Give Your Queen a ‘Sparkling’ Gift this Valentine’s Day
Italy may be famous for “La Dolce Vita,” but many agree it’s also the Land of Amore. Italians are passionate about everything, whether it’s opera, art, literature, fashion, food, wine or politics. The French may think they have written the book on romance, but the Italians will tell you, they wrote the songs of love. The Italians even make zipping through the streets of Rome on a Vespa romantic!
Wherever you travel in Italy, you’re bound to fall in love with the countryside. Umbria is the perfect example of what you picture in your mind the Italian countryside to look like. Located north of Rome, it is Italy’s only landlocked region, surrounded by rolling green hills. It’s a place to fall in love with, and a place for falling in love! One of our favorite modern-day love stories is that of Castello delle Regine, located in the “Valley of Queens,” a region dotted with ancient country castles owned by Italy’s noble families.
Owners Livia Colantonio and Paolo Nodari met during Umbria’s Spoleto Festival of the Arts, where Livia worked in marketing. Paolo, a lawyer from Milan, noticed her from a distance and asked an artist client for an introduction. Love blossomed. In the late 1980s, Livia and Paolo, purchased an abandoned centuries-old estate in southern Umbria. Formerly owned by an Italian noble family, the property had fallen into disrepair.
“We decided to fix up the estate which dates to the 1500s,” says Livia. “As we cleared bushes we found vineyards that were still alive, including Merlot and Sangiovese Grosso. A winemaker friend convinced us to fix up the vineyards and plant new vines.”
Today, Castello delle Regine is comprised of 1,200 acres. This includes the manor house, 200 acres of vineyards, olive groves, grazing pastures for locally raised Chianina cows, pigs, and sheep, and woodlands where the owners forage for truffles. And then there are the expansive cellars which hold Castello delle Regine’s world-class wines: Velvety reds made from estate-grown Sangiovese Grosso, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, and a smaller selection of whites from the local Grechetto and Trebbiano, as well as Chardonnay, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
Stepping onto Castello delle Regine’s grounds, you will most likely be welcomed with a glass of its elegant sparkling dry rosé. While Umbria is better known for its lush reds, this delightful spumante is a rare treat in Umbria, but it is now available in the U.S!
They say the quickest way to the heart is through the stomach and here you’ll have a feast for the eyes and heart. An enthusiastic cook, Livia entertains frequently in the family’s expansive dining room and plans menus at the estate’s on-site Podernovo Restaurant. A Valentine’s Day celebration usually starts with Castello delle Regine spumante rosé paired with salmon tartare and fresh ginger, cheese soufflé with black truffles or a warm shrimp tart, followed by a primi piatti of house-made pasta. Main courses usually feature Chianina beef and dishes sprinkled with foraged black truffles. And what would Valentine’s dinner be without a decadent dessert? Your last delicious bites will most likely be of a warm chocolate soufflé and artisanal cheese.
If you’re looking to fall in love with a view, a place, or a person, it’s all here. A romantic retreat for those passionate about nature, good wine and food, Castello delle Regine has four well-appointed small country houses for visitors to stay in and experience love, Italian style, in the heart of Umbria. www.castellodelleregine.it