Describing itself as a wine hotel, Retici Balzi is located among the wine terraces in the heart of Valtellina in northern Italy, perhaps one of the most densely cultivated areas of Nebbiolo vines in the world. Run by professional sommelier and wine representative Armando Lanzetti, a passionate local with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his area’s wine and a very agreeable personality, we were made to feel instantly welcome. He spent two hours with us tasting various local wines, guiding us through the differences in taste, texture and tannins while narrating the stories of each winemaker and their unique terroir.
The hotel also has its own spa, consisting of a sauna, Jacuzzi and wellness area with panoramic views over the valley. The freshness of the mountain air in this idyllic spot may lead you to think about moving here permanently, mind.
Breakfast is an abundant showcase of the area’s finest produce. Organic honeys, artisanal jams, homemade tarts and local hams and cheeses dominate the buffet, while eggs sourced from a small local farm down the road are prepared on request. The hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant, but is surrounded by top quality dining options such as the Ristoro Castel Grumello. Embedded in the hillside, this restaurant boasts great views over the valley and fresh produce on its menu.
Regional specialty pizzocheri, a pasta made with buckwheat flour, is prepared in-house, with great care taken to ensure the freshest ingredients are offered. The starter of chanterelle mushrooms, corn salad, celery, apple and parmesan was a richly textured dish bursting with flavour, and came with an enthusiastic account of that morning’s abundant mushroom harvest. We washed down a hearty lunch with a bottle of local wine producer Luca Faccinelli’s Ortensio Lando, a Valtellina Superiore DOCG red with notes of blueberry that stood up to the richness of the dishes perfectly.
Each of the 11 rooms in the hotel is named after a different local wine. An unconventional set-up ensured we could make the most of the stunning views from our own bedroom, waking up in front of the mountains and seeing the castle from the hot tub.
A private terrace allowed us to enjoy the outdoors even more, and after a day of food, wine and time in the spa, the soft mattress and cotton sheets ensured we woke up in the morning feeling sufficiently reinvigorated.
Who Goes There?
Wine enthusiasts and golf players are the area’s main customers, for whom the surrounding region is an infinite playground. Young couples, Milanese businessmen and older groups are all also attracted to what Valtellina has to offer.
Out & About:
Gourmet travellers are spoilt for choice, as this area is rich with local producers, organic farms and local culinary specialities. This is wine region: Valtellina is made up of a chain of different terroirs, each with their own particular soil and climate.
Hiking, walking and cycling are all popular pastimes, as well as rafting in the river Adda. Restaurant Castel Grumello is a 15-minute walk away and its ruins offer a good base for admiring the view over the valley.
The Worst Thing:
The €35, 10-minute drive to dinner and back: the restaurant was just below the hotel but unfortunately there isn’t a direct path. Admittedly, the food at Ristorante Trippi was worth the cost of getting there.
The Best Thing:
The view from the hotel is pretty special: in the middle of the vineyards you’re surrounded by 360 degrees of lush greenery. To the left is a picturesque old church with clock tower; to the right the castle; and straight ahead clouds hang above snow-covered mountain tops.