Was it the plump gnocchi in Parma
or the stinco in Bevagna? Maybe it was Palladio in
Vicenza and Giotto in Padova. For sure it could have been
the glorious stone architecture of Spello spilling down
the southern slope of Mount Subasio. Or perhaps it was
waking up high on a hill overlooking the old city of
Spoleto surrounded by mountains, forests and gardens, all
of which were dressed in a blanket of fresh fallen snow.
These are just a few memories that
will confirm that our decision to swap frigid, snowy
Toronto for the more mild weather of Italy for the third
year in a row was wise indeed. The daytime temperatures
ranged from approximately 4C to 13C as we moved from near
Venezia to Roma. We had a bit of rain and a touch of snow
about 7 of the 28 days, none of which prevented us from
moving about easily.
Although there were a few more
tourists around than in the past two years it was
relatively tourist free, a substantial benefit along with
lower seasonal rates at hotels and, for shoppers, the
"saldi" (sale) signs in the store windows.
Our motto when traveling is "relax
and enjoy". To this end we planned our 28 day
itinerary to be train-friendly. The interactive maps on
the Rail Europe site were very helpful. Once done, we
ordered rail passes from Rail Europe which ensured total comfort and flexibility.
We were using Air Canada Aeroplan
points and consequently had to fly Toronto/Frankfurt/Venezia.
It was Air Canada to Germany and Lufthansa to Italy. The
cheese Danish served by Lufthansa was a better meal than
the dinner and breakfast on Air Canada, which managed to
serve several items in a frozen state.
Our first stop. The Villa Luppis is located in Rivarotta di Pasiano on the
border between the provinces of Pordenone and Treviso, a
40-45 minute drive north from Venezia. If you are not
driving there is a private (optional) daily shuttle to
and from Piazzale Roma in Venezia and, upon request, to
and from Marco Polo airport.
The history of the
12-acre property dates back to the 11th century when the
San Martino Ripae Ruptae Monastery was built here by the
Camaldolite monks. After several interventions and
reconstruction it became the elegant country estate of
the Chiozza Luppis family. Luckily for us the last family
ancestors transformed it into a hotel in 1991.
We entered the estate through two
handsome stone pillars and were immediately enthralled by
the gardens, shrubs, trees and fountains. The welcoming
ancient portico leading to the entrance hall exudes the
splendor, charm and graciousness of times past and sets
The transformation from private
mansion to a 39 room hotel was accomplished while
maintaining the integrity of the old design and
environment. We were warmly welcomed at the splendid 17th
century reception desk and offered beverages to be
enjoyed in the comfort of the lounge/bar, tastefully-decorated
and furnished with quality period pieces. The wood-beamed
ceiling, area rugs and carefully-placed seating
arrangements create a comfortable and friendly atmosphere
for conversing over a drink or snack or just relaxing in
solitude, if thats your preference. There is piano
corner where guests are encouraged to display their
We were joined by our host Stefania
Luppis who made it perfectly clear that she, her husband
Giorgio and the staff were committed to our well-being.
They are rightly very proud of their creation and
encouraged us to take a tour at our leisure, which we did
after settling-in and having lunch.
Our third floor suite overlooked
much of the garden and the afternoon sun poured in
through the large windows. The original, high, slanted
wood-beamed ceiling and tile floors combined with the
tasteful period furnishings created a feeling of romantic
tranquility. Our sitting room furnishings included a
couch, two comfy chairs, coffee table and a desk and
chair. The headboard of the king bed was upholstered in a
lovely fabric that matched the bedspread, drapes and
upholstered pieces. Best of all was a firm mattress and
plump pillows for our first two nights sleep. The
good size bathroom had a pretty pedestal sink, large tub/shower
and a heated towel rack with towels of all sizes of thick
terry cloth, as were the bathrobes and slippers. There
was a nice variety of quality soaps and amenities.
We found our way to the dining room
and were enraptured the moment we entered. The high wood
ceiling, decorated walls, and ancient terrazzo floors are
beautifully complemented by the period furnishings, art
objects and table settings. Large windows opened to the
garden and a grand old fireplace graced the far wall.
This was a room for enjoying old world hospitality and,
as we were to discover, cuisine inspired by tradition and
executed with creativity. Welcome to Italy!
We had a simple lunch of local
hams, salamis, cheeses with assorted greens and tomato.
The olive oil and balsamic we drizzled to taste were
delicious enhancements. Dinner tonight and tomorrow were
not to be quite so "basic" - stay tuned.
The Villa Luppis staff is as
committed to enriching their guests stay as are the
owners and, Glenda, the afternoon receptionist, proved
this point. After lunch she made herself available to
take us on the Grand Tour.
All the accommodations are on the 2nd
and 3rd floors. Each suite or room has a distinctive
personality while maintaining the old world flavor and
charm. There are 6 suites, 5 junior suites, 26 doubles
and 2 singles. Whether it is the Pink Suite, the Blue
Junior, one of the Loft suites or a spacious double you
will be very comfortable.
There is a large, attractive room
off the reception area which is ideal for conferences and
parties, equipped with the required technology, and let
us not forget the indispensable shoe shine machine on the
Adjacent to the dining room is a
cute, cozy bar that is open before, during and after
meals where you can enjoy an appetizer with your favorite
cocktail or even a dance in the adjoining piano bar.
Just behind the bar is a splendid
breakfast room surrounded by glass and views of a lovely
fountain, garden and park. The excellent buffet breakfast
of fresh fruit, crusty rolls, fine meats and cheeses,
yummy pastry, cappuccino, etc. is a perfect way to start
At the far end of the building is the old
chapel of the villa, the ceiling of which is decorated
with portraits of the family ancestors and legendary
scenes. The chapel is available for weddings and
The 12-acre park surrounding the
villa is a haven for relaxation and/or an opportunity for
physical activity. There are walking paths amongst the
greenery which lead past the large attractive swimming
pool and tennis court. There is a gymnasium and
refreshment area near the pool, in a clearing amidst the
trees, which is a delightful spot for eating and drinking
in the warmer seasons.
The restaurant is well known for
its extensive wine list from not only the region but all
of Italy and the world. On the property is the original
thirteenth century ice cellar in which this extensive
collection is stored. The cellar is round and deep with
shelves, stairwells and platforms built to easily store
and access the bottles. The whites are kept below the
reds where the temperature is lower.
We had bright sunny days so it was
invigorating to stroll through the park and the
It was late afternoon when we
finished the tour and settled in the lounge for a welcome
Prosecco. The villa offers a laptop computer which Linda
used to catch up on emails while I took advantage of the
marvelous selection of magazines that were scattered
around the tables.
Note that Villa Luppis, at the
border between Friuli and Veneto, will gladly organize
excursions to both regions and cooking classes, special
dinner/dance and dinner/wine-tasting evenings plus wine-tasting
at a local winery can be arranged.
We were now going to experience the
first of two exquisite dinners. The dining room staff was
thoroughly professional and knowledgeable and the service
was unrushed. We were delighted with their guidance and
caring attention. The preparations of fresh local
products were uncomplicated with masterful use of herbs
and spices. Each plate was attractively presented to
appropriately stimulate the appetite (as if we needed
The house offered Prosecco as an
aperitivo and a generous and delicious portion of smoked
salmon. We chose risottino with saffron stigmas in a
gurnard ragout and black noodles with small squids,
tomato confit and zucchini as our first course. Both were
Since we wanted to try the local
white wine the Sommelier suggested Bastianica Vespa 2002,
medium bodied with full, fresh flavor which we quite
Relax and savor the flavor, the
mains were something to enjoy! Sea bass fillets were
cooked in three styles. One was marinated and served on
basmati rice, another was boiled and presented on a bed
of vegetables and the third was baked and placed upon
escalloped potatoes and olives. This was one of my most
memorable mains of the trip. Linda raved about her
rosemary red deer served with vegetable gnocchetti. The
tender deer medallions reposed upon a delicate mushroom
and wine sauce and the small gnocchi were delectable.
After a comfortable interlude, we
were offered passion fruit sorbet with wild blueberries
to clear the pallet.
This was our first meal of the trip
so it was necessary to indulge in dolce. We shared two
wondrous presentations of pyramids, spun sugar baskets
and webs, and small, graceful glasses offering tortino di
cioccolato al cuore morbido con creme caramel and
semifreddo al caffe con vellutata alla vaniglia e
mascarapone con sorbetto alla pesca bianca. Awesome,
After a comforting, deep sleep we
had a late breakfast and, believe it or not, skipped
lunch. Today we chose to do lots of guilt-walking. We
arrived at the dining room at 20:00, properly famished.
Tonight we would not have dessert
but would instead have an appetizer course. Chef Franco
had prepared a house-offering of radicchio tempura that
was amazing, but did not deter us from our plan. Linda
had rabbit tempura, plump succulent pieces in a crispy
light batter with fried onion rings and large stemmed
capers on a bed of leafy lettuce. My tuna tartare was
served with rye wafers and black olive pate with capers
and lettuce. Superb.
As a special treat this evening, an
entertainer was at the piano softly singing classic jazz
tunes while we dined.
We chose two excellent pasta
renditions as our first course: Tagliatelle with
artichoke and gamberi sauced in olive oil, butter and
tomato and Bigoli with a pork ragu. Home made noodles
cooked perfectly with fresh quality products. What more
could we want?
The music was nice, the wine
delicious and we were in a heavenly holiday mood as we
awaited our mains. Linda had scampi devil style and I
saddle of lamb with baked potato and finely chopped
Tonights wine selection was a
Friuli Pinot Grigio 2003 from Volpi Pasini, light and dry.
Villa Luppis was exactly what we
had hoped for to begin our 28 days in Italy. We were well
rested, very well fed and cared for and ready to roll!
Vicenza | Padova
Parma | Lucca | Firenze
Lucignano | Spello
Bevagna | Spoleto | Roma
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