Producing one of Umbria’s most celebrated labels, Locanda Palazzone is a mediaeval barn with a modern interior set on a wine-making farm high in the hills above Orvieto. Inside, the architecture jumps a few centuries – a glass-and-iron lift and loft-style living await among the ancient floors, mullioned windows and carved columns. The old stone building is edged with glorious grounds, planted with beds of lavender and roses.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine on arrival and free WiFi; GoldSmith members booking the Cardinale Suite for three or more nights also get a two-for-one dinner
11am. Earliest check-in, 2pm (if it's going to be later than 6pm, let the owners know in advance by calling +39 3356274944).
Double rooms from £186.50 (€206), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include a breakfast buffet which has to be booked the night before.
The hotel is closed from 6 January to 20 March, and from 21 December to 26 December.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout and CD/book library. In rooms: flatscreen TV, king-size beds, minibar, Bulgari and Sa di Sapone products.
Our favourite rooms
The Cardinale Suite’s living room has three mullioned vineyard-facing windows, with the bedroom and bathroom upstairs on a mezzanine. The Junior Suite has a small living area with a day-bed and views of the valley. If there’s more of you, go for the Family Suite – it sleeps four and has a large living space. The master bedroom looks out to the vineyards through mullioned windows; the second bedroom on the upper level overlooks Orvieto.
There's an outdoor unheated pool on a low-walled terrace overlooking the vineyards.
An Umbrian Ordnance Survey map and a taste for post-walk tipples.
Let the hotel know 24 hours before arrival if you’d like to have dinner on your first night. Please note: the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
Extra beds cost €50; cots are €20. Babysitting can be arranged with two days’ notice; the cost is €10 an hour. The restaurant can serve a children’s menu if you tell them a day earlier.
Ask to eat in the lobby – it’s cosy despite the huge, vaulted entrance, and you won’t feel like you’re in a public space at all.
Keep it simple with country casuals – let the hotel's concept build be the talking point.
The restaurant has a minimalist canteen feel and industrial lighting that’s warmed up with colourful artwork covering one of the walls. Expect Umbrian cuisine, intensely flavoured and strikingly presented by the Japanese chef, with a different menu every day. Dinner is served at 8pm, and if you plan on dining here, it's a good idea to let the concierge know, as they open on request. The restaurant is open every day except Monday, when you'll have to venture to one of the delicious local spots nearby. When the weather’s fine, breakfast is served out on the canopied terrace with views over the vineyards in the valley.
There’s an honesty bar next to the restaurant on the lower ground floor – kick your evening off here with wine-tastings and home-made nibbles before dinner. The grand room has gothic arches and a large open fire.
Help yourself to a glass from the honesty bar whenever you like.
The nearest airport is Perugia, 80km from the hotel. Ryanair (www.ryanair.co.uk) flies there from London Stansted. Taxis to the hotel should cost around €140.
Orvieto has the closest train station, 5km away. Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) provides links to major cities including Rome and Florence.
Rome is around 90 minutes away in a car. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Anyone with a helicopter will be pleased to know the hotel has space for you to land on.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel prides itself on its vineyards, an undulating jigsaw of Orvieto Classico and Cabernet grapes sprawling beneath the rocky outcrop of the city; stroll around the estate to watch the winemakers at work on-site. There are horse riding, golf and tennis opportunities within an hour of the hotel, and wonderful walking through the chestnut woods behind the property. Sailing fans can hit Lake Bolsena, around 30 minutes from Locanda Palazzone. Explore Signorelli’s famous frescoes in Orvieto’s cathedral.
For elegant but traditional cooking and a gorgeous terrace, try Trattoria Vinosus on Piazza del Duomo in Orvieto (+39 07 6334 1907). I Sette Consoli on Piazza Sant’angelo has a pretty garden for sunny lunches (+39 07 6334 3911; www.isetteconsoli.it). In Trevinano, head to La Parolina on Via Giovanni Pascoli for an extensive menu covering haute-cuisine favourites such as foie gras and white truffles (+39 07 6371 7130; www.laparolina.it).
Caffé Montanucci on Corso Cavour in Orvieto is the place to stop for a relaxing coffee and pastry on the terrace (+39 07 6334 1261). For creamy gelato, try Gelateria Pasqualetti on Piazza Duomo (+39 07 6334 1034).
Our driver seemed an affable chap when we got into his taxi outside the railway station in Orvieto, but now Simone is muttering under his breath. I sense he’s not praising the extraordinary view. ‘Palazzone no good for my car,’ he says as the taxi struggles with the rough dirt track that winds through the vineyard up to the Locanda. ‘I not come here again until they make good road.’ I shoot Mrs Smith an anxious glance. This doesn’t bode well for our three car-free days ahead.
With a not-insignificant amount of luggage, in the full-bore heat of an Umbrian afternoon, Mrs Smith and I are deposited outside the magnificent 14th-century Locanda. Smiling, we wait – and wait – for the same welcome that has apparently greeted pilgrims at this ancient site since 1300. The silence, as they say, is deafening. Unlike those mediaeval itinerants, did I not call Lodovico Dubini, Locanda Palazzone’s owner, just yesterday, to confirm the time of our arrival? This time it’s Mrs Smith’s turn to mutter as we reluctantly heave our bags up the steps. ‘Palazzone no good for my back.’
But Mrs Smith’s back pains dissolve in an instant when she meets Lodovico’s son, the handsome Nicola, clad in his Hard Rock T-shirt. With a swiftness and dexterity that belies her years Mrs Smith manoeuvres both luggage and Nicola into the central glass elevator and ascends to the first floor before you can say ‘prego’. I, on the other hand, take the massive staircase that allows my design eye to run a swift inventory over the Locanda’s cavernous, double-storey reception room. ‘Rustic modern’ is the phrase my mind selects. Twin Eames chairs (Herman Miller, 1956, whispers my inner pedant) and a majestic Castiglioni Arco lamp, which bears the elegant proportions of its 1962 vintage, not unlike Mr Smith himself.
Someone knows their mid-20th century design at Locanda Palazzone. In our suite are a pair of red Tulip chairs (Saarinen mouths Mr Pedant, silently) which, though arguably at odds with the ‘authentic 14th-century style’ mentioned in the brochure, nevertheless work dramatically in our coolly neutral split-level junior suite. All this design talk calls for a drink and Mrs Smith doesn’t disappoint. She has already found the Riedel glasses and pulled the cork on a crisp bottle of Palazzone’s own Terre Vineate, with which we toast our arrival in this magical location. Our view – across the silent vineyards to the gentle Umbrian hills and golden Orvieto’s distant duomo – is what we came for. The walls of our suite are bare of art, but as Mrs Smith poignantly remarks, our view is all the art we could possibly need, framed as it is by the twin arches of a perfectly restored mullioned window.
In our upper-level bathroom, Mrs Smith and I cluck approvingly at the Bulgari toiletries, the sleek Hansgrohe fittings and the cleverly automated Velux skylights. The Italian default setting of quality. Towels, bedding and mattress tick all the proverbial boxes too, but Mrs Smith points out with concern that there really is very little other than wine with which to refresh ourselves in the suite. She pours another glass to mask her disappointment at the lack of herbal teas.
A dip in the heavenly pool (can there be a greater pleasure than swimming invigorating laps beneath a cloudless Umbrian sky?) and a restorative nap later, we Smiths are enjoying dinner on the Locanda’s terrazza. I’m telling Mrs Smith that it was John Mortimer who coined the phrase ‘Chiantishire’. While that term is specific to the very British romance with Tuscany, I’m thinking John might have cast a wry and affectionate eye over this little corner of Umbria. Two English couples bicker in a polite sotto voce, as only English couples can, nodding their approval to the courteous waiters like the elderly spinsters in Fawlty Towers. And in their midst, Lodovico is charismatic host, sommelier and ring-master, proffering Palazzone wines. Campo del Guardiano for the lasagne con mozzarella di bufala e fiori di zucca, robust Piviere for the arrosto di manzo and sweet Muffa Nobilis for the soufflé al limone con frutti di bosco. Mrs Smith doesn’t know the Italian for ‘bring it on’ but the gesture for ‘fill my glass’ is universal. Dinner, by the way, is dangerously good. Molto, molto buono.
Before bed, we notice that Orvieto, just 4km distant, is ringed with lights. The illuminated façade of the Duomo hangs gently above the rooftops. Tomorrow, I suggest to Mrs Smith, we should breakfast early and walk into town. We will climb the steep hill and enter Orvieto’s mediaeval walls at the Porta Maggiore. We will visit the famous cathedral and lunch at Il Gigli d’Oro and we will seek out the life-size figurines of Betty Boop at Il Gioco. Simply because we can. We will sample more Umbrian wines at Il Vincaffe and shop for gifts at L’Emporio delle Arti. And if Simone doesn’t want to drive us back to Locanda Palazzone, we’ll walk back too, past Rocca Ripesena and across the vineyards.
Or, suggests Mrs Smith, we could just stay here and look at our view. Orvieto can wait another day. Mrs Smith has a point.