Recently I checked out a new spot in Umbria called Eremito http://www.eremito.com/. Looking at the website it was a bit hard to exactly know the hotel’s niche, as the prose was, well, conceptual: “This is where Eremito, in its ‘laity’ wants to let the guest rediscover a luxury which comes from days gone, the almost forgotten luxury of being able to relax without being disturbed by artificial lights, the ringing of phones and much more.”
No matter. It was enough for me that the retreat is owned by Marcello Murzilli who just happens to have built and opened one of my very favorite hotels in Mexico, Hotelito Desconocido http://www.hotelito.com/. (Fittingly he has a fascinating back story–made his fortune in fashion with an Italian label called El Charro, sold the brand, sailed around the world for two years looking for a place to build a hotel, found Hotelito on the West Coast of Mexico, built it from scratch, and then sold it recently to come back to Italy to be near his children and grandkids).
We left our car in a valley below, near the town of Parrano, and Marcello picked us up in a jeep for the trip up the stone path that he had hacked himself out of the thick forest, even driving through a shallow creek before turning up the steep hillside. The spot is indeed remote like a monastery. Set on top of a mountain, the stone building faced a series of receding valleys, lined with unbroken forest that could be plucked from Bhutan. The building was painstakingly restored by hand over four years, with local stone and wood carried up from the valley floor.
We were shown to our single rooms (all the better for quiet self reflection, Marcello promised, though sleeping with my three year old made it more like self-reflection through the eyes of a toddler) through long beautiful corridors lined with small religious icons. His version of a monastic cell came with buttery sheets and a hot shower.
There was no cell service, no wifi.
At night the place was lit entirely by candlelight. We had our aperitivo by a fire pit on the terrace with only stars overhead. We bathed in the blue-lit heated pool under a heavy stone roof. Meals were vegetarian and organic, with vegetables grown right in the orchard outside. I ran in the valley alongside a river while my three year old had a riding lesson at La Casella, a great stable below the hotel.
Marcello’s vision of Umbria as a new spiritual retreat seems entirely plausible, albeit one designed by a person who doesn’t let the hermetic life trump design.