providing luxury and comfort in equal measure.

Aerial view of Relais La Corte Dei Papi, in which one can appreciate the expanse of the property, comprising several buildings and large gardens.

A family-run business, the Papi family has looked after it generation after generation. It was the vision of David Papi and his mother Gabriella, which saw it transformed into a luxury and exclusive villa, with independent cottages, and 16 rooms and suites, including a Deluxe Spa Suite equipped with a Turkish bath featuring four multi-sensory showers with aromatherapy, chromotherapy, and music therapy. All of them are unique in design and decoration.

The rooms at Relais La Corte Dei Papi are lavishly decorated in 18th-century style, the time the original villa dates from.

Wellness and luxury are at the heart of what David Papi – the current custodian of the family estate – wants, and something the hotel certainly delivers. Everywhere at Relais La Corte Dei Papi is an escape from the stress and pace of modern living, even the food, which is lovingly prepared by Head Chef Giuseppe Masciopinto, assisted by Sous Chef Paulo. Not only is Giuseppe a passionate chef but he has also worked in many Michelin-starred kitchens in Italy and abroad. That breadth of experience shows in the creativity and quality of his dishes, prepared only with the freshest, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients.

While I was there, I learned that David and Giuseppe met when they were very young, working at the same restaurant, and they became good friends. Eighteen years ago, they reunited, and David persuaded Giuseppe to take the reins of the kitchen at his hotel.

Head Chef Giuseppe Masciopinto and his team produce Michelin-star quality dishes with seasonal and local produce.

I found the quality of all the food I had at Relais La Corte Dei Papi extraordinary. From the eggs at breakfast to my succulent Tomahawk steak at dinner, everything was astounding. The cellar matches the level of the cuisine. With around 700 labels of the best Italian wines, you’ll be spoiled for choice. If like me, you have a soft spot for Tuscan reds, here you’ll find all the stars of the region: Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Masseto, Solaia, and Tignanello, to mention but a few. 

Depending on the season and the weather, guests can dine in what used to be the cellar of the old residence, or in the restaurant adjacent to the pool, which in summer and by candlelight, oozes romanticism.

In the warmer months, the Lounge Bar opens its doors to the pool, inviting guests to enjoy the serenity of the gardens and breathtaking sunsets while sipping a delicious cocktail.

The baroque origins of the villa are vividly reflected in the lavish decoration throughout.

The location of Relais La Corte Dei Papi is ideal for exploring the region. Just down the road is the Etruscan town of Cortona, with its ancient walls still standing, overlooking the Chiana Valley. One hour in the car will take you to the historic cities of Siena, and San Gimignano (my favourite village in Tuscany) and if you head south, you’ll find Perugia, Assisi, Spello, Gubbio, Spoleto, and Todi, all at around 50km and definitely worth a visit.

The hotel organises guided tours to many of these enchanting places as well as activities such as truffle hunting and cooking lessons.

A UNESCO heritage site, the medieval town of San Gimignano is unique for its architecture, especially its numerous towers, which were born out of the rivalry between its two wealthiest families, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines.

What I probably enjoyed the most was the intimacy between staff and guests. I am not surprised that many of them come year after year and become true friends of the family. The Papi hospitality is second to none. I felt truly welcome, treated like royalty, and at the same time, left to my own devices so I could relax and enjoy the tranquillity of this piece of Tuscan heaven.

The closest airports to Relais La Corte Dei Papi are Perugia and Florence, but it is also accessible from Rome and Bologna. For more information and bookings, visit: www.lacortedeipapi.com

Words: Jeremy Webb

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