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What can I expect at an Italian Castle Hotel?

The most striking feature of the Italian castle hotels are that so many of them are run by descendants of the original noble families. No longer feudal lords but charming hosts and entrepreneurs who have transformed their holdings into special destinations, counts, marquesas, and a few princesses now welcome you through the castle gates. In some castle and palace hotels, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a museum, while at others the atmosphere is down to earth and charmingly simple.

Italian castle hotels are located in Italy’s most scenic areas, with plenty to do in the area. Select a hotel and use it as a base for a few days or week. Soaking up the atmosphere is an important part of the experience.

What do I need to know about my room?

In over-the-top opulence or country rustic style, rooms are always comfortable and stylish; often a canopied bed is the centerpiece. Bathrooms are always modernized, and showers are usually of the hand-held variety.

Rooms are often installed in outlying buildings apart from the main castle, and the individual hotel listings note this. It’s usually best to spend the extra money and stay in the main building. NOTE! If you’re traveling as a single, ask for a double room. I once stayed at a gorgeous castle hotel (no longer in business, unfortunately) in the Dolomites. My room wasn’t much bigger than my closet at home. Every time I walked to my room, I would peek into the regular rooms with envy.

The feudal lords who commissioned the building of a castle didn’t take in mind potential 21st-century guests who might have problems with stairs. If your mobility is restricted or steps are a challenge for you, always ask at the time of reservation what is involved with reaching your room.

Air conditioning? Some of the castle hotels in the mountain areas (Trentino-Alto Adige, for example) don’t have it, nor do they really need it. In Tuscany, a few hotels don’t have air conditioning, but in those cases the castle’s position on a hillside usually takes advantage of the breeze to keep things pleasant. If air conditioning is important to you, always inquire at the time of reservation.

Are hotels in Italy ridiculously expensive?

Hotel prices in Italy can be stratospheric. There are ways to have a perfectly lovely holiday at an Italian castle hotel without taking out a second mortgage. Travel off season for starters. Prices are considerably less, the crowds fewer, and the weather better. Stay in the countryside. Sometimes there are excellent hotels outside the city with a hotel shuttle that will take you either into the city or to a convenient commuter line. Parking is free too. There are a few wonderful, family-run castle hotels that are very reasonable. Check out the master castle hotel list for Italy.

Sadly, the stories you hear about the 20-euro drink and a bowl of nuts can be true. Does management set these prices with a straight face?

How about breakfast?

A continental breakfast in Italy, in my opinion, is pretty abysmal. I can’t make it on a piece of dried toast and a thimbleful of coffee. If this is important to you always ask about what is included with breakfast or la prima colazione. Many of the castle hotels have fantastic buffet breakfasts on offer. Sometimes it’s cheaper, too, to head down the street to a cafe or bar

What about service?

Usually, you’ll find hotel staff bend over backwards to help you have a wonderful vacation. In high season though, staff work long hours, and it’s hot. Life is paced differently in Italy, and that’s a great custom. Keep a sense of patience; everything always works out.

There are some members of the traveling public out there who have come to demand that service staff do not have the word “no” in their vocabulary. Spoiled and with a sense of entitlement, they feel that the louder they whine, compensation should come their way. Italians don’t care how much one rants and raves. Slow down and enjoy the sunshine.