Rachael Ray’s Italian Wedding Hideaway in Tuscany (Free Italy Travel Advice)

This article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of Dream of Italy:

“A cozy, peaceful place, the castle has beautiful 360-degree views. From every location you look out over cultivated, manicured land, dotted with grapevines. Each morning, hundreds of darting, soaring swallows sing arias. The air smells sweet and rich. Everything you see, taste and feel seems more intense here.”

This is how food maven Rachael Ray, Food Network star and author of nearly a dozen cookbooks, describes the location of her September 2005 wedding to lawyer John Cusimano. Fortunately, this magical place is something we can all experience, as it is the exquisite 12th century Castello di Velona, a 22-room luxury hotel in Montalcino.

In addition to sweeping views of the Val D’Orcia, Velona offers a fireplace in every room, a gourmet restaurant and a heated outdoor swimming pool. Guests can walk from the castle to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo to hear monks sing Gregorian chants. As Ray herself would say, “How awesome is that?” Rates start at €273 per night for a double with breakfast. For more information, call (39) 0577 800101 or visit — Kathy McCabe