Cuisine and charm at Carmine, Umbria

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Nestled at the foot of Monte Tezio, central Italy, the newly renovated Chiesa del Carmine, a luxurious eight-bedroomed farmhouse, is available for hire. Carmine looks out across the glorious Italian countryside, where the tranquility and the serenity of this area, is beyond compare. Being only a two-  hour flight from Stansted Airport, the journey is hassle free with the nearest airport being Perugia, which is only 25 minutes away from the estate.

What makes a stay at Carmine so outstanding is finding unparalled luxury in such a rural surrounding, complete with magnificent grounds including a vineyard, olive grove and large, heated and gated swimming pool area.

The accommodation itself comprises two buildings – an ancient 13th century church, juxtaposed to a magnificent eight-bedroom 18th century farmhouse. The entirety of the two buildings and the surrounding estate has been sympathetically restored and brought to life using local artisans. The architect responsible, Irma de Arrascaeta, has ensured that the highest standards of design have been met. Fixtures, fittings and décor have been chosen with the utmost attention to detail. Indeed, even the bell that has been placed on top of the original church was sourced at an antique fare; the ring tone of which was personally approved by the owner himself! Anyone lucky enough to rent this property will not be disappointed.

With Umbria being a gourmet food lover’s destination, there is an opportunity while staying at Carmine to call in a local chef, who is on-call to ensure an entertaining, lively and colourful Italian cookery session. Gianpaolo Cipiciani runs a restaurant and catering company, aptly named La Dolce Vita – the good life. He will demonstrate the art of making pasta, in addition to more intricate Italian dishes, with guests having the opportunity to participate. They can then benefit from the fruits of their labour by sitting down and enjoying a delicious al fresco dinner that they have helped to create while sitting under the stars.

The Carmine estate has just produced its first vintage and one of Umbria’s finest winemakers, located neaby in Orvieto, is responsible for producing the wine. A visit to Palazzone Vineyard enables guests to learn about the fascinating winemaking process from the owner himself, the charismatic and suave Giovanni Dubini, and to be treated to a three-course lunch while tasting some of the estates own wine.

The hill top city of Orvieto is also home to the Duomo Di Orvieto, a short drive away from Palazzone. The cathedral is considered one of the finest medieval monuments in Italy with its stunning mosaic façade, making it one of the most prominent cathedrals in Italy and a principal site in the Umbria region.  A coffee in one of the many squares and a gentle meander along the winding streets makes Orvieto the perfect place to shop for souvenirs, while soaking up some Italian atmosphere.

With truffles being such a delicacy, it is easy to see why a morning spent foraging for and afternoon spent eating truffles is so appealing. The deep, dense countryside around Montone, a walled medieval village tracing its roots back to the 10th century, is where foraging for truffles takes place. Hunting dogs are reared with the scent of truffles, having been weaned from birth with truffle oil rubbed onto their mothers’ teats. Once let loose from their leads by the truffle hunters, they frenetically search for the familiar pungent scent, usually found beneath the ground on roots of oak trees.

Once the dogs trace the scent, they start scratching and digging profusely until the hunter helps them “dig out” the truffle. White truffles, which cannot be cultivated, are far scarcer and more valuable than the black variety. A kilo of white truffles can be sold for up to €1,000, whereas the black variety fetch around €400 per kilo. You can then go to the village of Montone, where a delicious three-course truffle degustation can be enjoyed at L’Antica Osteria, located in the scenic town square and famed for its magnificent truffle infused dishes.

Chrissie Todd is the dedicated and hugely knowledgeable estate manager at Carmine. She is on-hand to arrange whatever guests may need to ensure their break spent at Carmine is unforgettable. Whether as a fully-staffed retreat or as a self-catering experience, a stay at Chiesa del Carmine is an experience all of its own.

by Amanda Bernstein