The Farmhouse is a beautiful vacation rental with four bedrooms in Umbria, set among tranquil olives, grapes and rolling barley fields. It has a very modern feel and aesthetic to it.
How would you describe Torre di Moravola in a nutshell?
Torre di Moravola is a small luxury boutique hotel in a remote and beautifully restored watchtower with grand views overlooking the rolling hills of Umbria, Italy. It's an incredibly dramatic place. Although we’re only 10 mins from the nearest village called Montone, which is picturesque and stunning, we’re off the beaten track.
You really have the sense that you’re in the middle of nowhere. You’re surrounded by hidden valleys, so you can’t hear the sounds of cars and there’s no one around, so you feel as if you’re back in Medieval times with only the sounds of nature. It reawakens the senses and offers a healing effect. I’ve seen it change some of our guests in a matter of days. They come from big cities very irate and angry, and within about three days, they’re quite happy, coming into the kitchen making cocktails and singing opera.
What was your inspiration to buy this tower and turn it into a small boutique hotel?
Christopher and I both had enough of working for other people. I remember we saw a Destination Architecture article about turning an old building into something that was very contemporary. We thought the idea was beautiful.
We began looking in Tuscany, which we didn’t like — it was far too British and too commercialized. We stumbled upon Perugia, drove around and saw literally hundreds of buildings.
We chose the tower because of the views and its history. There’s something incredibly dramatic about the place. We knew within five mins that it was the place.
We didn’t realize how much work it would take to clean it up however. We were rather naïve about that. It was a ruin with trees growing out of the center. There was no water or gas or electricity. Nothing. It took us five years to restore the building.
How would you describe the style of the hotel?
We couldn’t change the size of the windows or do anything that was going to interfere with the outside, except the terraces and the pool, so we created a minimal but comfortable interior, which contrasted against the style of the tower. The most important thing to us was maintaining the stonemanship. We wanted the stones to speak for themselves so the signatures of the builders from the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries are still there. It’s a winning combination that works very well.
Please tell us a bit about the food you serve at the hotel restaurant.
Our food here at Torre di Moravola follows the localvore philosophy. We have a huge vegetable garden and our meat is all organic. The menus are reinterpreted Italian and Umbrian dishes, but the quality is extremely high.
At the end of October and in November we have truffle season around here and people come from all over — Japan, Australia, America — to experience the festivities.
Why did you decide to move to Italy?
We had both lived in Italy before, so we had a little knowledge of the language and a love for the people. Here, not so much in the big cities like Milano and Roma, the Italian way of life is very basic. It’s wonderful.
What exactly is so different here in Umbria from other places?
There’s still a sense of humanism that is lacking in many other parts of the world. There’s a caring quality here.
There’s more awareness and people are more in touch with nature. They are also far more in touch with the cycles of the seasons. In January every year, the church gives out a calendar of when to plant your broccoli and other vegetables. This kind of thing is woven into their culture. They have a respect for nature, and in turn believe that nature will respect them. That’s the basis of it.
For example there’s nothing more beautiful here, than stepping onto the terrace and watching the fireflies come out and twinkle everywhere. It’s absolutely magical. It reminds you you’re alive in nature.
To you personally, what has been most rewarding about running this small retreat.
When we finished building, we had no money whatsoever. The first night, we put the electric lights on in the tower and the whole place lit up. It was about 6:00 or 7:00 on a winter’s night. A tiny village nearby rang the church bells to say that they could see our tower. To me, that just made my heart burst with pride. It was absolutely amazing to see that after all these centuries, the place had come alive again.
And now to see people laughing, music playing, people around having great fun in this Medieval tower is worth all the hard work.