Umbria, Italy: Country House Montali
This is a post I know most of you guys have been eagerly waiting for due to the tons of emails and comments I’ve received about the pictures I posted on instagram during my stay at Country House Montali 2 weeks ago. In the past few days, I’ve thought about a dozen different ways of how I should start this post to make sure you get a perfect image of what I experienced but all my ideas lead to one direction. The “Eat Pray Love” direction. When I first started posting photos of this entire trip, I was bombarded with texts from friends telling me that I was “living the dream” and following the “Eat Pray Love steps”. I’ve read the book and loved it but I honestly didn’t feel a connection or paid to much attention to my friend’s comments and would simply reply with a “LOL” or “Haha. Yeah.”. I didn’t stop for a second to analyze the trip I was taking. I was just flowing and trying to breathe in every second as it came but that all changed when I received the email from Country House Montali’s owner, Alberto, inviting me to stay at their eco hotel in Perugia for 2 nights. From the minute I hopped in to my train at the Milano Centrale station to the yellow fields and mountains I admired from the train’s window, to my 40-min stop at Terontola-Cortona, to Alberto himself picking me up from Perugia’s train station to our 20-minute long conversation all the way up through nature to the hotel… MAGIC! Out of a movie or a book. Moments we sadly don’t get to experience too often in the US because we are all just too wrapped up in our careers, climbing up the latter, making money or buying a new pair of stilettos. We are so focused on chasing the “American Dream” we tend to forget there is much more to life than we think. So yes, this is the part of my 13-day trip through Europe where I started to feel like I was a character in a beautiful self-discovery movie!
Alberto picked me up from the station in his hybrid white Lexus and we flew through the streets, roads and mountains of Perugia as if we had an armed gang chasing us!! Mind you, this is the way all Italians drive. Very common and it was incredible exciting to drive at such speed talking about how he built this 25 acre hotel in 1987 and how he met his wife who has his same vision, while driving through green fields and brick houses with gardens covered with olive trees. When we arrived at Country House MontaliI couldn’t help but smile. Nonstop. What my eyes were seeing was a totally different image from my 4 days in Milan and its crowded streets, buildings and noise. Reaching Montali felt as if someone had opened the windows to heaven. From up there, all you see is olive trees (tons of them), mountains covered in green grass, huge old trees, cherry blossoms, and blue sunny skies. My room was small but perfect! Wood ceilings, wood and stone walls, wood closet, wood doors. To make it even more paradisiac, my room had a little balcony that looked over hundreds of olive trees and all the way down onto the lake. The only noise I heard throughout my 3-day stay was the combination of birds singing, Leo -the dog- barking, the cats roaming around my balcony and asking for cuddles, and the cool freeze shaking the leaves of every tree. A beautiful and indescribable symphony! Nature in its purest form and exactly what I had been looking for all along.
After I settled in my room, Alberto and his wife – Chef Malu- invited me to have lunch with them and the family. A few steps down a rocky path later I was sitting in a circle in the hotel’s solarium drinking white wine and eating the most delicious pasta with homemade pesto. The people sitting next to me were Alberto, Chef Malu and the entire staff! 11 kindhearted, talented, humble and full of life souls welcoming me to their family for the next few days and making me feel completely at home! This is they way they have lunch everyday. They take a 30-60 minute break to enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal, talk about life, their experiences, their families back home, and any other crazy stories they have to share. In the meantime, most hotel guests (except for me) were wondering the roads of Umbria and visiting every little town and monument around there. Even though the hotel was empty during those hours, this was the part I liked most because I got to connect with the staff. The family. Things most tourists tend to overlook when they are traveling around the world. We are all so focused on waking up early and rushing to each historical place, we forget to take into consideration the faces that make every trip even more interesting. The faces that give you stories worth sharing. For example, Montali’s staff has Barbara who is Italian but lived in India so she speaks perfect English with a Hindu accent and has dozens of spiritual anecdotes to share (she told me some incredible ones that increased my wanderlust hunger to visit India even more); Denise who is from Brazil and is as sweet as a peach smiling and giggling 24/7; Oscar who is the youngest of the group in his early 20’s and came from Mexico (felt nice to have someone who I could speak in Spanish to); lovely Judit, Laura and Zultan from Hungary; Marco, Alexandra, and of course Alberto, Chef Malu and their son Damiano. A wonderful combination of nationalities, languages and experiences. Memories no map or tour guide will ever give you! After lunch I walked around the property taking pictures and enjoying the fresh air. Dinner was served around 8/8.30pm so I had plenty of time to relax and get to know Country House Montali. The pictures say it all, don’t you think? You’ll be amazed with the colors, architecture (Chef Malu’s creation since she studied Architecture too) and Mother Nature taking over every inch of the 25-acre property.
Dinner was something I was not expecting at all. Every dish of the 4-meal course was pure art and exquisiteness! I had to open my mind here a little bit though. According to my fun conversations with the staff, the hotel serves vegan options mostly during summer and vegetarian during the rest of the seasons; which means every wonderful dish I tried was vegetarian containing either milk or cheese. For the first time in almost 5 years, I decided to make an exception. From emails I’ve received, I know there are many vegetarians who read this blog, therefore, this is dedicated to you guys! I want to share this one of a kind hotel with you and every meat-lover out there willing to open his/her mind and try something new and delightful. This is exactly what Chef Malu and Alberto had in mind when they built this 9-room ecofriendly hotel from scratch. To open the eyes of its guests to a world of countless delicious possibilities all using vegetables, passion and nature as the main ingredients. Dish by dish they are changing people’s perspectives of what “vegetarian” means, tastes or looks like. They are redefining the vegetarian cuisine in a country where it is very hard to find tasty and healthy vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Country House Montali is honestly a green haven and definitely something worth trying and writing about. Before I end this post directing you guys to the dozens of pictures I took, these are some tiny details you might enjoy:
-For all my workaholics, bloggers, writers or social media addicts that need Wi-Fi 24/7: Italy has the worst Wi-Fi EVER but, surprisingly, Country House Montali has better Wi-Fi than the US! I had strong reception and connection in my room, the garden, the pool, the restaurant... Everywhere!
-Every dish is prepared with herbs and fruits from the garden.
-They make their own jams and olive oil.
-The hotel is kid-friendly but you need to let them know in advance so they prepare baby/kid meals.
-Chef Malu and Alberto have been cooking vegetarian since the 1970s.
-High season: June-Sept
-Rate: approx. 120€ per person per night. This includes breakfast and dinner.
-Chef Malu and Alberto have their own cookbooks. You can buy them at the hotel too.