Spoleto, Italy

Spoleto, arguably one of Umbria’s most beautiful hill towns, has always been a favorite of the famous. Lucretia Borgia became governor of Spoleto in 1499, bringing with her a whiff of scandal, along with a parade of sumptuously dressed nobles and hangers on. Spoleto still attracts celebrity today, along with arts patrons from around the world, who arrive for the summer festivals or to sample the wines along the Sagrantino Wine Road in spring and fall.

Visitors often fly into Rome or Florence airports, each two hours away by car. Sant’Egidio Airport (www.airport.umbria.it) in Perugia is about 40 minutes by road and is convenient for private aircraft and helicopter landings. Due to the mountainous terrain, guests arriving in helicopters may not be able to land in Spoleto; however, in some instances prior arrangements may be made with the assistance of respective hotel management.

The elegance of the past in this medieval jewel box may be found at several residenze d’epoca, historic houses turned into intimate hotels, where service is foremost as a limited number of guests coexist in a gracious atmosphere. Tip: Residenze d’epoca hotels may be better enjoyed in spring and fall for guests requiring air-conditioning or elevators, as most of them don’t have either for historic preservation reasons. Ask when reserving to be sure, as some rooms do have cooling systems.

Perched on the side of a wooded hill, overlooking the graceful spire of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the dramatic arched Roman aqueduct, two of the best residenze d’epoca hotels offer a luxurious perspective from which to consider art and history, food and wine.   

Undoubtedly, Villa Milani  (www.villamilani.com) is the most elegant in the region, situated within 20 acres of fields and woodlands. The reception rooms and bedrooms are filled with sumptuous original furnishings, yet guests feel comfortable here, rather than put off by formality. There are spectacular countryside views from its terrazzi and swimming pool; several rooms have their own terraces, good for private breakfasts and cooler in summer. Ask for Altair or Daneb to reserve one of these.      


Villa Milani occupies 20 acres of rolling hills and woodlands; its lavish interiors

The Orione tower, an aerie at the top of the house, offers a 360-degree panoramic view and remote-controlled window coverings. We hear singer/composer Paul Simon chose the Orione for his wedding anniversary recently. The most spacious rooms are the Andromeda and Cassiopea, both with beautiful views of the hotel’s verdant surroundings. The Andromeda has a Jacuzzi tub, while the Orione tower has a Jacuzzi “hydrosonic” and air-conditioning.   

Proprietor Luigi Capobianchi ([email protected]; 39 074 3225056) and Reception Manager Marco Milanesi ([email protected]; 39 340 2995310, mobile) are at the ready to receive reservations and special requests, including transportation to and from airports, private tours and shopping trips, as well as VIP tickets to concerts and festivals. They can also arrange either an English-speaking driver with a Mercedes, or a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Maserati with or without driver.       


The salon at Villa Milani

The 16th-century home of a cardinal, Eremo delle Grazie (www.eremodellegrazie.it) rests on a hill above Spoleto, offering a luxuriously rustic ambience. The Mayor of Spoleto uses the Eremo delle Grazie for official dinners and important guests.

  It’s difficult to believe the 11 rooms (two singles) were once monks’ cells—each is now individually furnished with fine linens and every comfort. We loved Room Number One, the former cardinal’s chamber, which has a secret niche overlooking the 15th-century frescoed chapel below. The most romantic room is Number Five, the Ginepro. Those in the front of the house have a view of the valley; all except one are up on the first floor. A look at the guest book reveals the names of captains of industry and U.S. State Department officials who have found this a beautiful and private retreat. Legend says Michelangelo was an early visitor.

Dottore Pio Lalli ([email protected]; 39 0743 49624), the proprietor of this little paradise, enjoys showing guests the ancient library and the wine grotto, which is reached via a secret underground passage. He can assist with anything from arranging transport to concert tickets. The Eremo delle Grazie serves meals to non-guests by reservation only (if your VIPs plan to dine there but not stay overnight, book their dinner reservations a week in advance). Cocktail fare includes crispy artichokes (cleverly flattened to resemble roses) and finely breaded fried sage leaves to nibble with a cold glass of pro secco.    

Within the ancient walls of Spoleto, two more residenze d’epoca cosset international guests. Once your clients walk through Palazzo Leti’s (www.palazzoleti.com) iron gates into a private garden, modern life will fade away. Each of the hotel’s 12 rooms has a view of the sweeping Spoleto Valley. The largest rooms are numbers 303 and 404, each of which features a small sitting room, Jacuzzi and air-conditioning. The front garden is the ideal place for an aperitivo or cup of tea, especially after a day of shopping or gallery visits.


Palazzo Leti’s interiors feature rich tapestries and bold upholstery, complemented by ornate details

Direttrice Patrizia Pesci ([email protected]; 39 0743 224930) is ready to assist with tours and concert tickets, as well as other special requests, such as appointments for facials, manicures and pedicures, massages and other beauty treatments. She has decorated with the finest linens and porcelain and provides fresh-baked pastries for breakfast.

The 14th-century Palazzo Dragoni (www.palazzodragoni.it) is just steps away from Spoleto’s grand cathedral. The hotel has eight rooms, all luxuriously appointed, and has played host to such luminaries as Claudia Cardinale and Anthony Quinn. The comfortable junior suites are numbers 8, 10 and 18. Tip: For clients who’d like to hear the music from the Festival of Two Worlds in July from the privacy of their room, ask for one on the side of the duomo.


palazzo dragoni’s eight guest rooms have hosted dignitaries and diplomats

Unlike many small Italian historic properties, Palazzo Dragoni is equipped with an elevator discreetly tucked away from view, something to consider for guests who have trouble with (or simply don’t want to climb) stairs.  Director General Roberto Diotallevi ([email protected]; 39 0743 222220) and concierge Gianni Torquati ([email protected]; 39 0743 49074) are ready to provide VIP service, from drivers and bodyguards to dog- and babysitters, in-room champagne, concert tickets and more. Tip: Insiders recommend nearby Tric Trac Ristorante to their guests, as Palazzo Dragoni serves only breakfast.

For the client who prefers a more contemporary atmosphere, the charming Albornoz Palace Hotel (www.albornozpalace.com), near the historic center, is an appealing alternative. Sandro and Fabio Tulli have decorated their hotel’s elevator shafts, hallways and superior rooms with works by international artists. Tip: When considering this hotel for a client, be sure to ask if they prefer a low-key color scheme or something more dramatic. Travel advisors can pre-select a room after browsing the hotel’s website, however guests may also wait until they arrive and walk through rooms that might be of artistic interest before selecting one. Contact Mary Moutier or Signor Sandro Tulli ([email protected]; 39 0743 221221) with VIP needs.  


Albornoz palace hotel’s accommodations vary in style, from low-key to lively

The Centro Estetico Claudio Piergrossi (http://www.palazzoleti.com/trattamenti), whose 2,000-square-foot beauty center has seven treatment rooms, is the best in Spoleto. Private in-room treatments and massages can be arranged upon request, and appointments for beauty services can be made directly through area hotels. The beauty center also offers algae, clay and other body treatments, such as tanning, facials, manicures and steam baths at its main location in Spoleto. Be sure to request Silvana Mariani for a pampering massage. 


Recommended Dining in Spoleto

Il Tartufo: Truffles—black, white, summer, autumn—they’re all on the menu, along with a long list of wines. Ask for a table in the back room. P. Garibaldi 24 - Spoleto (PG); 39 0743 40236

Ristorante La Barrique Del Castello Di Poreta: The panoramic views, ancient stone walls and spectacular sunsets are alone worth the trip. Giorgio Fusi’s retro ‘60s dish of bright-yellow saffron risotto topped with a layer of pure gold leaf is sure to impress. Take a driver and enjoy the wines. Il Castello di Poreta; 39 0742 275 810

Tric Trac: Book well in advance during the Festival of Two Worlds. Local specialities like zuppa di farro, lots of pastas and grilled meats. Via Dell'Arringo (Piazza del Duomo); 39 0743 44592   

Eremo Delle Grazie: On the road to St. Francis’s hermitage at Monteluco. Book a week in advance. Fried sage leaves served with aperitivi are wonderful; request when making the reservation. Loc. Monteluco – Spoleto; 39 0743 49624 

Ristorante Apollinare: 12th-century church near the Roman theatre; Gianna Gradassi and Andrea Scotacci offer an extensive international wine list. A fun, warm place to enjoy good food. Via S. Agata, 14; 39 0743 22 32 56. Book via [email protected] 

Ristorante Il Panciolle: Wonderful romantic terrace with views of the ancient town; traditional Spoletini fare. Vicolo degli Eroi 1; 39 0743 221 241. (Be careful booking celebs, as the paparazzi seem to have insider info on who’s dining here.)

The places to see and be seen in Spoleto

Spoleto is the perfect base for day trips to Assisi, Spello, Montefalco, Gubbio, Todi and other Umbrian hill towns. Wine tastings are available at the many wineries that dot the region, and the work of such renowned fresco painters as Fra Lippi, Perugino, Gozzoli and others is found both within the walls of Spoleto and in the nearby towns.

The Festival of Two Worlds (www.spoletofestival.it/) draws international crowds to see music, dance, symphonic concerts, art exhibits and more, from the end of June until mid-July.

Spoleto Estate (www.spoletoestate.net/) is a vibrant concert season in July and August. Information for 2006 has been updated.

Umbria Jazz  (www.umbriajazz.com) takes place in Perugia in mid-summer and in Orvieto in December; score tickets through hotel management rather than from the box offices.

La Strada del Sagrantino, the Wine Road near Spoleto and Montefalco, is lined with wineries, many of them open for tasting. The Spring Open Cantina Day is scheduled for May 27-28, 2006, with Wine Week in Montefalco set for September 21-24 in towns all along the route.

Recommended shopping in Spoleto

Shopping in Umbria is a delight. Traditional products to buy include hand-loomed linens (Montefalco and Spoleto), majolica ceramics (Deruta and Orvieto) and cashmere (Ripabianca, Cucinelli, Trevi). The Mall, a designer outlet mall, is two hours away near Florence and has absolutely the best selection of items from Italy: Gucci, Armani, Ferragamo, Valentino and more. Queen Beatriz of the Netherlands was spotted there, accompanied by bodyguards 

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