La Palazzetta del Vescovo

Fratta Todina, Umbria, Italy Book from

An 18th-century retreat built for the bishops of Todi, now an outstandingly welcoming dimora di charme with panoramic views of the Tevere Valley
As the car slips through the electric gates, I can see Stefano waiting in the drive; the dog runs out to greet us and we step inside (cool terracotta floors, sink-into sofas, hand-painted tiles). Paola emerges from the kitchen. Would we like tea, coffee, a glass of wine? I would like to say this is just like visiting friends, but how many of us have friends with infinity pools in immaculate Mediterranean gardens, or views that leave you breathless?

Paola and Stefano Zocchi spent 2 years restoring the ruined “little palace” they bought in 2004. Built in 1763 as a summer residence for the bishops of nearby Todi, it is now a handsome stone villa with olive green shutters at the windows, a wraparound loggia and 9 luxurious rooms. The interiors are traditional and beautifully furnished. Outside, there is a shaded terrace, lawns, olives, roses, and the Umbrian landscape – the Tevere Valley, Perugia, Todi – is stretched out before you. It makes you feel on top of the world, in more ways than one.

Highs

  • Warm, hospitable perfectionists, Paola and Stefano are wonderful hosts
  • Mesmerising views from the infinity pool
  • First-class hotel-standard rooms in a place that feels like home
  • Leisurely breakfasts and superb dinners and wines
  • Non-alchoholic drinks (mineral water, espresso, tea etc) are included in the room price
  • History and culture are literally on the doorstep – the 16th-century Palazzo Altieri is just down the road; the medieval Convent of Santa Maria della Spineta is right next door

Lows

  • The intimate atmosphere won't suit everyone
  • It's no place for for night-lifers or thrill seekers – the nearest (small) town is 4km away
  • Transfers and guided tours are on offer, but you will need to hire a car if you want to be independent

Best time to go

The secluded hill-top location (and efficient air-conditioning) make it a good choice for high season, but avoid July-August if you don’t like the heat, or don’t want to share your medieval towns with multitudes of tourists. If you do come in mid July, don't miss the superb jazz festival in Perugia. Spring, early summer and autumn are the best times to visit, though winter can be really cosy – the rooms are heated and there will be a real fire in the lounge.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 3 Dec 2016 - 31 Mar 2017
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Wine cantina
Room: Romantic

Rooms

The Zocchis collected the furnishings first and designed the rooms around them, and that’s exactly how they look – everything (from the sumptuous beds to the armchairs and the antique armoires) fits together like a dream.

Named after old farmhouses on the original estate, there are 8 rooms in the house (4 Superior, 2 Suites, 2 Romantic) and 1 in an annex - the latter designed for guests with disabilities. All are light and spacious, decorated in warm colours (cream, red, gold, burnt umber, ochre) with rustic walnut beams, terracotta tiled floors, antique mirrors, ornate beds and handmade Montefalco linens. Some of the top-floor rooms have sloping ceilings, hand-painted with delicate friezes. The look is traditional country house but there are 21st-century touches – like wide-screen plasma TVs and energy-efficient air conditioning. All windows have shutters and insect screens.

The bathrooms are lined with marble and mosaics; the floors are terracotta (some inlaid with antique tiles from Naples) and they all have a window (in ours, we could look at our spectacular Umbrian view from under the shower).

In terms of comfort, there isn't a lot to choose between the different room types, but the Suites (Vescovo and Rota) are the largest. One is furnished with a wrought-iron four poster draped in floaty white muslim, and both have generous sitting areas and kingsize bathrooms (double sinks, bath tubs and walk-in showers). The Romantics (Poggio, Torricella) have arched ceilings and large wet-room showers. The special-needs room (Spineta) has a private entrance and terrace.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Cooking is Paola’s passion, and both she and Stefano are enthusiastic hosts, keen to share their love of Umbrian cuisine and regional wines. Their speciality is a delicious home-cooked 4-course dinner offering 2 choices per course (ordered in advance) and served in the dining room (a cosy space with restaurant-style tables and a living-room atmosphere) or outside on the terrace.

The menu, which changes every day, is modern-traditional and driven by the availability of seasonal produce. Paola's philosophy is to only use ingredients sourced locally by farmers, and all meat and vegetables are organic. A typical dinner might start with lentil flan with shrimps or grilled aubergine served with mozzarella and parmigiano cheeses, basil and fresh tomato sauce. A pasta dish usually follows – pappardelle al cinghiale (wild boar), or tagliatelle with Norcia truffle. Main dishes might include fillet of beef cooked in red wine, or rolled turkey filled with chestnut and truffles. For dessert? Strawberry bavarese with vanilla cream, or pan di spezie with vinsanto and pear.

Breakfast is continental (cereals, fruit, pastries, yoghurt, cooked eggs to order) and is served (until 10am) in the dining room or on the terrace. You can have breakfast in your room at extra cost.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Admire the view as you swim in the gorgeous infinity pool

  • Explore the region’s historic towns: Todi (a walled hilltown, 18km); Bevagna (a relatively undiscovered medieval town, 40km); Perugia (for Renaissance art, 40km) and Assisi (for Franciscan monks and medieval churches, 50km). The hotel can arrange private tours with multi-lingual guides

  • Try the local wines (Umbria’s full-bodied Sagrantino reds, or Orvieto’s crisp whites). Lunch and wine tastings can be arranged either on a tour of the region’s vineyards or at the Palazetta’s own cantina

  • Visit a local olive oil mill (best in November, after the olive harvest)

  • Tour the Perugina Chocolate Factory - home to the famous Perugina Baci candy

  • Learn to cook, Umbrian-style with Paola the chef (minimum 4 people)

  • Pottery and ceramics lessons can be arranged with the master craftsmen of the Deruta workshops; one 2-hour lesson is offered free to all i-escape guests in one of the smaller ateliers owned by a friend of Stefano and Paula's, and if you want more you can enroll at the Deruta Ceramics School which teaches simple pottery, ceramic decoration, enamelling, lustre and more

  • Italian language courses are also on offer nearby, as is some of Europe's best fly-fishing - ask the team for more info

  • Reception can arrange horse riding, tennis, off-road car tours, hiking, golfing (in Perugia) or a moutain-biking expedition

  • Retail therapy: visit Montefalco for fine linens, Perugia for cashmere, Norcia for cheeses and charcuterie or Deruta for ceramics

  • With its quiet roads and hilly terrain, the area is great for serious cycling. Stefano (a keen cyclist – both pedal and motor) will point you in the right direction

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Language courses
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis

Kids

Though children are welcome, this is not an ideal place for them - especially for toddlers (think fragile antiques, shattered peace and sticky fingers on expensive fabrics). For older offspring, all rooms can be converted into twins, and some rooms interconnect to provide a family suite. A babysitting service is also available. Bookings are limited to just one couple with children per night

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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Rooms
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Food
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Service
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Value
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