Torre Palombara, Umbria, Italy: 9/10
This family run bed-and-breakfast has a charming history as a 15th century dove tower, lovingly restored and converted to welcome guests for a peaceful countryside escape near the medieval town of Narni.
Just over an hour by car or train from Rome, this pocket of southern Umbria is perfectly rural yet conveniently located for day trips to the capital. The hotel is a 20 minute drive from Terni’s national rail links, and less than 15 minutes from the unspoilt hill town of Narni and its excellent dining options.
Nearby day trips include the fairytale hill town of Todi and its underground Roman cisterns, and the 12th-century cathedral in Spoleto for its porticoed façade and incredible cycle of frescos by medieval artist Filippo Lippi.
Plush furnishings and family antiques give the feel of an elegant home that just happens to welcome guests. Owner Leonardo has restored the property with a great deal of creativity to celebrate the structure’s quirkiest features. Original terracotta bird ledges add character to the upper rooms, while each of the tower’s many pigeon holes has been given a tiny window, creating tens of postcard-sized views over the Umbrian hills.
Service & facilities: 9/10
Leonardo clearly takes great pride in excellent hospitality, and is always on hand without being at all invasive. The property has been in his family for generations, and his love for the place is tangible and a little bit infectious. The swimming pool has fabulous views over Narni, and private terraces in nooks and crannies around the garden are perfect for chasing the evening sun.
There are seven rooms across four categories, each named after its unique character or view. Il Rosone, for example, is a deluxe superior room that overlooks a 15th century rose window. Classic rooms are surprisingly spacious and very romantic, though if you can afford it, go for the suite in the original dove tower. It’s spread over two floors and has a petite but very private roof terrace.
Bathrooms are simple but impeccably clean and well-stocked with local olive-based toiletries and amenities.
Food & drink: 8/10
Buffet breakfast is generous, with a sumptuous selection of homemade cakes. There’s no restaurant but with prior notice Leonardo is happy to arrange an evening meal on the terrace to showcase produce from the surrounding farms and local area. He explains that the grechetto spumante aperitif is made by a friend, and habitually points to nearby fields as he talks us through the various meats and cheeses on an extensive antipasti board: “…and this is sheep’s cheese from those sheep…” Farm to table, indeed.
Value for money: 9/10
Rack rate from €155 (£135) in high season; closed in low season. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi. With its pool, attentive service and delightful uniqueness, it’s quite a bargain.
Access for guests with disabilities?
Technically yes, but the atmosphere is rather grown up. Cots and extra beds are available on request.
Strada della Cantinetta 3, 05035, Narni, Italy (+39 744 744617; torrepalombara.com).