Plotting an Italian escape? We’ve got our sights set on the billowing slopes of Umbria.
Italy’s green heart is brimming with borgos just waiting to be discovered. Cast your eyes to the rolling hills of northern Umbria. Best known for undulating landscapes and hilltop villages steeped in history, this quiet corner of Italy promises a swish but wholesome Italian getaway amid nature.
Touching the border of Tuscany, but still very much a world unto itself, here ancient culinary traditions have been preserved and traditional, rustic Italian charm remains intact. Just a short drive from Perugia airport, we’ve got you covered on where to eat, stay and play in Umbria this summer.
WHAT TO PACK
Borgo Bastia Creti
Secluded amongst the rolling hills of northern Umbria, Borgo Bastia Creti is a hamlet worthy of a holiday scene from Succession. As you snake in and around the swathes of sun-ripened vineyards through Perugia, a sense of calm begins to surface from the sprawling green slopes.
Twins, Roberto Jr and Veruschka Wirth, are at the helm of this family business, and share a heartfelt desire to honour the character of the building. Much of the architecture retains its original character: instead of separate guest rooms, the hamlet is made up of five independent cottages equipped with seriously-spacious communal areas and rustic kitchens with oak-beamed ceilings.
What’s most charming is the way the region’s old-world traditions have been preserved in the choice of interiors too. Weighted blankets, antique tiles and traditional bathrooms add to the allure of a bygone era, synonymous with Italian rusticity. In the rooms, there’s no fancy lighting with multiple settings for dimming the lights, or an alarm clock that also doubles as a speaker. It’s the simple pleasures that matter most.
Outside, there’s a photogenic swimming pool that overlooks the sprawling Umbrian countryside so loved by Renaissance artists. Spanning 6.5-acres, the sun-dappled grounds are shaded by two towering trees to keep you cool in the summer months when temperatures rise into the 30s. Retreat to the patio for a quiet read, or join the array of activities available on request, from private yoga to Italian lessons or learning how to make hand-rolled ravioli from scratch.
Eat + Drink
Breakfast and dinner in the chapel
Dinner and breakfast at Borgo Bastia Creti’s centuries-old chapel is a truly memorable experience, with traditional Italian recipes prepared lovingly by the in-house chefs. At breakfast, there’s a modest selection of fresh fruit and veg, including tomato and basil bruschetta slathered with olive oil. If you’re expecting a sprawling buffet with a glitzy champagne station, look again: this is traditional Italian fare. The real kind, prepared with seasonal ingredients. As for the interiors, there’s a sense of safety and comfort among the mismatched lampshades and old-school sofas, as though visiting an Italian nonna. And it’s done in a way that is genuine and authentic, rather than a parody. The atmosphere is transformed by night for dinner, a hearty three-course menu of homemade pasta mixed with chickpeas and tomato, followed by creamy servings of freshly-made panna cotta and topped with strawberries.
Lunch At L’Antica Osteria In Montone
To sample the region’s fabulous fresh produce, reserve a lunch spot at L’Antica Osteria in Montone. This family-owned restaurant gives off a local vibe from the moment you set foot through the doorway. Families speak in melodic Italian, greeting each other by the bar before a crisp glass of prosecco. Dishes are made up of robust flavours infused with truffle, rich sauces and wild fruits. After a morning spent exploring Montone, L’Antica Osteria’s terrace, which overlooks the square, is just the spot for people watching and swigging glasses of local wine in the sun. Just ask Cameron Diaz.
Getting the gang together to make tagliatelle and ravioli from scratch is a wholesome activity. Held in the kitchen of your private apartment, these lessons are a joyful way to brush up on your pasta-making skills while mustering up fragmented Italian phrases with the jovial local chefs. Everyone gets their very own pasta-making station with all the essentials: a rolling pin, a sturdy chopping board, designer aprons from Milan – and plenty of wine. Each step is broken down, from mixing the types of flowers, a technique that’s encouraged to create a rustic flavour, to rolling the dough with a slender rolling pin (which takes some arm power). The dough needs to be rolled out to create a full moon before it’s formed into a ball and left to rest in cling film. Next comes the ricotta and spinach filling which is prepared separately, followed by the creamiest homemade tiramisu. Mixing the egg whites with two kilograms of mascarpone is as satisfying as it sounds, if not a little guilt-inducing. When in Italy.
When venturing to this neck of the woods, a pit stop in Montone is a must. Home to 1,150 residents, this charming mediaeval village is steeped in history; the fresco-clad museums and churches tell stories about great religious battles between burly soldiers. It’s a lot less touristy than other parts of Italy, which is probably why Stanley Tucci was spotted swanning around here during the town’s annual film festival. Taking place in July, the festival manages to attract a few film buffs and A-listers, but much of Montone still remains off the beaten track. The local Abbey-turned-museum has rare biblical iconography from the 1400s, depicting scenes from daily life. The local chapel is just as fascinating, revealing rare depictions unique to the village. Foodies will be in their element, with an array of local restaurants serving full-bodied local wines and high-quality cuisine unique to the region.
Save a spot on the itinerary for wine tasting at Poggio Maiolo. Family-owned since 1988, the winery was originally used as a research centre. Now they host intimate wine-tasting sessions that feel more boutique and personalised, inviting guests to discuss the wines in depth. On arrival, a charcuterie board and various kinds of cheese arrive on a platter, from melt-in-your-mouth goat’s cheese to an artisan pecorino enriched with truffle. There’s a not-too-wordy or overwhelming introduction to each wine, allowing guests to come their own conclusions about the notes and aromas. Wine styles here are bold, and less floral than salty. Take the rosé as an example, all punchy and aromatic, or the Friulano, formerly Tokai Friulano – a silky white wine that tastes like summer in a glass. The 2015 pinot noir has major main character energy, dominating most flavours (in a good way). Pair a glass with a book by the pool. Bliss.
There’s always the slight worry that a trip to the countryside could lead to intense boredom at any given moment, at least for city slickers. But here, there’s plenty to do beyond eating and sipping wine, whether you’re into cycling tours or taking long walks in nature. You could hop between vineyards and villages such as Spello, Todi and Citerna, stumble upon winding mediaeval streets, or simply hang by the pool back at Borgo Bastia Creti.
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