Monte Santa Maria Tiberina

monte-santa-maria-tiberinaMonte Santa Maria Tiberina has an incredibly long name for one of the tiniest hilltop towns in the Upper Tiber Valley!  The photo to the left is taken from Villa Bastiola (holiday villa for rent in Umbria) and is the peak in the distance with the castle tower silhouetted against the skyline.

It’s worth a visit – just 20 minutes drive from the villa – as it has the most amazing views all over Umbria and Tuscany and there are charming cobbled streets to stroll around and a lovelymonte-santa-maria-festa-autunno restaurant and bar in the centre of the village.

The Monte (as it is locally known!) is the highest peak for miles around – wherever you go in the area you can always get your bearings from the castle which you can always see against the skyline!

Every autumn, the village comes alive when it holds the annual Festa D’Autunno or Autumn Festival.  The Festival runs from around the 14th to 16th October with lots of events taking place.  There are stalls selling local produce and crafts, flagthrowers, medieval processions and traditional Italian music as well as a dinner in the Castle itself (still owned and recently restored by the Bourbons of the Monte) at 9pm on the first evening with original recipes from the 1600s…!!!

It’s a great chance to join with the locals and really get a feel of how they still celebrate and maintain their ancient traditions and customs today.

Montone

villa_rental_umbria_100Montone is a gorgeous, medieval hilltop town, just 15 minutes drive from Villa Bastiola.

Unlike many of the other small villages in the area, Montone’s medieval history is not as turbulent, coming under the control of legendary mercenry, Braccio Fortebraccio di Montone, although it did end up being annexed to the Papal States in the early 1600s like most of the other towns.

 

villa_rental_umbria_102 Follow the winding road up the hillside to the village at the top. There are several car parks and parking along the walls of the town. Definitely best to explore Montone by foot as that way you can get to see the gorgeous cobbled streets and beautiful architecture and really get a feel of life in Montone, plus the views are spectacular.

The central piazza is the hub of Montone and there are a couple of bars perfect for coffee, ice-creams or aperitivo while watching daily life unfold.

villa_rental_umbria_101In Autumn, the streets of Montone come alive with the Festa del Bosco (woodland festival) with stalls and shops selling the best of Umbrian fare including hot roasted chestnuts and vino novello (the new wine!).

In summer, you can enjoy the Umbrian Film Festival when a huge screen is set up in the square and films are shown daily – it’s a wonderful atmosphere!

Stay at Villa Bastiola and enjoy a morning or afternoon trip out to Montone!

Citta di Castello

villa_rental_umbria_citta_di_castello_03Citta’ di Castello is a thriving market town in the north of Umbria, in an area known as the Upper Tiber Valley.  Founded by Umbri tribes, the Romans called it Tifernum Tiberinum or Civitas Tiberina (City on the Tiber) which is the river that flows across Italy and down to Rome. During the medieval times, the city was fought over, conquered, lost and conquered several times finally falling under Papal control and becoming known as Civitas Castelli (City of the Castles) or Citta’ di Castello.

villa_rental_umbria_citta_di_castello_01It’s interesting history is reflected in the mix of buildings and architecture throughout the town. Famous for its medieval Town Hall, round bell tower and Palazzo Vitelli (dating back to the 1400s), the town is really worth a visit.

Enjoy wandering through the cobbled streets and really getting a feel of what traditional Italian life is all about.  Local shops, coffee bars, restaurants and trattorias abound and at around 6pm each day, the Corso (main street) comes alive with the locals taking their passeggiata and catching up on the days news with friends and family.

villa_rental_umbria_citta_di_castello_02There is a market every Thursday and Saturday with a covered fruit & vegetable and fish market as well.

Citta’ di Castello is just 15 minutes from Villa Bastiola making it a perfect trip for a morning out, taking in the market and enjoying a coffee in on one of the bars on the central square or head in later for an aperitivo followed by a meal in one of the excellent restaurants.

Voted “most comfortable beds in Italy”!

Just reading back through the guest book for Villa Bastiola, I was delighted by a comment from guests saying that the beds at the villa are the “most comfortable in Italy”!  Writing the website, a lot of time goes into making sure that the correct keywords are there for google to pick up like “Villa”, “to rent”, “Umbria”, “pool” etc but all the lovely things about the villa don’t get mentioned as search engines aren’t too interested in fluffy Egyptian cotton towels, pure cotton bed sheets, silk bedspreads, Busatti linens, very comfortable beds, opening the shutters to the amazing views in the morning, coffee on the sun terrace, prosecco by the pool watching the sunset, the buzz of bees on the lavender, swallowtail butterflies flitting from flower to flower and lizards basking in the sun…

Lavender at Villa Bastiola
Lavender at Villa Bastiola
Butterfly at Villa Bastiola
Butterfly at Villa Bastiola
Bedroom in Apartment Ulivo
Bedroom in Apartment Ulivo

 

 

 

 

 

There are all of these things at Villa Bastiola but sometimes we forget to mention them as we take them for granted.  The apartments have been furnished to the highest standards, the kitchens have ample crockery, cutlery and glassware, pots, pans and gadgets, the laundry room has a brand new Bosch washing machine, detergents are provided as are hand wash, hand cream & toilet roll in the bathrooms, washing up liquid, kitchen roll and cleaning sponges and all the basic items for cooking (salt, pepper, herbs and spices, pasta and sauces, coffee, tea, milk, juice, water, butter, bread etc).  After all, why not? We want guests to arrive at the villa and find everything they need, not have to worry about heading straight off to the shops to get in essentials or have to buy a whole load of detergent for washing when you only need to do one or two washes.

If this sounds like your kind of place, all of this is available in Apartment Quercia for just £750 per week self catering this summer including a complimentary bottle of Prosecco!  

Email info@villabastiola.com for availability and more details.

My favourite things… part 2…

Just as Umbria has gorgeous hand-painted pottery, so it has beautiful linens and none more so than the stunning range in Busatti, master linen makers since 1797. The flagship store is in Anghiari, a beautiful medieval hilltop town, just over the border in Tuscany, about 30 minutes drive from Villa Bastiola.

Busatti 22 July 2011 (5)Busatti 22 July 2011Busatti 22 July 2011 (3)

I first visited the shop in Anghiari just after I moved to Umbria in 2003 and fell in love with the both the town and the gorgeous fabrics in the store.

The owners are part of Tuscan heritage and have carried on the linen tradition since they moved to Anghiari in 1755 with descendants of Niccolò Busatti still continuing the family business. Not many businesses can date their roots back so far and still have such a niche place in the market – Busatti is truly special.

If you are lucky, you can ask to see the looms in action which are in the basement under the store in Anghiari. You can hear them working while you are above in the shop! The photos in this blog are ones that I snapped on my iPhone when I visited, not the best quality but you can see the gorgeous colours they use and know that the items sold in the shops are produced from linen being woven right there.

From table cloths, runners, napkins, tea towels, laundry bags, lavender bags to cushions, bed linen and even sofas there is so much to delight!

I usually buy a tea towel every time I visit – sounds daft I know but when we are in the middle of winter in the UK and I see the tea towel in my kitchen it brings back all those memories and the warmth of the Umbrian sun.

Stay at Villa Bastiola and take a trip to Anghiari & neighbouring Sansepolcro (with its famous painting by Piero della Francesca… but that’s another blog…).

My favourite things to do in Umbria…

I thought I would start a series of posts about the things that I loved to do when I was living at Villa Bastiola in Umbria. There’s so many it’s hard to know where to start. Just enjoying the culture, the history, the traditions, the food, the wine… It’s endless.  But maybe you didn’t know that Umbria is famous for its beautiful majolica pottery and linen industry…

ceramiche-grazia-01 While I was working at a lovely boutique hotel in Umbria, I couldn’t help noticing the beautiful pottery vases, plates and ornaments around the palazzo and I asked the owner about them. They very kindly took me on a trip down to Deruta, to the factory of Ubaldo Grazia, about 45 mins drive from Villa Bastiola so easily do-able in a day.

Deruta is the heart of the Majolica making area in Umbria and Ubaldo is the most well known of all the factories. If you are lucky enough, you can ask for a tour of the factory and workshops where you will learn to understand why this pottery is so special and the care and attention that goes into each piece. The clay is local and only the highest grade is used to form the moulds and hand-thrown shapes for the pottery. After firing and drying the pottery is transferred to the workshop where it is handpainted – beautiful, intricate designs by exceptional artists.

Once painted, the pottery is dipped in glaze and fired again – it can take up to 6 weeks from start to finish of a piece!

At the end you have a beautiful work of art that you can use and appreciate every day! I have gradually been collecting a coffee set with everything from espresso cups to cappuccino cups, sugar pot, milk jug and plates. It’s expensive but when you see how it is made you can understand why. Don’t fall for cheap, mass produced versions, only these will do!

Ubaldo and his team are charming and will take the time to show you around the factory shop afterwards. If you can’t see a piece you like, you can order it and they will ship. Or you can book another trip to Umbria to collect…

Rumour has it that a certain Mr Clooney ordered a whole dinner service for his Laglio villa from Ubaldo – I saw it with my own eyes 🙂 !!

Combine a stay at Villa Bastiola and take time to visit Deruta, it’s very special.

Infiorata at Spello – 28th & 29th May 2016

Spello is truly one of Umbria’s most lovely gems!  Nestling away on the hillside between Assisi and Spoleto, it is an enchanting hilltop town with a wealth of history.  See medieval walls, Roman archways, renaissance painting and enjoy the cafes, ice cream parlours and restaurants that this little town has to offer.

spello_infiorata

During May and June, Infiorata festivals are held in various Italian towns and are definitely a must see if you are planning to visit one of the many regions where these festivals take place.

The word “infiorata” literally means “decorated with flowers” and this is exactly how the paintings created for the occasion are made, using flower petals, earth, and sometimes even beans or wood cuttings.

Tracing its origins to the 13th century, the Infiorata flower tradition as we know it today, dates back to the seventeenth century. It seems that the first flower carpets were made on the 29th of June 1625 in the Vatican Basilica by Benedetto Drei, head-florist at the Vatican, and his son Peter, who used flower petals like mosaic’s tesserae to decorate the basilica on the day of Saints Peter and Paul’s feast, the patron saints of Rome.

The infiorata artists use flowers with various nuances of colour and their petals to create both simple and elaborate designs on the streets leading up to their churches and abbeys. After months of work on the actual design of the painting, they first sketch them on the floor in chalk and mark each line with soil or coffee grounds. Then comes the job of filling in the marvelous creations with flower petals,using individual petals the way painters use the colours on their palette: broom for yellow, goat’s rue for blue, carnation for red, and wild fennel for green, etc. Some tapestries also use entire flowers and other greenery, making for more three-dimensional scenes.

Spello’s Infiorata began in the 1930’s and takes place every year in the small Umbrian town on the day of the Corpus Domini feast, on the ninth Sunday after Easter. On that night, almost a thousand people work strenuously to create carpets and pictures made of flowers along the narrow town’s streets. The floral creations cover streets throughout the historical centre in preparation to the passage of the Blessed Sacrament carried in procession by the bishop on Sunday morning. As techniques evolved over time, what was once a long uninterrupted carpet of flowers, characterized by a relatively simple design, became more sophisticated sets of bigger compositions. What is so special about Spello’s Infiorata, is that the artists compose their splendid carpets using flowers collected in the wild. While the use of other parts of the plants, like leaves and berries is allowed, the preference is given to the use of petals only, either fresh or dried. The use of wood and any kind of synthetic material is severely prohibited. The gathering and processing of these natural materials starts several months before their actual use, which means that the festival requires a year long effort in order to take full advantage of the variety of seasonal floral species the Umbria’s countryside offers.

Stay for a week in Apartment Quercia at Villa Bastiola and take a trip to Spello to enjoy this unique festival!

Calendimaggio in Assisi 4 – 7 May 2016

So many reasons to visit Umbria…

The stunning celebrations in Assisi at the beginning of May called Calendimaggio is just one!  Combine a stay at Villa Bastiola with a visit to Assisi (45 minutes drive away) and enjoy this fantastic festival.

Calendimaggio

The origins of the Assisi festival of Calendimaggio go back to Roman times with the celebrations known as the “Fasti di Maggio” and to the medieval tradition of celebrating the arrival of Spring in early May (Kalende di Maggio or Kalenda Maia in the mediaeval latin lyrics) with groups of revelers serenading through the streets of the town.  Over the centuries, gradually an historical element came into the celebrations based on the long-standing rivalry between the “Upper” and the “Lower” parts of Assisi. This can be traced back to the protracted and bloody feuds for supremacy between the Nepis and the Fiumi families who were the leaders of the two warring factions. The feuding began in the 14 C and continued unchecked for over 200 years. So deep were the divisions that towards the middle of the 16 C, the Papal Governor, Giovanni Andrea Cruciani, was obliged to re-organise the town into three districts to keep the factions apart.

Calendimaggio opens with the ceremonial handing over of the Keys of the City to the Master of the Field by the mayor, which confers supreme authority on the Master for the duration of the celebrations. Each side has its own beautiful candidates for Festival Queen and the winner is decided during a contest of medieval games. The champion obtains the privilege of proclaiming his lady to be “Madonna Primavera”. In her honour, the flag-wavers then display their skills and the Minstrels sing Troubadour songs.

After the challenge and acceptance have been read out in the Piazza del Comune, the “Magnificent Parte de Sotto” and the “Right Noble Parte de Sopra” both groups retire to their own neighbourhoods and costumed figures parade through the narrow streets and the squares to the sound of lutes and serenades, illuminated by flaming torches during the evening processon. During the processions, the progress of the nobles alternates with the passage of gangs commoners, along with jesters, minstrels and singers, trumpeting and drumming. The “encounters” between the opposing sides take place in the Piazza del Comune in a spectacle of colour and banners. On the final evening the choirs of the sides compete before the spectators and the judges who award “Palio” to the winning choir.

Don’t miss this spectacular event which is part of Umbria’s cultural heritage.

To book Villa Bastiola, email info@villabastiola.com

Festa dei Ceri – Gubbio, 15 May 2016

More things to experience in Umbria…

Umbria is so culturally rich in tradition that there is always a celebration or re-enactment taking place somewhere.  This time it’s the race of the giant wooden candlesticks in Gubbio in May!!!  Sounds crazy (indeed Gubbio boasts of its “fontana dei matti” – fountain of the madmen – it’s possible to get a certificate!!) but the Gubbians take this race deadly seriously.

Combine a trip to Gubbio with a stay at the beautiful Villa Bastiola and enjoy the best that Umbria has to offer!

festa-dei-ceri

The origins of this feast dates back centuries like so many celebrations in Umbria. Some scholars trace it back to pagan ceremonies in honor of the goddess Ceres. Still others speculate on 1154, celebrations after the victory of Gubbio against 11 allied cities. But the most likely idea is to celebrate Ubaldo Badassini, Bishop of Gubbio in the twelfth century, and the city’s Patron Saint, Saint Ubaldo.

St. Ubaldo, beloved by the people, died May 16th of 1160, and all the citizens made a pilgrimage with lit candles. Since then a procession takes place every year on the Eve of his death,  on May 15th, with the offering of votive candles by the Guilds of Arts and Crafts. It is written in the Statum Eugubii of 1338, that the members of the the richest guilds, the Muratori (Masons), Merciai (Haberdashers) and Vetturari (“Taxi Drivers”), “went Iubilantes et gaudentes with three Cereos Magnos of wood, covered with wax”.

The Cereos Magnos of Wood, the Ceri, are the highlight of todays festivities. That is the Corsa dei Ceri, one of the wildest, craziest events in Italy! A minor detail: it is uphill.

The Ceri are three tall, heavy wooden candlesticks topped respectively wtih statues of St. Ubaldo (the patron of the Muratori), St. George (protector of Merciai) and St. Anthony Abbot (Asinari and protector of peasants, students today also). Each weighs about 300/400 kg! The Ceri are fixed on “H” stretchers which the ceraioli (10 for each “manicchia” or shaft) carry on their shoulders running through the streets of the city to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo, on the summit of Mount Ingino behind Gubbio.

Every 70 meters (maximum distance traveled by a man, both for his physical safety than for that of the Cero) there is a “muta”, a relay with a change of carriers.

Celebrations start at 11:45 in Piazza Grande. When the bell in the Palazzo dei Consoli tolls, the Ceri are raised (“Alzata dei Ceri”). The team leader (Capodieci) jumps up on his Cero, fixes it firmly to the stretcher and crowns it with the statue of the saint.

Later, the race begins – the Corsa dei Ceri – over 4km through the narrow streets and ups and downs of Gubbio. The Ceri have to run at maximum possible speed. When they arrive in Piazza Grande they have to circle the Piazza three times and often the Ceri can topple over! It is a mad rush, but it is not a race, as Sant’Ubaldo must always lead and get into the Basilica first with the doors closing behind.

To book Villa Bastiola, please email info@villabastiola.com

Special offer! Umbrian villa with pool for just £1500 per week in August!

Book the gorgeous Villa Bastiola with pool in Umbria for up to 8 guests for just £1500 for the week of 6th – 13th August 2016!!

villa_rental_pool_umbria_05

Villa Bastiola is a private villa with infinity pool in Umbria, perfect for 2 families or 2 groups of friends to share.

Divided into two luxury self catering apartments, the Villa offers the perfect way to holiday together while having space to be independent as well.

Both apartments have two double bedrooms, shower rooms or family bathroom, large living room and fully fitted and well-equipped kitchens with fridge/freezer, oven & hob & dishwasher.

With free wi-fi internet, sky TV, well stocked book libraries, DVDs and videos, there is plenty of indoor entertainment.  Outside the extensive gardens have a stunning infinity pool with mini-bar below, sun terrace with stone BBQ, gazebo, play area for children including playhouse, sandpit, play kitchen, swing set and paddling pool and there’s an olive grove too!

Book before 31 January to take advantage of this amazing offer!

Email info@villabastiola.com to enquire or book.