Tenuta di Murlo review: tranquility in the Umbrian hills
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life in this sedate corner of Italy
When it comes to Italian holiday destinations, Umbria may not have the big-name appeal of the Amalfi coast or Florence - but for a visitor, this is something to be thankful for. The peacefulness and authenticity of the region is still there and it has managed to keep its rustic charm, while adapting to cater to the needs of visiting holidaymakers - and nowhere is this more perfectly encapsulated than on the Tenuta di Murlo estate.
We landed at Perugia San Francesco d’Assisi airport, which you can reach on a direct flight from Stansted in a little over two hours. The airport, which doesn’t amount to much more than a short runway and a small terminal that would probably fit multiple times inside a single Heathrow terminal, is an apt indication of how peaceful our stay is going to be - and it’s only a half hour drive away from Tenuta di Murlo.
Set over the sprawling hills about half an hour north of Umbria’s biggest town, Perugia, guests at Tenuta di Murlo can choose from one of seven villas, apartments, cottages or a deluxe room, all made from original farm houses that have been standing for centuries and lovingly refurbished by the current owners.
Each of the villas has a feeling and identity all its own. In fact, many of the regulars have a favourite they stay in every year, so if you do fall in love with a certain villa it might be worth booking it out at least a year in advance. While the vibe of each villa varies, the level of luxury and home comfort is consistent throughout, with marble bathrooms, super soft beds and excellent A/C - the latter vital in the hotter months when it can sneak up to near 40 °C.
I was lucky enough to be staying in the latest villa to be refurbished, Villa Penna. With four bedrooms spread out between the main house and a second building just the other side of the courtyard, it comes with a modern kitchen, sitting room, three outdoor dining areas, a large garden and a swimming pool. And not just any pool - an infinity pool that looks out directly over the tumbling hills and valleys of the Umbrian countryside. You can lounge in there and not see another person for miles.
If you can drag yourself away from this aquatic treat, there is plenty to discover just on the estate itself, which is home to olive groves, vineyards, a working farm and a hiking trail that will take you up to the highest point, offering possibly the best view in all of Umbria.
But if you’re looking for something a little less strenuous - and we were on this occasion, as the temperature crept up to 37 °C - you can take a stroll down to the lake, where you will find picnic benches, sun loungers, a jetty and a little rowing boat, perfect for a hot lazy afternoon and a spot of wild swimming to cool off.
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For more travel features - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on what really matters - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues for £6–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
After a long day outdoors, you will doubtless be ready to turn your attention to the other thing that Umbria is famous for: its food. And while that can probably be said for most of Italy, landlocked Umbria can lay claim to a few delicacies that they do better than anyone else. Not the best place for veggies and vegans, their meats are otherworldly - try the porchetta; salty roast pork packed with fennel and herbs, usually served between two hunks of focaccia and paired with a local Umbrian wine.
While the villas have fantastic kitchens, there is also a top quality restaurant on the estate, Il Caldaro. Located at the foot of the hill, tables are spread out on a lawn so you can dine under the stars on home-made pasta you won’t find on a supermarket shelves.
If you prefer to stay closer to home, several of the villas also come with a wood-fired oven so you can enjoy your own fresh pizzas by the pool. And if that sounds like too much work, the estate can arrange for a private chef to drop by your villa and whip up some magic in the kitchen.
Once you’re done exploring the estate you can take a trip into Perugia, the capital city of Umbria, whose old cobbled streets are a half-hour drive from Tenuta di Murlo. This historic city is home to some cultural gems, particularly for fans of Renaissance art and architecture.
One of my highlights was stepping into the cathedral of San Lorenzo, a cavernous space covered floor to ceiling in frescos and intricate architecture. As you step out of the side door, you are greeted by the sight of the Fontana Maggiore, a grand circular fountain which has stood in the town square since the late 1200s.
For something a little more modern, Eurochocolate draws up to a million visitors every year, coming to sample Baci, the chocolatey hazelnut treat that is intrinsically linked with the city.
After taking in all the culture that Perugia had to offer us, there was really only one thing left to do: find a quiet bar with a view and order an Aperol Spritz. Punto di Vista is by far the best choice here, perched on the edge of the cliff that holds up Perugia - just be careful not to miss it as all you can see from the road is an unassuming gate.
Once you’ve had your fill of culture and Aperol, you can arrange for a car from the hotel to come and pick you up and whisk you back to the estate.
If you want to explore further afield, Rome is only two hours by car, and a similar drive will also get you to either coast for a quick day trip.
But, of course, that is assuming that you manage to make it out of the estate - and with all it has to offer, it can be hard to imagine wanting to leave.
Stays at Villa Penna start from 8,000 Euros (approx. £7,080) per week including seven nights’ accommodation. To book, visit murlo.com