A more authentic and satisfying Italian experience awaits you in the slow lane.
By leaving Italy’s frantic traffic and vacation itineraries of 10 cities in 10 days behind, you are joining the growing Slow Travel movement.
As travel writer and editor Nike Gardner says in a 2009 manifesto published in Hidden Europe magazine, slow travel “ … reshapes our relationship with places, encouraging and allowing us to engage intimately with communities through which we travel … It is about having the courage not to go the way of the crowd.”
Several small hotels in Italy, France and other European destinations now cater to slow travellers. One excellent example is Slow Life Umbria, located 20 minutes from Perugia in central Italy.
The inn’s owner, Bruno Acuri, left his job managing a large downtown hotel in Milan in 2009 to transform the 17th Century farmhouse into a small luxury hotel with wife Carol, a Canadian originally from Ottawa.
With a warm intensity Acuri will tell you: “My vision for Slow Life Umbria is to provide a beautiful place where our guests can slow down and savour authentic experiences of local place, people, food, art, history and nature. We help each visitor find immersive experiences, undistracted by their reality at home.”
Recently we had the opportunity to stay at the inn. I arrived a little frazzled by my drive on the Italian freeway and immediately appreciated the beautiful views.
The 10-hectare property is bordered by olive groves and woodlands above and by alfalfa fields in the valley below. We felt we had entered an oasis of tranquillity.
The next morning I asked Bruno what types of experiences he could recommend for us.
“It’s different for each guest and to some extent depends of the time of year,” he replied. “Well, what do you like to do? Most guests stay with us for at least three days so that they can get the feel of this area.
“Some guests stay near the property for their complete stay, doing yoga or hiking to a nearby village or going horseback riding in the morning, reading by the pool in the afternoon and enjoying the local cuisine offered in our restaurant.”
Acuri continued: “Others are drawn to explore the many hill towns that are near us. I help them discover towns, galleries and restaurants not frequented by most tourists.”
Cooking is a common theme among inns that cater to slow travellers and Bruno added that “many of our guests also enjoy cooking with us, gathering local ingredients at the local market with our help, learning to prepare meals with a local chef and learning a little Italian at the same time.”
Suddenly Bruno’s eyes opened wide. He had a slow travel suggestion for me: “There are lots of wild fungi to pick right now … porcini, chanterelles and other types. I have a friend who knows about several places in the forest where you can find them. If you like I can call him.”
Later that afternoon my wife and I returned with a large basket of mushrooms and with the help of another of Bruno’s other friends, a local chef; we prepared a delicious meal that included Tagliatelle con Fungi.
That evening while we enjoyed our meal and wine from a local vineyard we also savoured memories of the day. We were living in the moment, in the slow-travel mode.