A Visit from a Real-life Princess and Hotel Wine Supplier
Our Ickworth and Woolley Grange hotels were delighted to host a visit by Princess Natalia Strozzi of Tuscany this month. Along with the Medicis, the Strozzi family are one of the ancient noble families of Tuscany. They still have their beautiful estate in Cusona and make wines on four of their Tuscan estates – in Chianti, San Gimignano, Maremma and Bolgheri. Their Vernaccia vineyards in San Gimignano have been in the family for more than 1000 years and a number of these wines appear on the wine lists of some of our hotels.
Natalia’s own story is remarkable. She studied and danced with the Kirov Ballet Company in Russia from the age of 13, and time-lines show she is related to Lisa Gherardini, otherwise known as the Mona Lisa. The Strozzi Palace in Florence was the private palace of the family from when it was completed in 1538 until they gave it to the city of Florence in 1937. It is now a contemporary art gallery and museum run by the city.
Natalia had lunch at The Ickworth and stayed over at Woolley Grange. In-between, she visited Blenheim Palace, where she explored a recently discovered family link between her family and the Churchills, going back to the 18th century. (By complete coincidence, we also list Churchills Port, made by Johnny Graham of the historic port family but named after his wife Caroline, who is a Churchill).
We asked Natalia what she thought of our hotels.
LFH: Welcome, Natalia, how was lunch at The Ickworth?
PrN: Lovely! We had lunch in The Orangery, which is such a beautiful room. Suzi showed us around the whole hotel. I love the contemporary art and furniture in such a classical building, and the cellar spaces are wonderful places to discover for the children – it is almost like a series of caves with cinemas and play rooms… And the gardens and parkland – just lovely.
LFH: And what were your impressions of Woolley Grange?
PrN: We arrived in the dark so I did not see the outside, but going in, it is so cosy with all the wood panelling, open fires and comfortable furniture – surely this is someone’s home, not a hotel! My room had a sitting room and the bedroom upstairs, so it was like a little apartment. In the morning, it was misty and very atmospheric – we went to see the walled garden, which must be lovely when it is full of flowers and vegetables. I am very happy that our family’s wines appear in your hotels. The next time I come I will visit a different one.
LFH: Which was your favourite, Ickworth or Woolley?
PrN: That is an unfair question. I cannot answer!
LFH: Very diplomatic of you… Princess Natalia, many thanks for visiting.
PrN: Thank you. Next time, you must come and visit us in Cusona – perhaps in September when we go hunting for white truffles. If you find some, you can bring them back and put them on the menu.
LFH: That sounds hard to resist…
Strozzi wines available in selected Luxury Family Hotels:
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG
A delicate, lifted white – chalky, slightly austere at first, but with developing fruit in the mid palate.
A notable, classic all-Sangiovese wine, unoaked, bright, with vibrant cherry fruit, ideal with charred, bloody red meat.
Morellino di Scansano
An all-Sangiovese wine again, unoaked but displaying fuller, more earthy, rounded notes of Maremma, the southern part of Tuscany.
An all-Sangiovese, barrique aged for 12 months Super Tuscan, rich and indulged, opening out over a two-hour period.