The beauty of the Italian peninsula, so rich with emotion and unparalleled charm, is, inevitably, an invitation to a prompt return. After visiting its main cities: Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples or Venice, travelers are eager to discover lesser-known routes, which are equally as interesting and full of precious cultural treasures.
Umbria and its capital, Perugia, are unique destinations. This small region in Central Italy is just about an hour from Rome’s International Airport. Known as il cuor verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy), it is dotted with scenic hills, mountains, valleys and plains.
Mount Petriolo, near Perugia, has no more than one hundred residents. It rests on a small hill in the idyllic Nestor Valley, where you can find one of the last remaining Farnetto oak forests left in Europe. This peaceful enclave is home to Borgo Dei Conti Resort, a residential complex spread over 20 acres of mature forests and olive groves. The palace and the surrounding parkland belonged to the famous 19th century artist, Lemmo Rossi Scotti, Count of Montepetriolo.
Borgo Dei Conti Resort.
The meticulous restoration of the palace, before it was transformed into a luxury hotel, embraced a commitment to maintain the original architecture and establish a dialogue between old and new, where Internet and cable television coexist, in perfect harmony, with the charm of old fireplaces and magnificent frescoed ceilings. This is evident in the fusion of tradition and modernity that extends to the eight luxurious apartments that make up the resort.
The majestic hall lends itself to the pleasures of cuddling with a good book; the interior courtyards well deserve a visit, and a stroll through the elegant gardens at dusk is an unforgettable pastime.
The restaurant, located in what was originally the ballroom, can accommodate up to 200 guests in an elegant and refined atmosphere where to enjoy the best Italian and international cuisine. Next to the dining hall there is a bar, an exclusive cigar lounge and a tavern offering local wines.
Also at hand, a fitness room, wellness area with saunas, steam room and whirlpool; tennis court, soccer field, volleyball and basketball courts, swimming pool and bicycles for excursions. The resort also offers horseback riding and guided tours, and there is a golf course nearby.
The location is ideal for the exploration of this charming part of Italy. In Perugia and Chiusi, guests can visit important Etruscan relics, and not too far, spiritual destinations like Assisi, Gubbio and Cascia, wait to be discovered.
If you are passionate about the Renaissance, you’ll be glad to know Umbria is the birthplace of Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci (Il Perugino), a much admired artist who anticipated the ideals of the High Renaissance. At age 26, Pope Sixtus IV commissioned him, alongside Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, to paint a number of frescoes at the Sistine Chapel.
PERUGINO. Adoration of the Magi.
Perugino’s route, as I see it, should begin in the town where he was born in 1448, Città Della Pieve, where you will find the fresco Adoration of the Magi, a masterpiece of great beauty that shows, in the background, the fields surrounding the city.
The local road veers through rolling hills and green valleys to take us to Scarzuola, a small town of medieval streets, fountains, palaces and temples. Once there, don’t miss one of the narrowest and most romantic streets in Italy, which, according to its name, Vicolo Bacciadonna, “is as wide as woman’s kiss”.
The same road leads to Paciano and Panicale, two towns included in “i borghi più bello d’Italia” (list of the most beautiful cities in Italy), an illustrious club that honors municipalities for the care placed on their heritage and the quality of life. In the village of Panicale, Perugino’s painting of Saint Sebastian, based on the Roman saint’s martyrdom, is well guarded inside the church.
When lunchtime approaches, head to Trattoria Lillo Tatini, located in an old palace at the entrance of the historical center, and enjoy great food and good wines in a casual environment. Dare to try their excellent fresh pasta flavored with black truffles, delicately prepared by the proprietors.
The journey through Perugino’s creative trail ends in Fontignano, where, after completing his Virgin and Child in the Church of the Annunciation, the artist succumbed to the plague that ravaged the region. He was hastily buried in a common grave, but his remains were later exhumed to give him a proper burial.
Umbria, an enchanted destination, almost mystical; a place where art merges with a splendid nature to offer travelers the peace and tranquility we all long for.