Relais Todini, Umbria, Italy: 9/10
A five star hilltop resort on a working wine estate with magnificent 360-degree views. Regular guests appreciate the privacy, sophisticated restaurant and vast hunting grounds. The tour and tasting at the estate cantina is fabulous, and the wines are surprisingly inexpensive.
The approach is spectacular. A steep cypress-lined drive inspires a sense of anticipation as you wind upwards through sloping vineyards and olive trees towards the 12th century stone manor house. Although island-like in its lofty position, the hotel is just 10 minutes by car to the centre of Todi, and is well located for exploring Spoleto, Marmore Falls, Fogliano and Orvieto. Teatro della Concordia in nearby Monte Castello di Vibio is not to be missed: it’s the smallest theatre all’italiana in the world.
An effortless combination of opulent sophistication and welcoming family home is achieved here. Original flagstone floors, frescoes, oil paintings and antique furnishings impress without feeling old fashioned or austere. Decor to the rear is more contemporary with a dining room that could be described as pleasantly shabby-chic with its exposed stonework and chandeliers, and a comfortable reading room with white linen furnishings and soft light through gauze curtains.
Service & facilities: 9/10
Receptionist Federica leads with kindness and professionalism, and service throughout is equally attentive and convivial.
There’s plenty to do on the estate, from a visit to the winery to a tour of the estate’s wild animal park (home to a small number of zebra, emu, llama, flamingoes…), which can be arranged by boat or car. A wellbeing centre offers a range of massages and treatments, a suite dedicated to wine baths (drinking it, not bathing in it), a Turkish bath, and an outdoor hot tub with far-reaching views over the hills and nearby Todi. Golf, shooting, fishing, cooking lessons and truffle hunting can also be arranged.
Each of the 12 bedrooms is individually designed and named after the vista overlooked from its shuttered windows. Original features abound – the delicate stencilling on the beams is especially charming – and pillowy soft beds with luxurious linen leave little to be desired. Traditional marble bathrooms are perfectly in-keeping and fresh towels are provided at turndown.
Nearby, a four bedroom villa with it’s own (heart-shaped) pool and tennis court is pitched to hunting parties and family events.
Food & drink: 8/10
The enthusiasm of its regulars suggests that L’Altro Relais restaurant has made quite the impression on the local area with its expert reimagining of classic Umbrian cuisine. The theatre of the open kitchen doesn’t go unnoticed as guests chat comfortably with chef at the pass, wine in hand, which sets a congenial mood. Portions are generous in size, and the signature tagliolini cacio e pepe with truffle is particularly divine.
A simple if not unimaginative breakfast is served buffet style, with eggs to order.
Value for money: 7/10
Rack rate from €360 (£300) in high season; and from €150 (£125) in low. Breakfast included. It’s certainly not cheap (Umbria usually represents excellent value for money) but the price tag reflects the attention to detail and gracious nothing-is-too-much quality of service. Free wi-fi, though it works best in communal areas downstairs.
Access for guests with disabilities?
Yes; there are four bedrooms on the ground floor suitable for guests with disabilities.
Yes; the Relais is ideal for an upmarket family retreat, and children will love the animal park.
Frazione Collevalenza, 06050 Todi PG, Italy (+39 075 887521; relaistodini.com).