Agritourismo Santa Maria – I recently had the good fortune to spend nearly a week at this working farm and tourist facility in the rolling hills of Umbria just north of Rome. It’s the perfect place for a large group – say an extended family ranging from 30 to 50 people – to relax, get reacquainted, and to soak up the sun and sweeping vistas. There are private rooms with bath, suites with private baths, common rooms, and kitchens, and larger kitchens and meeting rooms for the whole group. There’s a wood-fired bread oven and pizza oven, a huge fireplace in the Sala, the communal meeting room overlooking the pool house. There are fig trees, pomegranate trees, olive trees, blackberries, great swaths of rosemary.
We used the magnificent covered pavilion for all our meals. Watching the sun and clouds move across ruin-topped hills and olive groves, dining in candle light under a full moon with gentle breezes, our fill of local wine – those experiences were only part of the magic of the place. The real magic was all of those people being together with no other pressing business except being there, having a good time, reconnecting with people not seen for years or a few days, all of it weaving together a sense of connectedness encompassing generosity of spirit, welcoming hospitality, interest, and acceptance. We became a whole greater than its parts.
That transformation was aided and abetted by the place itself. This is a nicely designed collection of buildings. No surprise since the owner, Rosaria, is an architect. Thoughtful details and placement are everywhere, a pot of flowers here, an unexpected window there, a tiny chapel built around a rock outcropping, a door to the outside just where you’d hope to find one. It has nooks and crannies that encourage exploration as well as solitary reading or writing.
It’s also a good starting point for day trips to Orvieto (both above and below ground), Bagnoregio, Assisi, to Deruta for ceramics, and to the small walled medieval town, Rotecastello, just a couple miles walk past fields of sunflowers that’s worth a visit if only to experience its vastly different sense of scale. Drive into nearby San Venanzo or Marsciano for groceries or to find a Bancomat. Buy fresh-picked melons and tomatoes from a farmer along the serpentine road into the valley.
My heartfelt thanks to those who arranged this reunion, to those present who made the experience such a treat, to those with us in spirit or who were unable to make it in person, and to Santa Maria for being the perfect setting.