As the owners of Bella Italia, a successful Italian gourmet and ceramics store in Bethesda, Maryland, Suzy and Bill Menard found themselves spending plenty of time in Deruta, Umbria‘s ceramics capital, sourcing imports for their store. In time it made sense to look for an Umbrian villa to use as for both their own frequent visits and as the centerpiece for the travel services they hoped to add to their store’s offerings.
They settled on Fattoria del Gelso, a former agriturismo on 90 acres in the town of Cannara, just a few minutes from Assisi. For the Menards, its location and size were key selling points. While the fattoria is part of a small farm (growing the famous Cannara onions, which are protected by the Slow Food organization), it is also within walking distance of the charming town center. Plus it is perfectly situated for an easy and quick drive to a number of towns including Perugia, Spello, Bevagna and more.
On the first floor of Fattoria del Gelso, there’s a large main living and dining room as well as a commercial kitchen, laundry facilities and a TV room. With eight bedrooms, this villa can easily accommodate 16 people, but the layout works well to give everyone privacy. Most of the bedrooms are upstairs via an outdoor staircase. This means that wine drinking and merriment can take place in the living room long into the night without disturbing anyone’s sleep.
While Fattoria del Gelso offers an ideal location and warm and welcoming décor (the Deruta ceramics throughout the house and around the pool are particularly lovely), even better, it comes with a network of wonderful people, starting with its vivacious owners. For Suzy and Bill, introducing people to the wonders of Umbria isn’t a business, it truly is a passion. Through their vast network of Umbrian contacts, they can help their guests arrange every aspect of their visit from vineyard visits to restaurant reservations to private guides.
There’s always someone available to call 24 hours a day and if guests would like meals prepared at the villa, for an additional fee, their incredible cook Teresa can whip up Umbrian meals not to be forgotten (in fact, guests should partake in at least one of Teresa’s meals).
Those who want a truly unforgettable Umbrian experience should join one of Suzy and Bill’s small group tours which are based at Fattoria del Gelso. Their Umbria Jazz and Umbria Food and Wine tours are well-priced, packed with authentic regional experiences and lead by two of the most gracious hosts to be found in Umbria.
Fattoria del Gelso
Cannara (10 minutes from Assisi, 20 minutes from Perugia)
Rates: 2,500 to 4,000 euros per week, depending on the season.
Features: Eight bedrooms, six full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, screened windows, swimming pool, bicycles, washing machine, satellite television, desktop computer for guest use, free Wi-Fi.