A Journey through Umbria

 

 

Villa Pambufetti
Villa Pambufetti, in the center of Umbria, has an old-world appeal and a culinary pedigree to match.

 


Montefalco, one of the best-preserved medieval hill towns in Europe, is home to producers of some of Italy’s best wines and olive oils. Naturally, the town draws travelers seeking culinary adventures, as well as a glimpse of the Perugino and Gozzoli frescoes in the church of San Francesco.

 

Wine, Dine and Shop Around

The long list of wineries offering tastings of DOCG Sagrantino di Montefalco and DOC Montefalco Rosso wines made in the Montefalco area includes Pardi, across the street from Villa Pambuffetti, and the Pambuffetti cousins’ (Francesco, Amilcare and Carlo) winery, Scacciadiavoli. Others on the Sagrantino Wine Route, well-known for the quality of their wines, are Caprai, Antonelli, Tabarrini and Perticaia. Many of these wineries also produce popular white wines, mostly Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino. The Antonelli winery has a private cellar tour combined with lunch for a minimum of 10 guests (by reservation), as well as cooking classes.

Most of these wines, and local olive oils, can be purchased at various enotecas (wine shops) within the walls of the town.

Montefalco is also known for its locally produced linens, which use ancient jacquard designs and patterns. The two primary producers are Tessuto Artistico Montefalco, in a courtyard off the main piazza, and Tessitura Pardi, across the street from the Museum of San Francesco, the site of the important Gozzoli fresco cycle of the Life of St. Francis. There are at least a dozen other small linen shops along the Corso Mameli, the street leading down to the arched tower, the ancient entrance to the town.

Restaurants in Montefalco come with excellent local fare. In the main piazza, Federico II and L’Alchimista are informal and both have adjacent wine shops and wine bars, while Aurum at the Palazzo Bontadosi has both informal dining on the piazza or on its own terrace in the summer, and a more formal setting inside. Coccorone, a favorite of both locals and visitors, is on Largo Tempestivi behind the Town Hall. Several other restaurants like the tiny Olevm line the Corso Mameli.

 

 

The area is dotted with rustic places to stay, but the Villa Pambuffetti, co-owned by Alessandra Pambuffetti, is the ideal choice for those who want old-style elegance. A multi-generation family of foodies and winemakers, the Pambuffettis opened their villa as a 15-room hotel in 1992 after a half century of using it as a private home. The villa patrizia (patrician residence) is decorated with a combination of Pambuffetti family pieces and the original antiques used to furnish the great house at the turn of the 20th century, when the previous owner, Count Silenci—who at that time also owned the Hotel de Russie in Rome—used it as a “house for paying guests.”

Set within a lush park of evergreens, manicured bushes and flowers, the two-century-old brick villa is an elegant and private retreat just outside the walls of the town. Arched passageways lead into the house and the sitting room/lobby, which is centered by a huge fireplace and is the perfect spot for an aperitivo.

Some rooms overlook the calm of the garden, while others have endless views—Montefalco is known as the “balcony of Umbria,” and from here it’s possible to see across the broad valley to Assisi, Trevi and Spoleto. Guests should expect the patina of tradition here: every room is different, as it would be in a house enjoyed by family and houseguests over the years. The bathrooms are decorated with marble and handmade tiles, and late 20th-century fixtures. There are oriental rugs atop wooden and tiled floors, magnificent chairs from centuries past and an ancient statue of Francis of Assisi standing on a staircase landing.

Alessandra’s favorite room, Superior Room No. 7, belonged to her grandmother and has a spectacular view of the Umbrian countryside from its windows and balcony. For a family, this room can be connected with No. 6, a smaller Superior Room with a similar view and the only Superior Room with a bathtub.

The house is crowned with a tall square tower, which has become the Tower Room, No. 11, up a flight of stairs and walled with windows. It’s cozy and private, ideal for a honeymoon. The view is panoramic—even the bathroom is surrounded by windows—and there is the sense of perfect isolation under its beamed ceiling, far above the trees and garden with all of Umbria at your feet.

For those who prefer not to climb stairs, there are several rooms on the ground floor that overlook the garden. These can be closed off for a large group, perhaps a wedding party or family. Superior Room No. 2 is large and light, with a pair of unusual Indian colonial chairs for relaxing; take this one with rooms No. 3 and 4 to make a private apartment. This group of rooms is also very conveniently placed for those who want to use the swimming pool.

The Guest House, where the caretaker and his family lived in the old days, is across the garden and can accommodate six or eight guests in two double bedrooms, both of which have small living rooms with sleeper sofas. Both rooms are on the first floor (one flight up) and have balconies that overlook the town of Montefalco. Doors and windows have been fitted with special soundproof glass imported from Germany so that any noise from the town is muted. These rooms are colorful and fun retreats, especially for families with children.

Though Montefalco is the focal point of the Sagrantino Wine Route and full of attractive possibilities, before leaving the sheltered grounds of Villa Pambuffetti, guests interested in cooking should join Alessandra in the kitchen, where she leads one of the best interactive cooking classes in the area. Every student joins in the preparation of at least one dish, with Alessandra as mentor, moving from counter to counter to advise and assist. She speaks excellent English, having studied in the U.S. and worked in a restaurant in San Francisco. After a four-hour-long class, the students take off their aprons and move into Pambuffetti’s light-filled formal dining room to enjoy the fruits of their labor at a traditional Italian lunch. Mauro, Alessandra’s husband and a sommelier, will be ready with the perfect local wines for each course.

 

 

Mount Subasio
All Rooms at Villa Pambuffetti overlook the park and some on the top floors offer views of Mount Subasio.

 

For those who would like to have lunch or dinner without being involved in the preparation, Pambuffetti’s dining room is open for both guests and visitors. Elegant and comfortable, with tall windows and pink linen tablecloths, it’s a favorite of the locals for special events. In summer, tables are set on the shaded terrazzo. Umbrian chef Ivano Buzzarri enjoys taking local traditional ingredients and making what he calls fantasy dishes—adding something unexpected to the old family recipes. Of course, he uses Pambuffetti’s extra virgin olive oil from the family farm in nearby Bevagna.

Luxury travel advisors can contact Alessandra (info@pam buffetti.com; 011-39-0742-379-417) with special requests.