Future perfect in ancient Italy

Room Service: Torre di Moravola, Moravola Alta, Montone, Umbria, Italy

It takes quite a lot of gumption to see a ruined 10th-century watchtower on a hillside in Umbria, far from such things as water, electricity, gas, and broadband, and imagine it as a very, very smart boutique hotel. But this is what architect Christopher Chong, and designer Seonaid Mackenzie, have done. The result is – literally – breathtaking.

Yes, because it's beautiful: a very classy mix of weathered stone, steel and glass, at the top of a hill, surrounded by a landscape that makes you gasp. But it's breathtaking because the road that takes you there is so steep, and windy, and close to some very long drops. I can promise that, once you get there, you won't want to leave, and not just because of the road.

You might, it's true, feel a little bit shabby in a setting that really is very chic. You might feel that you'd love to have one of the massages on offer, but that they are, at €120 an hour, a little bit beyond your price range. Yet if you sit on the terrace, gazing out at the hills and the sky, or by the pool, which is set on the highest point of the ridge, and appears to be suspended among the olive trees, you really won't want to do much else.


Torre di Moravola is on a mountain ridge that runs down the centre of Italy, overlooking the Carpini valley. It's a 10-minute drive from the picturesque walled village of Montone, and a 15-minute drive from Umbertide. There are so many pretty towns around, full of lovely medieval architecture, that you can get quite blasé. Citta di Castello is worth a visit, and Arezzo (just over the border in Tuscany) is worth a day. Gubbio (a 20-minute drive away) ought to be world famous as a stunningly well-preserved medieval town. And Perugia, about half-an-hour south, already is.

There's almost no limit to the art and beauty on your doorstep, or to the (nearly always delicious) Italian food. But if you stay at Torre di Moravola, you should allow time just to gaze at the mountains, and drink in the peace.


The interior is an artful mix of ancient stone, old beams and contemporary designer chic. It was designed, apparently, to feel like an old street in Perugia, with light in the public spaces, internal windows with shutters on, and rooms which "interact with each other". The result isn't always cosy, but it's always smart. The two enormous sitting rooms, where you can chat, when it's cold, by a massive fire, have giant sofas and a tasteful selection of artefacts and books. The dining room, which leads out to the terrace and the kitchen, feels a bit like a super smart dungeon with very nice furniture and a chandelier.

The bathrooms in the "suites" are like very smart dungeons, too. Ours didn't have a sunken bath (most do) but it did have a rusted iron staircase going up to the bedroom, which was like a work of art in itself. It was all very minimalist, and all very sleek. It took me a while to work out exactly how to open the concealed cupboards in the bathroom and bedroom, and to find the concealed fridge. But the colours – mint green, grey, brown – were soothing, and so was the view from the tiny balcony, which looked out over the herb garden and beyond to the hills.

Torre di Moravola isn't a conventional hotel. There's no reception and sometimes there don't seem to be any members of staff around at all. No one, for example, explained to us that there's an honesty bar (which would have been very handy), and some aspects of the service seemed quite casual, such as the absence of cups, glasses and bottled water in our room. The toiletries (shower gel and soap in dispensers, plus a few sachets of sun cream and shampoo) were a bit disappointing for a hotel in this price range.The meals, which are made from fresh, local ingredients, and often vegetables from the garden, are pricey, but, if the breakfast's anything to go by (freshly squeezed juice, cereals, home-made bread, fruit and a choice of delicious cooked options), very good. But the place itself is glorious, and Seonaid Mackenzie and Christopher Chong clearly run it as a labour of love.

They don't seem like hotel managers, perhaps because, by background, they're not. But they do put themselves out for their guests, offering advice and information about the area, booking restaurants, and even sometimes offering lifts. You probably won't feel as if you're staying in a very smart hotel. But you might well feel like guests in a beautiful home.

Travel essentials

Torre di Moravola, Moravola Alta, Montone, Umbria, Italy (00 39 075 946 0965; bookings via welcomebeyond.com)

Rooms ****

Value ***

Service ***

Double rooms start at €230 including breakfast.

Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor