Palazzo Majo

Lugnano, Umbria, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A carefully restored old house with fabulously modern interiors and a relaxed vibe: 5 rooms for B&B or an amazing rental for 10
From the outside, this traditional stately Umbrian house looks just like its neighbours: heavy stone walls, shuttered windows, brick-arch doorframes. But inside it's awash with contemporary designer verve: glossy orange polypropylene chairs, velvet footstools, Alessi gadgets and Philippe Starck bathtubs. It's a bold juxtaposition, but one that really works - its rooms and suites are gorgeous.

Run as a hotel or house rental by friendly Scottish-Italian brothers Mario and Joe, it has a buzzy vibe, yet the palazzo's setting in a sleepy village means unwinding is easy. This is the beauty of Umbria vs Tuscany - space, peace, and the absence of tourist hordes. That said, you're only a 45-minute drive from the region's stunning and relatively unsung hilltowns - Montone, Cortona and Gubbio.

Families will love Mario's easygoing nature, sociable couples will love the big beds and double bathtubs, and all will love the big pool terrace where sunloungers cluster companionably. But we felt it would work best for a group of fun-loving friends - especially because it's ridiculously cheap to hire by the week.

Highs

    • The peaceful pool terrace, with its sweeping views of the Tiber Valley
    • A beautiful consecrated chapel in the hallway, with original frescoes and a crumbling altar
    • An excellent restaurant within walking distance - all too rare in rural Italy
    • Thoughtful touches throughout; a selection of DVDs in each room, a collection of CDs to play by the pool
    • A great house rental; heaps of space, everyone gets a fab room, and it's extremely affordable

Lows

  • It was still finding its feet when we visited, and the gardens need landscaping
  • If you were the only guests staying on a B&B basis, you may feel self-conscious
  • Although the decor aims to be minimalistic and top spec, sometimes it struck us as spartan
  • Lugnano is very quiet, and you're remote in terms of shops and other restaurants

Best time to go

Palazzo Majo is open all year round, but bizarrely prices rise in winter as the heating costs are so high. Spring, summer and autumn are all lovely; winter can be very cold, even snowy, but with a cracking central heating system, log fires and hundreds of DVDs, it could be a lovely time to come.

Our top tips

Wander around the gardens and find hidden follies, stone tables, and a 200-year old tree. When these are landscaped they will be stunning; in the meantime they make amazing hide and seek territory for kids.

Great for...

Family
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 5
  • Breakfast + self-catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Feb 2016 - 30 Apr 2016
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Board games
Room:

Rooms

Named after local towns, the rooms and suites branch off from the central hallway, and are all very swish. Regardless of which category you book, you're assured clean lines, sleek dark-wood furniture (echoing the original beams overhead), funky designer touches and gorgeous bathrooms.

We were lucky enough to stay in the largest suite, Assisi, which stretched the width of the house, with big shuttered windows overlooking both the front courtyard and Tiber valley behind the house. We loved the decor, and our double-ended Philippe Starck bath.

Montone, a suite, is lovely. You walk into a square living room and are faced with a large grey sofa, original fireplace and amazing views over Umbria. On closer inspection you find a record player and stack of old LPs, and a bathroom with a double rainshower.

Cortona is a similar size to Montone, but there's no separate living room. Cool details include a trio of marbled lights suspended from the ceiling and a very slick bathroom with a vast half-egg bath. If you want space to relax, choose Montone; if you want indulgent ablutions, Cortona's the one. Perugia's bedroom is a little spars, but its views over the valley make up for this.

Since our visit, the Siena suite has also been added - we're yet to view it, but there's a bedroom, a living room and windows gaze over both the village and the countryside.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob stove
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfasts are served in a long room next to the kitchen, with square black tables flanked by 3-legged wooden prayer chairs. Eggs cooked any which way are on offer, but we were happy just to have the cold buffet, an impressive spread in itself: croissants, baguettes, various cheeses and meats, cereals, fruits and yoghurts. You help yourself to tea, coffee and juice, too. In keeping with the Palazzo's relaxed vibe, there is no set breakfast hour, so you sleep till you wake, then trot down for breakfast. If Mario's gone out for the day, he'll leave it out for you.

For lunch and dinner, Lugnano itself has a little restaurant with an excellent reputation - L’Archibugio. Alternatively Mario has lots of restaurant suggestions, including Syrah Wine Bar in Citta di Castello, which has over 1,200 wines and a menu of Umbrian specialities.

If you're here on a self-catering basis, the kitchen is very well stocked for whipping up a feast, with an oven, microwave, 4 hobs, a great collection of pans and cooking implements, and a big fridge-freezer. There's a range of basic cooking ingredients - oils, salt and pepper etc - and Mario stocks up on fresh tomatoes, herbs and fruits for guests to help themselves to. There's a supermarket in Trestina, a 10-minute drive away. You can also request a private chef service; Mario is an excellent cook and can whip up some or all of your meals, should you want him on a live-in basis. It is a very flexible arrangement!

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob stove
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Toaster
Eating:
Activity: Gubbio

Activities

  • Drive to gorgeous Gubbio, a lesser known medieval town spilling down a forested mountainside with views over a fertile plain; highlights are the interior of the duomo, the crenellated Palazzo dei Consoli, the Museo Civico’s 7 tablets written in ancient Umbrian, the magnificent ducal palace (a scaled-down version of Urbino’s), and a funicular (or zigzagging path) to the 827m summit of Monte Ingino and the church of St Ubaldo
  • The beautiful hilltop-village of Montone is close, too; stroll through its quaint cobbled alleys, relax in open-air cafés, and visit the church and convent of San Francesco, which houses a collection of Umbrian paintings and 11th-century frescoes in its chapel
  • Citta di Castello is a Stone Age and Roman settlement with a duomo, various churches and palazzi, and a lovely Pinacoteca containing 16th-century frescoes, ceramics, period furniture and paintings by Signorelli, di Bartolo and a single Raphael
  • Cortona is a medieval hillside town with fascinating Etruscan and Renaissance art museums (Signorelli was born here), countless art-packed churches including a modest duomo, and a hilltop fortress
  • Go wine tasting in a nearby vineyard, or ask Mario to book a sommelier to come to the house and do a wine-tasting party; great for a group
  • Lie by the pool, read a book, and unwind. Shutters in the bedroom mean afternoon naps are a delight
  • A not-so-secret film buff, Mario has an extensive collection of DVDs you can borrow and watch in your room; perfect for winter stays or the weather turns

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fly fishing
  • Golf
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Shopping / markets
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Family friendly, and ideal to hire exclusively as 2 families. There's a ping-pong table and a few board games, plus kids will enjoy the pool. It's perhaps not suitable for toddlers though as there are steep steps everywhere and the pool is not fenced off.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cortona, Montone and Assisi can fit an extra bed for a child and a baby cot; Perugia can fit a baby cot only.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

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

Children's meals:

You can use the kitchen to heat up bottles/prepare kid meals, regardless of whether you have hired the place exclusively.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Palazzo Majo