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04 August 2015

Villa Eleiva in Montecchio (Umbria), Italy

When you are staying in a wooden lodge immersed in an olive orchard, how would you feel about at the outside world? You would actually forget that it exists. Because time stands still here and you will discover how it is like to live in a world of tranquility. I did for a weekend and I will tell you about it.

When our daily lives run on routine and haste (stress if I might epitomize it in one word), our mind and body make a silent shout to have a break. There are places where these things don't seem like they ever touched the ground. Not far from Rome is Villa Eleiva, a glamping (glamorous camping, but don't just think tents) place where the wooden lodges are positioned in, of all places, among the olive trees. They are close enough to the main driveway of the villa but they face the olive orchard and the edge of the town of Montecchio where you can see the steeple of the main church.

Villa Eleiva just opened to the public last June and they adopted the concept of glamping and foodhunting. Glamping is a portmanteau word that means glamorous camping. Glamping is not limited to staying in tents because there are other accommodation options like wooden lodges, tree houses, barns, igloos (oh wow!), tipis, villas, huts, eco-pods and so on. I think you already get the idea. The concept is to stay as close to nature as possible while you still get the comforts and luxuries of a hotel.

In the villa, there are 4 wooden lodges equipped with double beds and bathrooms with the sliding doors opening in front, giving you access to a small porch and a relaxing view of the olive trees.  The lodges are aptly called with the names of the principal varieties of olives grown in Umbria - Frantoio, Raio, Dolce Agogia and Moraiolo. Villa Eleiva also produces its own extra virgin olive oil and jams which you can taste during your stay there and also buy some bottles for taking home. Hint: Try their melon and mint jam paired with some of the local cheese. It's exceptional!

Foodhunting can be interpreted in so many ways. I didn't actually understand the villa's concept of it until I spoke with Chiara, one of the proprietors of Villa Eleiva. As soon as she said the first few words, I immediately liked the idea so much. Their food hunting is about getting to know the local products and produce (zero kilometer) every single day of the week during your stay in the villa. They organize daily trips to the nearby producers of goat cheese, bread and pasta, extra virgin olive oil, cured meats (like prosciutto) and truffles. You get to know the ingredients and the process involved in making them and how they end up on your tables.  

If you ask me, it would be a week that is very well spent as you start your day with the breakfasts that they prepare in their kitchen with their own harvested ingredients or from nearby producers, getting to know this part of Umbria and ending your day with a dip in the villa's pool or holding a glass of Umbrian wine as you watch the sunset and of course, dinner. A dinner spread lovingly prepared by Chiara, her husband Daniele, Daniela and her husband Massimo with most of the ingredients they handpicked from their own garden or from the nearby farmers.

Since my stay there was only for a weekend, I didn't get to do the food hunting but I did get to know something important that I took home with me to my own kitchen. That weekend, they hosted a night of show cooking of making tagliatelle by hand. Chef Alessandro of the nearby Agritourism  of La Roccia in Montecchio, armed with a big knife and rolling pin, showed us how to make the tagliatelle. You can go without a pasta maker to make your own tagliatelle at home and with the precision and ease he was doing it, he can convert you in making your own at home too. 

On some weekends they host other kinds of events like show cooking or getting to know some local producers so do check their Facebook.

To get to Villa Eleiva, you just need to travel by car for an hour and a half from Rome or take a train from Rome to Orvieto or Alviano. Alviano Staton is just about 10 minutes away from them and you can arrange with them for a pick-up. 

Villa Eleiva is in a good position that is close enough to Rome but far enough to enjoy the beauty of Umbria. Umbria is one of the Italian regions that boasts of the beauty of its landscapes of vineyards, olive & fruit orchards on hilly terrain. You can also see some ancient towns beautifully positioned on the hilltops. Some of the nearby towns that you can easily visit are Orvietto, Todi, Montecchio and Civitella del Lago (both towns are pictured below).

Just a few hundred meters from Villa Eleiva is the town of Montecchio. It originated from the Etruscan and Roman periods as evidenced by some archaeological findings in its necropolis area. It is called the City of Swallows where they have graced the locals with their presence for centuries. The houses, buildings and church of the whole town are made with the local white stone and the streets and alleys made with cobblestones. It is beautiful to just go around and get lost inside the old part of the town.

Civitella del Lago is a beautiful old town that can be reached by driving through hills of orchards. At the edge of the town you are greeted with a picturesque view of the Lake Corbara and on clear days, the view extends all the way to the top of the hills of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Italy is divided into 20 regions, all beautiful and with their own characteristics both in landscape and gastronomy. While Rome is in the region of Lazio, one of its neighboring regions is Umbria where Villa Eleiva, Montecchio is. Thus, if you are staying in Rome (or even Florence which just a bit higher to the north), it is a good place to stay and visit. While you get to know the Umbrian hospitality, you will definitely not run out of towns to visits and food and wine to try. Personally, Umbria is one of my favorite regions. When you visit it yourself, you will understand why.

More Hotels I Reviewed:

B&B Gli Artisti in Rome & The Vatican Area  
La Meridiana Hotel in Garlenda at the Italian Riviera  
Georgia on My Mind: Hotels & Sights at the Kakheti Region (Part 2) (Kakheti, Republic of Georgia)