Food + Wine, Hotel Reviews, Italy, Travel Tips
Hills of Umbria (near Morra)
Today I found myself at a truly beautiful spot, WAY off the beaten path. So far off, the path actually had craters in it deep enough to sink my tiny Fiat Panda entirely. Tucked up in the Umbrian hills with nary a neighbor, Palazzo Terranova is quite the demure lady.
Formerly owned by a vivacious Englishwoman, the hotel has come under recent management in the last three years and as a result, has smartened up a bit. Gone are many of the previous knick-knacks and lace table clothes, replaced with a decidedly more masculine approach, particularly in the bar and ground floor lounge area. Fortunately the second and third floor sitting rooms maintain the elegant romance of the 8 guestrooms (all so wonderful, I cannot wait to return with my husband someday) and the overall feel of the place is soothing and serene with bouquets of fragrant Lilies and flickering candles bestowing the owner’s heavenly blended scent.
I cannot say enough about the soft, pleasantness of the guestrooms at PalazzoTerranova. So, instead, I’ll post my photos of the grande dame of guestrooms; Troviata.
Immediately upon entry to my room, Violetta, I was soothed, having been lulled by the room’s violet palette, the gauzy linen curtains, the elegant hand painted designs on the walls, the framed antique portraits and most of all, the enormous, four-poster iron bed with freshly pressed linens and bountiful down pillows. (The room has changed slightly since this photo below and is even more alluring and attractive.)
The candle flickering in the corner on the dressing table along with the lavendar-colored silk bench and deep-set linen sofa complimented the feminine feel of the room sweetly while the terracotta floors and high ceilings offered a subtle grandeur.
The bathroom was equally as splendid with a darling claw-foot tub, separate marble shower, terracotta floors and similarly stenciled painted wall designs. The large shuttered window gazing out to the hills below was the fine ribbon/bow on a delicately wrapped gift – somewhat expected yet always appreciated.
Another favorite and oft-requested room is Bellini. I found the bathroom to be especially charming. All the rooms can be seen on the website so you may easily choose your preference. I strongly suggest asking for one on the back of the house – facing out to the hills.
The staff at the property is wonderfully affable – greeting me with smiles and later bidding me adieu all in a line. I felt deliciously spoiled as I was treated to a massage this morning that was nothing short of superb. Being pregnant, massages are like gold, but can often be too weak if the masseuse is too hesitant given the massive belly. Luckily, this velvet-handed woman was right on target, applying draining techniques to my legs and feet (oh the swelling I endure!) and just the right kind of kneading on my aching back. She also used pure olive oil for the massage given its non-perfumed scent and high quantity of Vitamin E. Apparently, the Romans used Olive Oil for skin rituals far before they ever brought it to the dining table.
After the massage I was offered the distinct pleasure of going on a truffle hunt, a popular pursuit in the surrounding area, along with hunting porcini mushrooms. The hotel arranges both tours for guests with a private guide. The grounds of the Palazzo are actually prime themselves, filled with white truffles from November to right about now (March) and then the black ones begin in mid-June.
Accompanied by his two faithful pooches (Chiana and Pipa), my guide and hunter-extraordinaire told me about the rigors of training these highly sensitive dogs and how there’s nothing sweeter than spending his early mornings walking the forest with one of them in tow. I was amazed at these dogs’ keen sense (the brown one is older and therefore more proficient). Given that it is late in the season, many of the findings were no larger than marbles yet the dog would sniff them out under layers of thick grass and shrub. To watch them dig away excitedly was my closest experience to a treasure hunt.
What struck me the most was that the guide would have to run to the dogs as soon as they started digging for fear that the dog may eat the truffle before he can pry it from their jobs. It seems they find them quite tasty as well. We walked around the hills for a good 30 minutes and I never once got bored watching the dogs scour and eventually located various sizes of truffles.
The food at Palazzo Terranova was inventive and well presented though somewhat spotty for me. This can be easily attributed to my inability to eat rare-cooked meat these days, meaning dinner wasn’t ideal with lesser-cooked pieces of quail with the starter and a rare cut of beef as the secondo. My favorite dish was at the lunch – a shaved zucchini marinated in Spanish vinegar then set under shaved carpaccio with some arugula. It was simply delicious. The Palazzo offers cooking classes with their chef using, of course, truffles and porcinis when they are in season. There are also wine tasting tours available upon reservation.
The Palazzo is keen to serve local, Umbrian wines and encourage tourism in the area. The hotel offers set itineraries for surrounding art tours (heading back towards Cortona, as well) and local craftsman. Weddings are also possible at this lovely villa and would not doubt make a small affair quite memorable. Overall, the hotel is a wonderfully, secluded spot – a hideaway for sure. I would highly recommend it for a two-day stop with the heavy intent on romance and relaxation.