Borgo Il Melone, Cortona, Tuscany

 

The Gardens
The Gardens (park) at Il Melone stretch out over 25 acres.



There are country houses by the dozen basking under the sun near Cortona, but our favorite is the Mancini family’s elegant Borgo Il Melone, named after the tombs of Etruscan princes discovered nearby. Carlo Vittorio Livraga Mancini Ridolfini now operates Il Melone, which has been in his family since 1800.

The Swimming Pool at Il Melone
The Swimming Pool at Il Melone offers twice-daily aerobic classes.

Borgo means “village” in Italian, and Il Melone was a bustling independent community in centuries past. Today, Borgo Il Melone spreads out across 25 acres of fields and gardens. The former olive mill, wine press and other farm buildings have been turned into eight spacious luxury apartments, and the villa has become a 12-room luxury boutique hotel, The Locanda. From the property’s manicured gardens to the beautifully restored chapel, no detail has been overlooked, with 2,500 rosebushes, 1,100 lavender bushes and enormous terra-cotta pots filled with geraniums scenting the air.

For travelers (especially families) who want to spend a week touring this evocative area near the Tuscany-Umbria border, an apartment at Il Melone is an ideal choice. Spacious and light, each apartment offers plenty of private space. Casa del Uva, the old cantina where wine was made and stored, is 2,600 square feet, including three bedrooms, three baths, a fully equipped kitchen (guests may eat in the restaurant or have meals delivered on request), dining room, large living room, laundry room and a big private garden. There is a change of linens once a week in The Residenza, but guests may arrange for daily housekeeping if they wish.

 

Room At Il Melones
Room At Il Melones evoke the classical grandeur of Italy.

For those who prefer living on one level, the Frantoio (olive press) apartment is a good option with two bedrooms, one of which is large enough to add a crib or another bed. The living/dining room is vast, with a fireplace for chilly fall evenings; there are two full baths and a fully equipped modern kitchen.

Overlooking the formal garden, The Locanda’s 12 full-service hotel rooms include two (No. 2 and No. 4) with stone terraces on the ground floor. On the second floor, No. 11 is a corner room with a spacious bathroom and two windows overlooking the back garden. All of the rooms have tubs with showers, beamed ceilings and terra-cotta-tiled floors.

Summer in Italy means music and festivals. Il Melone’s Limonaia hosts an annual series of concerts, followed by wine tastings in the restored Taverna-Enoteca, which is used for informal dining and cooking classes.

 

What to do around Cortona

Wine lovers will find wineries open for tastings along the Strada del Vino Terre di Arezzo wine route. Go there on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons between mid-May and mid-September. For details, visit www.stradadelvino.arezzo.it or Facebook at Strada del Vino Terre di Arezzo. Also nearby is Montepulciano and the Strada Vino Nobile wine route. Of course, Il Melone owner Livraga Mancini is a font of info about local wines, and will be happy to make suggestions.

Shoppers have dozens of choices, from the small boutiques in Cortona to the designer outlet center, The Mall near Florence. The Valdichiana Outlet Village, which is very close to Cortona, houses some top Italian fashion brands and several interesting home and kitchen shops where one can find unique cooking implements to take home. The famous Arezzo antiques fair is held in the Piazza Grande the first Sunday and the preceding Saturday of every month and includes jewelry, small collectibles, antiques, ex-votos and much more. Cortona’s weekly outdoor market is on Saturday mornings.

In Montepulciano, the Koine shop at Via di Gracciano nel Corso 22, sells beautiful hand-tooled leather-bound albums, diaries and journals. Cashmere lovers will find at least a dozen outlets in Umbria north of Perugia, ranging from the sublime Brunello Cucinelli in Solomeo to the more affordable shops along the road between Magione and Corciano, such as the Lamberto Losani factory shop.

If bikes or boats are your thing, rent a bicycle near the Camucia-Cortona train station (www.toscanaturismo.it; [email protected]) or take a ferry to Isola Maggiore in Lake Trasimeno from Passignano or Castiglione del Lago to find an old village where wandering is a favorite pastime and gelato a major food group.

 

The restaurant has both an evocative Tuscan dining room and a terrace on the hillside below Cortona. Chef Giovanni Gnessi has designed a menu that offers both Tuscan specialties (truffles, porcini mushrooms, Chianina beef) and fresh Mediterranean seafood brought up from his hometown of Anzio (shrimp, fish, calamari). Of course, there are regional wines to pair with each menu.

After a long day of sightseeing in Cortona, Arezzo, or around Umbria’s Lake Trasimeno, we found Il Melone’s huge pool to be a sublime place to relax before dinner. Water aerobic classes are organized both mornings and afternoons for guests who want to work off the pasta. September and October are also terrific months for sightseeing in central Italy, when the grapes are harvested and the heady scent of new vino fills the air. Il Melone closes from November through March.

Borgo Il Melone captures the essence of Italian romance for destination weddings, and couples coming from abroad often reserve the whole borgo for their wedding party and guests. The small chapel, with its glorious blue ceiling, can be used for Roman Catholic ceremonies, while civil ceremonies can be arranged in the City Hall in Cortona. For photos, this is a bride’s dream setting.

To arrange a stay or special event at Il Melone, contact Gloria del Giudice ([email protected]; 011-39-057-560-3330).

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