1 Via Vanni
Città della Pieve
Tel: 39 057 829 8063
The price is definitely right at this stylish 30-room property in the handsome hill town of Città della Pieve, southwest of Lake Trasimeno. Until 2004, when it was bought by a globe-trotting American and refurbished, the Vannucci was basically a glorified pensione; now, its rooms are outfitted in tasteful, mod-colonial style: Balinese carved-wood headboards and tables; wicker chairs; dramatic modern light fixtures; and immaculate, generous-sized bathrooms. The attentive service, the fitness room and sauna, and (as of summer 2007) a small outside plunge pool make the starting price of $128 in low season a spectacular bargain. The hotel also has two very good restaurants: the Pizzeria Pavese, which spills out onto a pergola-covered veranda in fine weather, and the more upscale Zafferano. The local town, a little-known jewel in weathered brick, was the birthplace of Renaissance painter Pietro Vannuccia.k.a. Il Perugino.
1 Via Dante Alighieri
Tel: 39 074 236 0130
Surely Umbria's most unique accommodation, the Orto degli Angeli is both a stylish boutique hotel and a historic experience. It lies within the walls of Bevagna, an important Roman town with some handsome medieval architecture. The hotel occupies an elegant town house, built at the beginning of the 18th century by incorporating a group of other properties, including a 16th-century palazzo and the remains of a Roman amphitheater. The feel of a provincial nobleman's residence has been preserved in the 14 guest rooms that spread between the two facing wings of the hotel. Original frescoes decorate the more imposing rooms, like the Arcangelo Michele suite, but even the more modest rooms are full of antique furniture and family heirlooms, and some have huge stone bathtubs. In the elegant common salotto (sitting room), handwritten estate registers and black-and-white photos of pre-war ski holidays adorn the shelves. Best of all is the hanging garden, the kind of aristocratic Eden that makes one want to put on a linen suit and read Byron. The hotel's Redibis restaurant occupies the long, curving underground ambulacrum of the Roman amphitheaternot so great for claustrophobics, but a culinary treat for everyone else.
Closed early January to early February.
Via del Refari
Tel: 39 075 930 2428
Not so much a hotel as a house that's been thrown open to paying guests, La Preghiera is the home of dynamic English property developer John Tunstill and his Uruguayan wife, Liliana. The Tunstills have been buying and selling houses in Umbria since 1983, so it's no surprise that their own place is a magnificently restored monastic estate dating from the 12th century, set amid tidily landscaped gardens; it even has its own private chapel. Perhaps because it's essentially a residence, no corners have been cut: The antique furniture (check out the restored monks' cupboards in the upstairs hall), textiles, and bathroom fittings are top quality, and each of the 11 rooms (nine in the main house, two in a small villa just across the garden) has its own character. There's a billiard room, a low-chlorine swimming pool, and a well-equipped kitchen, where cooking classes are held. But the real surprise is downstairs: a whole museum dedicated to John's other passion, toy soldiers. La Preghiera lies just outside the village of Calzolaro, northwest of Umbertide in the Upper Tiber valley.
Closed late December to early January.
Tel: 39 075 801 9000
Set amid the thick forests of Monte Subasiothe mountain south of Assisi where Saint Francis and his followers lived as hermitsthis remote but welcoming country estate combines monastic seclusion with self-indulgent amenities (like two large pools and a gourmet restaurant). Though the hotel is open from March through mid-November, Le Silve really comes into its own at the height of summer: At 2,300 feet above sea level, it's gloriously cool even on July and August eveningsand rather chilly in spring and autumn. The austere decor of the 20 bedrooms (exposed-stone walls, dark wood furniture) is another reason for sticking to high season; it can get quite gloomy here on gray days. The views down across the southern reaches of the mountain are magnificent, and most guests enjoy them from around the pool. In addition to the tenth-century manor farm that houses the hotel, the property includes three smaller farmhouses (two with shared pool) that are offered for weekly rental. Considering the isolation, it's just as well that Le Silve takes its food seriously: The surrounding 570-acre farm estate produces olive oil, cheese, and cured meats, and the menu is overseen by Marco Bistarelli, chef of Il Postale in Città di Castello.
Closed late November to early March.
Località Santa Cristina
Tel: 39 075 922 9912
For R&R in the heart of the Umbrian countryside, you can't do much better than the Locanda del Gallo. Perched on the crest of a wooded ridge around ten miles south of Gubbio, this restored ten-room home surrounded by gardens is a cozy haven in a landscape as wild and unpeopled as you'll find in central Italy. The decor is simple but not stark: Ethnic furniture (much of it from Indonesia) and walls painted in earthy colors give the place a warm, welcoming feel. The owners (he's German, she's Milanese) are friendly and full of good advice on local walks and restaurants; they also make their own olive oil, grow herbs and vegetables, and bake bread and make cakes—so breakfast here is a real delight. Dinner is served in a panoramic dining room, and lunch packages can also be prepared for those who really can't be bothered to move away from the infinity pool (one of the most scenic of any we've seen in Umbria). Gubbio and its attractions can be reached in just over half an hour; the E45 freeway is also nearby for day trips to Assisi, Perugia, and Sansepolcro.
Closed January to March.
22 Località Buonviaggio
Tel: 39 076 321 7314
The Umbrian country-house experience can be had on a budget, as Locanda Rosati proves. Located on the Bolsena road, across the valley from Orvieto, this stone farmhouse is hugely popular with English-speaking visitors. The comfortable communal rooms downstairs encourage guests to mingle, and the house-party vibe carries through into dinner, served in a rustic dining room that also includes a space for tastings of wine and local produce (some of which is also for sale). The ten rustic but comfortable (and air-conditioned) bedrooms are decorated with contemporary wood carvings by local artist Michelangeli, and the large pool, slightly sunken in the lee of an embankment, is a fine sun trap (though traffic on the busy road that skirts the property is a constant background presence). The charming owners can help to arrange wine-cellar visits, horseback riding, and guided tours to a number of the Roman and Etruscan sites in the vicinity; they also organize cooking and Italian-language courses. Given the out-of-town location (around five miles west of Orvieto), you really need a car to get the best out of the surrounding area.
Closed on Christmas, and early January to February.
10 Via degli Eremiti
Tel: 39 074 322 4930
In the high part of Spoleto, not far from the town's photogenic Duomo, this palazzo perches above the town walls, with fine views across the valley (as long as you ignore the SS3 highway). The property, which was built in stages between the 13th and 18th centuries, is stately: Just on the other side of the entry gate is a gorgeous formal garden of manicured shrubs, flowering plants, and palm trees. Inside, the decor in the 12 guest rooms is elegantly neoclassical: lots of chandeliers, Persian rugs, decorative bedsteads, rich silk curtains, and prettily stenciled wardrobes. On the other side of the garden a separate duplex suite provides a romantic escape. We like the details: the starched white-linen tablecloths and proper china breakfast service, the bath products by French parfumeur Annick Goutal, and the illustrated books and guides in the common living room (which are meant for reading, not just for decoration). The only downside is the fact that the bathrooms are all rather small (be sure to ask if you want a bathtub rather than a shower; only four rooms have them).
19 Via Galeotti
Tel: 39 075 922 0157
Gubbio is a steep medieval town: Its solid stone houses rise up the southern flank of Monte Igino on a series of terraces. Most buildings—including Relais Ducale, at the top of the town—have clear views over the rooftops from the higher floors (ask for una camera con vista when you book). Right across the square from Palazzo dei Consoli, Gubbio's iconic 14th-century town hall, the Relais is housed in the former guest annex of Palazzo Ducale, the city's seat of power between 1384 and 1508. Most arrivals enter through the bar-restaurant; reception is upstairs, next to the delightful garden that connects the two main wings of the hotel. There's also a charming, panoramic giardino pensile (hanging garden). The 30 bedrooms are pleasant and comfortable, with parquet floors, carved wooden headboards, sunny color schemes, and flat-screen TVs; all have decent-sized bathrooms. Gubbio's steep and narrow streets make driving a nightmare: If you ring ahead, you can park in one of the edge-of-town lots and the hotel will pick you up. Light sleepers may be disturbed by the nearby belltower, which chimes every quarter of an hour.
11 Via Sant'Agnese
Tel: 39 075 815 5124
Assisi, the most tourist-oriented town in Umbria, is also one of the hardest to find good accommodations in. The problem is that with guaranteed year-round turnover, the hoteliers of Saint Francis's hometown have little incentive to make an extra effort. San Crispino, however, is a refreshing exception. Not far from the church of Santa Chiara, the mansion that houses the residenza dates back to the Middle Ages, and its seven vaulted suites are inspired by themes from Saint Francis's Canticle of the Creatures: Sora Luna e Stelle ("Sister Moon and Stars") has a starry night sky frescoed on the ceiling, while Frate Foco ("Brother Fire") and Frate Sole ("Brother Sun"—the largest suite, with two double bedrooms) both have working fireplaces. San Crispino is part of the Assisi Wellness group, which also includes the San Crispino Resort and Spa and two country villas, one with a large pool. Spa treatments and wellness programs (including the intriguing-sounding "chocolate therapy") can be arranged at reception.
Località San Luca
Tel: 39 074 239 9402
Still owned by the Zuccari family, which began developing the estate in the 16th century, this large, elegant villa sits just outside the village of San Luca, near the wine town of Montefalco. The pink main house looks more Sicilian than Umbrian, especially when you factor in the palm trees in the formal garden (which will look great in a few years' time; since the hotel opened in summer 2005, some of the plantings still have that straight-from-the-nursery look about them). Inside, the common areas are decorated with delicate botanical wall frescoes; most charming are the trompe l'oeil creations in the breakfast room. There's not a huge price gap between top- and bottom-range rooms (there are 34 in all), so it's worth booking a deluxe double, like rooms 126 or 127both of which have hot tubsor going whole hog and nabbing the Torretta tower, which has wraparound views over the countryside, and a telescope to help you enjoy them. The huge swimming pool, well-stocked bar, and gourmet restaurant (open for dinner only) are strong motives to stay put, but Villa Zuccari is well-placed for wine-and-culture jaunts to Montefalco and Bevagna, and day trips to Assisi, Spoleto, and Todi. It's also one of the few Umbrian country hotels open year-round.
26 Via Cecili
Tel: 39 074 322 4187
Scottish knitwear designer Wallace Shaw moved to Spoleto after working in the Hong Kong and New York fashion worlds. His large, panoramic apartment occupies the third floor of a palazzo, which abuts the 13th-century Torre dell'Olioan imposing tower named for its defenders' habit of pouring boiling oil over gate-crashers. Shaw is more welcoming: An eclectic art lover and homegrown philosopher, his classy B&B is geared toward jaded types looking for something other than the usual Tuscan-Umbrian villa experience. The decor is sharp, modern, and minimalist, which enhances the dramatic exposed stone wall of the medieval tower. There are four double guest rooms with air-conditioning and private bathrooms, and there's a common elevated living room with huge windows and giddy views over the rooftops of Spoleto (and Wi-Fi, too). Shaw organizes regular art exhibitions and concerts here—which makes the Art House a perfect place to stay when attending Spoleto's Festival dei Due Mondi. Just be sure to book well in advance.
Closed December and January.