Borgo di Carpiano, Umbria, Italy: 9/10
It’s not difficult to fall head over heels in love with this other-worldly retreat tucked away in the Umbrian hills. Run with true kindness and grace, it’s a luxury getaway for travellers in the know and remains Umbria’s best kept secret.
The drive is not for the faint hearted, though owner Riccardo assures the soaring roads become less hair-raising over time. Set into a steep slope in a secluded spot between Gubbio and Perugia, the 10th century stone buildings of the borgo are linked by cobbled pathways and stone steps with far-reaching views across the valley. Don’t rely on a sat nav to get you there.
Owners Marilisa and Riccardo Parisi renovated the derelict property with great imagination and sensitivity to its ancient heritage. The chapel now serves as an entrance hall and atmospheric lounge for evening drinks and get-togethers. Vaulted ceilings and grandiose proportions pay homage to its former life while white linen sofas and coffee table books create a more contemporary ambience. The rest of the property has a elegant farmhouse feel, with soft operatic music just audible throughout.
Service & facilities: 9/10
The Parisis are devoted hosts and the sort of people you feel lucky to have met. There’s a uniqueness to their hospitality from a heartfelt welcome to the after dinner conversation by the fire. Having previously run a successful hotel in Antigua, many guests followed them here: the service is truly that good. Every member of staff appears equally besotted with the place, their service tone hitting the sweet spot between extremely attentive and pleasantly informal.
The salt water infinity pool is quite spectacular with it’s beautiful view and positioning. There’s also an outdoor shower and a wellbeing area for massages and treatments. There’s not a great deal more to do, but that’s quite the point.
Thoughtfully appointed with antique armoires, velvet armchairs and fantastically comfortable beds. Spread across the main building and several stone outbuildings, each of the nine bedrooms is unique in style and has air conditioning, Wi-Fi, a well-stocked minibar but no kettle – guests are invited to use the tea-making facilities in the chapel. The garden suites feel more relaxed with bright artwork from the owners’ Antigua days and private gardens – perfect if you appreciate a little more privacy. Bathrooms are a lovely mix of old and new and furnished with the usual hair dryer, bathrobes, slippers, pool towels and extra-virgin olive oil toiletries.
Food & drink: 9/10
The food is everything you could hope for at a rural five star retreat in Italy with its own kitchen garden. There are no menus here, just the promise that what is put in front of you will be seasonal and delicious. Dinner is a sophisticated affair, beginning with an aperitif and convivial conversation with fellow guests in the chapel (there is no pressure to participate); Riccardo talks through the evening menu, and assists with their extensive wine list; the local Sagrantino di Montefalco is excellent and keenly priced. When we visited in May, dishes included beef carpaccio with parmesan ice-cream; lemon and ricotta ravioli with basil and courgette cream; beef cheek with celeriac and a coffee chocolate sauce that divided opinion in the dining room. The Sicilian pistachio parfait with white chocolate sauce was hands down the best dessert I’ve ever had, and with the enthusiastic introduction of every ingredient on the plate (including Sicily’s Bronte pistachios which are widely considered the worlds best and most expensive), I dare say they knew they were on to a winner.
A generous breakfast is served at the table and includes freshly baked bread and cakes, wholegrain brioche, local meats and cheeses, organic yoghurt, pear soaked in ginger syrup and fluffy egg rolls with pancetta.
Value for money: 10/10
Rack rates from €140 (£120) in high season; closed during low season. Afternoon tea and breakfast included. Value far exceeds cost here, to the extent that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to charge double. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities?
No. There are bedrooms on the ground floor, but the property is situated on a steep slope with deep steps towards the pool.
Not really. This is a tranquil, romantic weekend away kind of place.
Località Carpiano, 06024 Gubbio PG, Italy (+39 075 920337; borgodicarpiano.com)