The rocky Tuscan land: an ancient hamlet acquired by the Ferragamo family in the Florence hills is set among vineyards and olive groves
Il Borro Relais & Châteaux in Valdarno, Tuscany
The fief was settled a century after the Year One Thousand, in the rocky Tuscan land, the the “balze” or ridges, corners of earth that are the edges of bluffs, covered with woods. Il Borro means the bed of an ancient river, and the word was adopted as the surname of the family that owned the lands.
The Borro lineage ended in the late Eighteenth Century, and the estate became the property of the Grand Duchy. Marriages then took it into the hands of the Hohenlohe-Waldenburg in the Nineteenth Century, and it was then divided among the Savoy-Aosta cadet branches. World War Two left its traces.
In 1993, Ferruccio Ferragamo bought the seven hundred hectares of land in the south of Florence and brought them back to life, with vineyards and olive groves, fields, and hills. He acquired them from the dominion of the Duke of Aosta whose wife, Claudia of Orléans, still lives in the area.
The plain is broken up like a cracked slab of marble, with gorges and a sandstone bedrock, or pietraforte, on a clayey terrain that is suitable for the cultivation of Tuscan vineyards. This gives a geometric impression, with streams and canals running through the earth, joining the Arno River. Some metal fences aim at keeping the wild animals of the surrounding woods. Around the hamlet, peasants live their lives in the small towns of the Tuscan countryside.
Il Borro estate has a wide space for horses at its entrance, where Elisa looks after about forty animals that include thoroughbreds and long-haired Irish Cobs. The colts stay in the same paddock until eighteen months old, then are separated as they risk hurting each other by fighting. The draft horses are much bigger, and need a big space, which Il Borro is not lacking.
Commodities at Il Borro – Lampoon reviews
The ancient hamlet is all that remains of a castle built in the area, and the only way up is a stone bridge that winds up the slope and then joins the street leading to the peasants’ houses. In this ‘albergo diffuso’ or ‘scattered hotel’, each room has a different size, as it happens for villages’ houses. The furnishings embody the rural but cared philosophy of the location.
During the winter season, the fire is lit in the evenings, making the room dry. In cooler days, humidifiers and hot water bottles into beds might be two solutions that could be taken into consideration (the turndown service did not seem guaranteed, maybe it was only on request).
Opposite to the hamlet stands the manor house – for a single guest and off limits to visitors when occupied –, while on the left, a living area opens out for lunch. The SPA could be an option for the winter season, or just heating the outdoor infinity pool seen through the windows of the lounge and the gym.
Also old farmhouses can be rented, their restoration created zero-energy buildings that use renewable sources.
The estate is today managed by Salvatore Ferragamo, son of Ferruccio and heir to the founder of the shoe company. The complex includes a farm that since 2015 has been totally organic and eco-sustainable with its forty-five hectares of vineyards and forty of olive groves, plus forage fields and vegetable crops. Then there are bees, with thirty hives and two hundred free-range hens. The organic produce is managed by Vittoria Ferragamo, the youngest daughter, and found in a cuisine that promotes the flavors of the local soil: artichokes, salad, oil, zolfini beans, chickpeas.
The bistrot on the edge of the wood and the starred restaurant are both, however, slightly impersonal.
Borrigiano, Tuscan wine production
Production of wine in Tuscany is a subject dating back to the start of the Eighteenth Century and something Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany intended to structure. He divided the Chianti countryside into four sectors: central Chianti, Carmignano, Pomio and upper Val d’Arno. The latter is Borro, whose DOC appellation was recognized in 2011.
The wine produced at Borro is called Borrigiano, which in Italian stems from the word for gorge or crevasse. No pesticides or chemical fertilisers are used. Pruning is done during the waning moon to respect the plant’s sap. Ecosystems include insects, fungus and antagonist bacteria, with rows of vines alternating with grassy species after harvesting to enrich the humus.
The new wine cellar was built in 2000, with plans for an underground corridor that then connected it to an old medieval cellar, about two hundred meters into the cave. One wine, the Petruna, is vinified in amphorae for a year. The bottle dedicated to Alessandro dal Borro, a condottiero against the Turks in the first half of the Seventeenth Century, has a label stuck to its belly: irony in wine. This bottle of red wine is worth hundreds of euros and is made with cold-pressed Syrah grapes, fermented in French oak.
Il Borro’s art collection is displayed in rooms adjacent to the wine cellar, sorted into themes and tales edited by Martina Becattini, who also curates the Stibbert Museum in Florence. Temporary exhibitions are set up at times.
Località Borro, 1, 52024 Loro Ciuffenna AR
Il Borro, which is part of the Relais & Châteaux global fellowship, offers various types of accommodation, from typical Tuscan villas to distinctive suites located within the medieval village and the Aie del Borro.