My friend Mario is doing an Italian wine & truffle tasting in New York later this month, and I use it as an opportunity to tell you more about the magical place that he owns and runs in Umbria. We spent a week there with friends and children in April 2008. Everyone had a great time.
The estate of Todi Castle was bought by Mario’s parents in the 1970’s, and consists of an incredible medieval castle sitting on top of a hill, plus huge expands of land with stone houses scattered around. Over the years, they have beautifully restaured the castle and turned the stone houses into very welcoming guest places, each with a private swimming pool. The castle can accommodate up to 12 people (Goldie Hawn was once a guest) and each house comfortably fits between 6 and 10 people. The seemingly endless land on the property has everything you would find in a fairy tale: Bambi (I cried the first time I saw them!!!), ducks, horses, olive trees, grapevines, forest etc..It’s wonderful to use Todi Castle as a base to lazily visit the region. Umbria is the (not so) new Tuscany of Italy ie. for the true connaisseur of all Italian fine things.
BozAround tips: Fly into Perugia , otherwise it’s a 1h30 pleasant drive from Rome. It’s nice to add a few nights in Rome to your trip, either at Hotel Locarno or at a self-catering apartment. Definitely rent a car with GPS because it’s a lot of tiny roads in the Umbrian countryside and it gets confusing, but it’s part of the charm to get lost. There’s a choice of 4 houses to rent at Todi Estate (we stayed at Campo Rinaldo) and they’re all equally pleasant and well-appointed. I favored a stay in one of the stone houses over the castle simply because they’re more (young) child-friendly. The castle rooms have a very historic feel obviously but are a bit too precious with young children. With any older child (say 8+) or for a family reunion, they’d be great. There’s even a dungeon room in the castle with spectacular views. Ask Mario to book you an evening at home with his private chef. We had our best three-course meal then, and such a (not so expensive) luxurious experience. And treat yourself and the family to a half-day of spa pampering at Acquaghiaccia. Among the must-visit towns: Perugia, Orvieto, Assisi, Todi. Best time of the year? I want to say spring because it’s so green and hilly and lovely, but any time really slows down there.