Castello di Montignano, Umbria

Castello di Montignano

 

 

There are 1,000-year-old fortified villages hidden here and there in the hills of central Umbria and we’ve found a polished gem: Montignano, where Giuseppe Alcini and his wife, Claudia Bisceglie, have restored a crumbling country palace. The chic and charming bio-boutique hotel is located midway between Todi and Massa Martana, in an area where aristocrats took their ottobrate (the October vacations) in the mid-1700s.

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Warm Weather Festivals in Umbria

One reason to visit central Italy in the spring and summer is the wide variety of arts and food festivals. It’s necessary to have a car to make the most of the season, but the roads are excellent and distances are easily doable. Expect concerts within the walls of an ancient cloister or wander the streets of an Umbrian hill town to find citizens dressed in medieval costumes.

APRIL-MAY

San Gemini, Spoleto, Orvieto, Todi, Montefalco, Ferentillo and Assisi: Umbria BEEcoming, April 28–May 6, www.umbriabeecoming.it. Follow the flying bee logo for guided tours, excursions, sports activities, wine tastings, concerts and culinary tourism in medieval towns around south central Umbria. The festival’s BEE Card, which can be purchased online or at various venues, entitles visitors to discounts at hotels, such as Castello di Montignano, as well as entrance to various activities.

Todi: Italian Antiques Market, April 1–9. Vendors sell everything from fine antiques to cashmere.

Narni: Corsa all’anello medieval festival, April 22-May 9.

Assisi: Calendimaggio, the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of May every year, www.calendimaggiodiassisi.it. The festival is dedicated to St. Francis, Assisi’s patron saint.

Gubbio: Corsa dei Ceri–Race of the Candles, May 15, www.ceri.it.

Umbria: Cantine Aperte (open wine cellars day with free tastings), May 27. A unique opportunity for wine lovers to visit the cellars of Umbria. The three Umbrian wine routes are Cantico Route (Strada dei Vini del Cantico, www.stradadeivinidelcantico.it), Etrusco-Roman Route (Strada dei Vini Etrusco Romana, www.stradadeivinietruscoromana.com) and the Sagrantino Route (Strada del Sagrantino, www.stradadelsagrantino.it).

JUNE-JULY

Foligno: The Tournament of the Quintana annual jousting tournament, mid to late June, www.quintana.it/quintana-foligno/index.php. The evening parade shows off outstanding medieval clothing, horses and carriages.

Spello: Infiorate di Spello, June 9-10, www.infioratespello.it. The streets are covered with intricately designed flowers.

Bevagna: Mercato delle Gaite, June 14-24. The entire town goes back in time in both dress and activities. Includes ancient paper making and other exhibits, crossbow tournaments, crafts, wine and food.

Spoleto: Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi, June 29-July 15, www.festivaldispoleto.com/2012/anticipazioni.asp. Mikhail Baryshnikov headlines this 55th year of the festival.

Perugia: Umbria Jazz, July 6-15, www.umbriajazz.com. Headliner: Sting.

AUGUST

Spoleto: Le Vaite, around September 1. In honor of Lucrezia Borgia with medieval dinners, tournaments, historical parades, conferences, concerts, cinemas and exhibitions.

Umbria: Tears of St. Lorenzo, August 10. Various towns celebrate the festival, which usually coincides with the annual Perseid Meteor shower (the falling stars are the saint’s tears). Various towns, including Montefalco: Palio dei Terzieri crossbow competition and medieval costumes in the streets.

 

 

The Castello di Montignano was turned into a real castle in around 1750, when the walls of the fortified village were incorporated into a new façade and double staircase. Giuseppe’s great-grandfather bought the property in 1908 and redecorated it, adding Art Deco details. Beginning in 2005, Claudia, who has a background in designing, began another five-year restoration and recycled every bit of building material possible. Old shutters became signs and headboards, while ancient ceiling beams became countertops. Now the décor is Italian high modern mixed with the ancient, accentuated by Claudia’s color scheme: black, white, brown and olive green.

The 12 rooms are all different, each named after one of the 13 owners since the year 962 and each decorated with the coat of arms of that family. There are two elevators for the five floors. In most of the rooms, the furniture has been painted stark white or black in contrast to stonewalls, and there are wide plank wood or tile floors, and contemporary light fixtures.

The Benedettoni Suite has a working fireplace, a living room, and a contemporary bathroom fitted with a wooden shelf that was once used for tying up the cows in the barn. The Longari is a junior suite with a balcony overlooking the pool and mountains beyond.

The Alcini Suite, named after Giuseppe’s family, is the only room with originally finished furniture. This large room has the best view, with two windows. L-shaped, it has a sofa bed and table in addition to the bed with a baldacchino alla duchessa (draped canopy). The bathroom is spectacular, with a huge tub done in olive green mosaic tiles.

The Arnolfi Suite has the only king bed at the castello. The bed’s canopy was made from recycled ceiling beams, hung with chains from the ceiling and draped. This room has four windows and both a shower and a tub.

For a family or two couples, the Monticastri-Tacchi apartment is a good choice. There is a smartly designed living room-kitchen with a working fireplace, a small balcony and a sleeper sofa. There are two bathrooms (one with a custom-designed deep bathtub) and two bedrooms. There is also a small all-purpose room with a door leading on to the private terrace.

The old cellar cistern of the castello has become a pool with aqua-massage and is the focal point of the hotel’s small spa, Acquadegna. The spa is operated by Paolo Caschera, known for his SPA concept, and offers the traditional Percorso Romano (Roman bath circuit). In keeping with Umbria’s reputation for fine red wines, there is a wine bath in a giant wooden wine cask built for two, which is followed by a wine-based oil massage.

Castello di Montignano’s ristorante, Materiaprima, follows the Zero Kilometer concept of using only local foods. Chef Alessandro Petraroli prepared a wonderful tagliata (thinly sliced beef) with leek, Parmesano, and wild mint sauce on a bed of organic salad greens and then insisted we try his plate of three tiny chocolate mousses, one each of dark, milk and white chocolate. This ristorante is open to nonguests and there is a Wednesday night buffet with wine for the “Fun and Young.”

While we promised not to reveal the name, this summer will see the entire castello taken over for the very high-profile wedding of a world-famous model. The hotel has an arrangement so that couples may have legal weddings performed by the Mayor of Massa Martana or by a priest in the village chapel. Claudia ([email protected]; 011-39-075-885-6113, 011-39-380-511-0325) manages such very special events and can be reached by e-mail or phone. Contact Giuseppe ([email protected]; 011-39-329-051-7124, 011-39-075-885-6113) with special requests.

The hotel can be easily reached from Rome and Florence by car.

 

The Alcini Suite
The Alcini Suite, named after Giuseppe’s family, is the only room with originally finished furniture.



 

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