A new life awaits under Tuscan sun
It's dinner time in Tuscany. A petite Italian woman is busy at work in the kitchen at Pulcinello. Across the courtyard, schiacciata con l'uva is baking in the outdoor brick oven.
This is where the past meets the present.
The restored farmhouse is understated. It's the result of a painstaking and sympathetic reconstruction.
Ruins have been transformed by architects, designers and craftsmen. Inside the stone walls, there are little pieces of heaven. It is a home.
Every time you turn a corner, to sink into a chair with a good book or slide into a deep bath upstairs, one constant remains -- the Tuscan countryside.
Its beauty is so great that sometimes -- when you momentarily forget where you are -- you are suddenly reminded. There is nothing more spectacular.
Each house at Castello di Casole is different. They are individually named and come with their own custom style, layout and colour scheme.
Enormous square footage, a glass-tile heated infinity edge pool overlooking the countryside, outdoor entertaining areas and the comforts of owning a home from home are part of the experience.
Only the very rich could contemplate buying a property at Castello di Casole. But for a portion of the multi-million euro price tag, you can become an owner at Pulcinello.
Colorado-based Timber Resorts are running the 4,200-acre Tuscan estate. And everyone who comes -- whether they buy 'fractional ownership' or purchase the property outright -- gains access to the highest level of service anywhere in the world. It's not cheap, but Timber Resorts is offering perfection.
Their vision is almost complete. A boutique hotel and spa are due to open in August 2010. There is much more to this deal than property. Tuscany has a reputation for making the world's finest wines. While owning a vineyard is only a dream for many, buying fractional ownership here brings with it access to great Tuscan wines and their makers.
Piero Incisa della Rocchetta -- whose grandfather Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta created the first super Tuscan wine, Sassicaia -- was the man tasked with seeing if the estate could produce a first-rate wine.
It is his expertise that shaped astonishing results after the first harvest. Even Piero was taken aback after he tasted the first bottle of Castello's Dodici. His practice of bio-organic farming means every year the land is improving -- and so is the wine.
There are no shortcuts and nothing is taken for granted. No chemicals are put on the land. The harvest relies on the right amount of sun, wind and rain -- and careful human intervention.
It's more about years of his family's farming experiences for Piero and less about conventional science. "Every time you go to the vineyard and harvest these grapes, you put back, you replenish the vineyard," he says.
Even the barrels that store the wine are priced at $1,200 (€850) each -- only the finest oak is selected.
The respect shown to the land in the winemaking process at Castello is reflected in everything Timbers is doing in Tuscany. A quick drive around the estate proves it. In the heart of rural Italy, the farmhouses have high-speed broadband and Sky TV -- but no cables blight the landscape. They've run them underground along the stony roads that have been left unspoiled. It pains Piero, but, he admits, an Italian developer would not have done this.
This is why he put his good name to the Castello di Casole brand -- he knew the Americans were doing something right. Owners at Castello are given six bottles of the estate's exclusive wine, Dodici, every year -- along with an unlimited supply of its sister, C Dodici. The Dodici wine itself is the favourite son -- it's not an everyday wine, but one for special occasions.
Membership to the 'Vintner's Club' at Castello di Casole costs nothing for owners. So buying property here means you can attend wine tasting events, visit high-profile wineries in the neighbouring regions, store your wine in cellars and participate in all aspects of the winemaking process -- from pruning the vines to pouring a glass.
Another perk with buying fractional ownership for Irish people in Tuscany is that it opens up the possibility of visiting other Timbers Resorts.
Privileges for owners include having access to other resorts -- by using allocated weeks in any of the group's properties in the world's most sought-after ski, golf, beach and countryside destinations.
One to watch if there's not much time to go across the Atlantic is the new private residence club, The Links Cottages at Doonbeg in County Clare. Spanning an average of almost 3,000 sq ft, each of the spacious eight cottages offer four bedrooms with simple yet elegant country-style decor.
And best of all, you can tee off on a golf course designed by two-time British Open champion Greg Norman.
Website: www.castellodicasole.com Telephone: +390 577 967511 Developers: Timbers Resorts www.timbersresorts.com