Real Holidays’ Matt Fisher and Rob Milverton have just returned from a road trip to Central Italy, traversing the rolling green hills from Ancona to Pisa, and reaffirming why this region should be on your wish list.
We asked them for their highlights…
1.Why should I visit Central Italy?
MF: There are so many reasons. History and culture are the obvious draw, but with spectacular views, medieval hilltop towns, outstanding food and wine and some wonderful places to stay, you have all the ingredients of a perfect holiday. And if you crave outdoor life then there’s hiking, mountain biking, truffle hunting and rafting too. There really is something for everyone.
2. Most memorable experience?
MF: Enjoying a late afternoon swim in the hilltop pool at Casali in Val di Chio. Total peace and serenity with views over the Tuscan hills as the sun set behind the medieval town of Castiglion di Fiorentino.
RM: Going for a morning run through the undulating olive groves at Borgo della Marmotta, a newly discovered collection of stylish rooms and apartments in southern Umbria. I did manage to get slightly lost in a farmer’s field, which certainly made a change from pounding the flat streets of Stockport and getting slightly lost in Burnage!
3. What surprised you?
MF: The dramatic landscapes in eastern Umbria - particularly from Norcia and the Sibillini Mountains. This is where you will experience the difference between Umbria and Tuscany. Head here even in the height of summer and you’ll feel like you’ve escaped from the crowds. There’s excellent walking and cycling and the food served at Palazzo Seneca is outstanding. For a complete Central Italy experience I would opt to combine a stay here with a few nights at Borgo Pignano to sample the best that both Tuscany and Umbria can offer.
4. Favourite new hotel you discovered?
RM: My favourite new finding was Conti di San Bonifacio – a wine resort with fantastic views in the heart of Tuscany’s Maremma region. They’re just as focused on hospitality as they are on the food and wine, which is a real rarity. There are vespa tours and gelato making sessions, plus you can even make your own wine and have it shipped back to you.
5. Best meal you had?
MF: It’s too hard to choose a meal but my favourite dish would have to be the burrata (buffalo milk cheese) with perfectly seasoned fresh tomatoes, served as antipasti at Borgo Pignano. Deliciously moreish.
RM: Steak tagliata at Da Muzzicone, a fabulous little restaurant in the main square of Castiglion di Fiorentino. Very traditionally Italian and great wine too.
6. Top family holiday recommendation?
MF: Borgo Pignano certainly ticks all the boxes but for exceptional value I would recommend Agriturismo Sant’Illuminato. This collection of apartments, run by the hospitable Marco Silenzi, is perfect for families looking for a base to explore Northern Umbria and eastern Tuscany. What really adds to its appeal is the cosy onsite restaurant, serving delicious home cooked meals so that you don’t really need to think about cooking!
RM: Definitely Casali in Val di Chio, a collection of well-appointed self-catering apartments and villas in a spectacular setting.There’s lots of space for the kids to run around and easy access to quaint Tuscan hilltop towns like Cortona and Arezzo. I liked it so much that I’m heading back there with the rest of the family this summer.
7. Favourite view?
MF: Either from the Vineyard Suites at Conti di San Bonifacio or gazing across to the walled town of Volterra from the terrace at Borgo Pignano.
RM: The views of the surrounding wooded hills from the terrace at Le Silve di Armenzano were wonderful, with Mount Subasio in the distance tempting you to pull on those hiking shoes.
8. What would be your perfect Central Italy road trip?
RM: Fly to Ancona, on the Le Marche’s Adriatic coast, then head inland to the beautiful village of Monterado. It’s a great place to spend first couple of days, with the undiscovered university city of Urbino just over the border in Umbria the undoubted highlight. Then spend a few days in northern Umbria at Locanda Gallo, which is well placed for visiting Gubbio, Perugia and Assisi. After a stop in southeast Umbria, finish up with a relaxing stay close to the Tuscan coast at Locanda Rossa.
9. Any final advice?
MF: Trust your sense of direction over the sat nav - quite often the latter will send you up an unmade track that should only be attempted by rally drivers or farmers! Take fewer stops and base yourself somewhere – it’s the best way to unearth hidden gems such as Teatro della Concordia, one of the smallest theatres in the world located in the fortified town of Monte Castello di Vibio, in southern Umbria.
Call 0207 359 3938 or contact us to start planning your own Central Italy adventure.