A stay at Il Borgo would not be complete without dinner at its sister property – Castello di Santa Maria Novella. This 11th century structure, which was destroyed and rebuilt in 1313, has strategic importance to the area between Florence and Siena. Sitting atop one of the highest points, the castle boasts spectacular views. Upon arrival, we received a warm welcome and a grand tour from Fernando, the director of the estate, who eloquently gave us the condensed history of this stately property and graciously paused often to allow for ample photo opportunities. The castle has been meticulously restored to its original splendor, including a grand courtyard where the local residents would gather. On this particular evening, it is where we enjoyed a nice aperitif – a carafe of white wine with a sprig of rosemary, giving it a wonderful earthy aroma and flavor. Delicious appetizers accompanied the wine: lightly fried zucchini flowers and sage leaves and Tuscan pecorino cheese served with fig marmalade.

Afterwards, our group of fourteen went into one of the many private dining rooms to enjoy a feast fit for noble Italian families. The table was beautifully decorated with candles and fresh flowers. We started with the house wine (Chianti, of course) and then enjoyed antipasti of perfectly ripe cantaloupe and local prosciutto, followed by handmade ravioli stuffed with spinach and fresh ricotta cheese. Il secondo (the meat course) was mildly seasoned, thinly sliced beef served on a bed of arugula with a delicious cherry tomato salad. Our servers were attentive and charming, offering seconds of every dish. We topped off the meal with a light white cake layered with a delicate custard served with frutti di bosco (the fruit of the forest ) – flavorful, tart, and juicy berries handpicked from around the property. We all gave a well-deserved round of applause to Chef Claudio, who gratefully accepted and was clearly pleased to see how much we all enjoyed his creations. Dinner at the Castle is always one of the highlights of a stay at Il Borgo.