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Moravola, Umbria, Italy

This 1000-year-old watchtower has been converted into a seven-room hotel, bringing barefoot luxury to the Umbrian wilderness.

This is destination architecture at its finest. The designer-architect owners have transformed an ancient, crumbling watchtower into a sleek and sophisticated design hotel with a flawless ‘medieval-modern’ aesthetic. It’s a worthy design pilgrimage.

Who stays here? 

Wealthy families rent the whole villa, while couples seeking privacy and casual service in a high-end setting book a handful of nights, perhaps as part of a larger tour of central Italy. Design pilgrims check in to admire the architecture.

Rooms 

Each of the seven bedrooms is a suite, designed as an individual tower with a floating steel staircase rising from a seating area to the bedroom above. Low-slung bed frames are custom built and made up with luxury bed linen from Zucchi Collection. Rooms are decorated in a minimalist style with materials taking the lead. Exposed stone, curved concrete walls imprinted with woodgrain and marmorino plaster surfaces, whose muted colours were inspired by the paintings of Piero della Francesca, characterise each space. There’s a fridge with still and sparkling water and guests may request snacks and drinks from the kitchen.

Bathrooms have sunken stone bathtubs, rainfall shower heads and toiletries from sustainable German brand ‘Please Turn off the Water while Using Me’.

Food and drink

Owner Christopher Chong serves dishes inspired by Italy’s slow-food movement, using vegetables from the kitchen garden and locally sourced ingredients to create delicate dishes that are quite different to Umbria’s traditional, heavy fare. I enjoyed tempura courgette flower and sage leaves; garden beetroot salad with pecorino; fish risotto with squid ink; and a panacotta with winter berries. Dining is for overnight guests only, and is served either on the terrace or in the dining room by the fire.

Breakfast is served at the table and includes freshly squeezed juice, granola, natural yoghurt, freshly baked bread, local conserves and seasonal fruit. À la carte cooked options include baked eggs.

Design details

Christopher Chong is a former Norman Foster associate architect and his wife, Seonaid Mackenzie, is a designer, and so their skilful and inspired renovation is quite breathtaking. An inner structure has been built within the ancient outer walls of the tower, housing seven bedroom suites around a central staircase. The result is sleek and surprisingly eco-friendly as the old stone walls are insulating and the central staircase helps air circulation. Interior design is pared back and furniture is largely bespoke, allowing the surrounding architecture and the views beyond to sing.

An infinity pool and chic pool pavilion occupy the highest spot on the property, affording breathtaking views of the tower and surrounding valley. Spa treatment rooms, a bathroom, towels and water fridge have been constructed under the pool.

Service 

Seonaid and Christopher are excellent hosts, making guests feel more like friends staying in their beautiful home than like a customer. There’s no reception desk or bar; instead no space is out of bounds and guests may help themselves to water from the fridge in the kitchen or pull up a barstool while a member of staff shakes a cocktail. Staying here is more like a serviced villa rental.

Packing list

Silk kaftans for floating barefoot around the pool, house and gardens.

Getting there

At 450 metres above sea level, the breathtaking views from Moravola have been the same for centuries. Although it feels completely isolated in the middle of nowhere, it’s just a 20-minute drive from the busy E45 and a 10-minute drive to the medieval town of Montone.

Localita Moravola, Zona Corlo, 06014 Montone, Italy
moravola.com
From £250
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