Giant amphorae filled with multi-colored flowers greeted me upon entering the lobby of Hotel Cala Del Porto located amidst picturesque pine forests leading down to the Tyrrhenian Sea in the Maremma region of southern Tuscany.
All around is an eclectic combination of rustic and modern furnishings – terracotta floors, silver painted rough-edged walls, gleaming chrome bannister rails, ceramic standing pots and vibrant colored sofas and armchairs.
Beyond the unobtrusive reception desk through floor-to-ceiling windows is a terrific view down to the Punta Ala marina, packed tight with yachts, and the archipelago of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled, with Montecristo and Cerboli islands in the distance. As I find out to my delight later that first evening, they all contribute to the creation of a superb backdrop for dinner on the terrace of the Belvedere restaurant – complete with a gorgeous sunset.
A member of Relais & Chateau, the art deco Hotel Cala Del Porto – one of nine luxury properties in the Baglioni Collection in England, Italy, France and Morocco – has 37 rooms. Our first-floor accommodation (Room 106) featured a private terracotta-tiled balcony bordered by red roses furnished with cane and soft-backed armchairs, with uplifting views through swaying pine trees over the lagoon-style swimming pool to the marina and the rocky islands beyond. Light and airy, the room’s interior was dominated by a gleaming white-tiled floor with green and blue floral motif and lime and gray wallpaper, with light linen curtains, soft armchairs and side-tables. Conveniently, a few steps led us to an open terrace where breakfasts, lunches and dinners are served and also to the hotel’s sizeable swimming pool.
Cala Del Porto presents the choice of two restaurants, in diverse settings yet both having fine views over the Bay of Follonica. Highlight of the Belvedere on the ground floor of the hotel is its romantic terrace facing the sea with swaying palm and pine trees whispering softly in the warm breeze. Under the guidance of executive chef, Giuseppe Angelucci, it has both a daily special and an à la carte menu. While seafood items on the former were tempting, my companion and I opted for the latter and combined the epicurean pleasures of both land and sea.
Before ordering, challenging the bartender’s skills, I requested a pre-dinner drink ‘with a difference.’ To our delight, mixologist, Leo Buono, served up a wonderful Pisco whisky sour using Peruvian spirits, served in a suitably ornate glass.
As one might expect, the menu is heavily Mediterranean-influenced, with fresh seafood aplenty. Our pasta dish came al dente with a generous mix of clams, tender and served in their shells. A main of lamb steak was prepared to perfection, tender and pink, enriched by the earthy flavors of artichoke and radish and drizzled with red wine sauce. Chocolate mouleaux can be a tricky dessert to get right – baked a few seconds too long and it can merge crusty with a less than liquid center – but in our case the timing of the pastry chef was spot-on.
La Spiaggia restaurant located beside the hotel’s nearby private beach offers lunches and dinners, with both indoor and outdoor seating options. Here again cocktails were impressive, with mixologist Davide from Pescara serving us two of his own concoctions – ‘Shanty,’ named in honor of his girlfriend, consisting of gin, lime juice, ginger effusion and grapefruit liquor; and ‘Panarea,’ named after his former girlfriend, Panerosa, which contained a mix of lime juice, melon liquor, green apple liquor, curaçao and vodka. We wondered what he might come up with if he ever decides to get married.
The menu here is varied, ranging from ravioli with local pecorino cheese and potato dumplings to crispy fried fish, steamed mussels and clams, with desserts such as white chocolate cake and yoghurt ice-cream.
Beside La Spiaggia, in the same building, is the hotel’s La Vela Beach Club, which features a 130 square meter wellness area with solarium, Turkish bath, massage treatment rooms and an outdoor fitness center, with personal trainer and physiotherapist, Enrico Pasquini, at hand to offer his expertise.
Activities in and around Hotel Cala Del Porto are bountiful, both on land and sea, including tennis, horse riding, sailing, wakeboarding and water-skiing. For golf aficionados, the hotel has preferred green fee rates at the local par 72, Punta Ala International Club, a mere five minutes drive away. The hotel can also arrange boat excursions to the Formiche, Giglio, Giannutri and Elba islands, with scuba diving opportunities. As Tuscany is well known for its thermal baths dating back to the ancient Etruscans, staff at the Cala del Porto also organize trips to several, including Calidario, Sasseta, Il Tombola and Saturnia. For wine and food lovers, a visit to the Rocca di Frassinello Le Mortelle or Petra vineyards or a tour of the cheese factory ‘Tanda,’ powered by geothermal energy, may be just the ticket. Children are well catered for at the hotel with a special ‘Kids Club’ at La Vela Beach Club and another in the heart of the nearby pine forest park.
Hugging the Tyrrhenian coast and inland hills, the Maremma region is historically and archeologically interesting. Short, easy drives bring one to places such as Casteiglione della Pescaia with its ancient Aragon castle; the hill-top Massa Marittima with its 13th century Palazzo Pretorio and its Fonte dell’ Abbondanza granting insights into Medieval life; as well as Roselle with its late-Roman baths, amphitheater and Etruscan walls.
Hotel Cala Del Porto epitomizes a quiet, elegant coastal retreat off the main Tuscany tourist trail – so quiet the magic of fireflies fills the evening sky outside – yet within easy reach of regional attractions and enough culinary choice to satisfy most palates.