We stayed at the Castello di Monterone, about 3 kms out of Perugia, which one could see on the skyline. As far as I can gather this is an original medieval castle, that has now been converted into a very comfortable boutique hotel. They only have around 15 rooms, each being different as they clearly have to fit within the architecture of the old castle. Our room was very small, but had a nice view towards Perugia - but there was no sitting area in the room.

The Public Rooms are very inviting - basically a bar and a sitting room, both have log fires, and the staff do light them without having to be asked. The only problem is that there are not many seats (only two or three) in front of the fire - anyone else has to take a back row seat!

The restaurant is "odd". The decor does not quite come off. If you are staying in the hotel, then you are going to eat in the hotel - my view is that it is too far from anywhere else to make eating out at nigh a viable proposition. Dinner though is very reasonably priced.

Breakfast was our only real problem here. The staff seemed to be unsupervised. The buffet was run down and not replaced 30 minutes before closing time. In fact little was replaced during service. Coffee was bad. Breakfast staff were not too friendly

The hotel is too far from Perugia for you to walk there. It was about a 6 km drive to the recommended car park for the town. Having said that, Perugia was well worth a visit.

The restaurant is sort of semi detached to the hotel. It is in the old cellars/stables and reached by a 20 metre walk from the main building. I was left with the impression that the hotel is abandoning its restaurant. There are very fancy plates that restaurants use when trying for Michelin stars, but the food no longer is in that league. However it is moderately priced, which helps if you are staying in the hotel, and finding another restaurant in the area is not possible.

The service is a bit lackadaisical, and the waiters don't really seem to have their hearts in their job. It is all a bit odd , as the hotel is done to a high standard, and is aiming at the top of the market.

If I were returning to Perugia, then I would research alternative hotels, but may well end up staying here again.

Castello di Monterone

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Castiglione del Lago

Castiglione del Lago has evolved on what used to be an island - the fourth island of Lake Trasimeno, in its south west region. Over the centuries, as the town grew, the flat gap between the island and the shore was filled with piazzas, houses, churches and other buildings.

The Fortress of the Lion, the pentagonal-shaped castle, was completed in 1247 AD by the monk-architect Elia from Cortona. The castle features square towers in four of its corners and a triangular shaped bastion in the other. The castle was designed to give its owners strategic control over all of Lake Trasimeno. The castle has withstood a number of sieges over the subsequent centuries.

The Palazzo della Corgna, which serves as the Town Hall, was built by Ascanio della Corgna in Renaissance style, designed by the architect Vignola. It is now a civic museum and gallery. The palazzo has by a long, covered corridor connecting to the castle. On the main floor, late Renaissance era frescoes were painted by the Pescaro-born artist Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi and the Florentine artist Salvio Savini.

The only other building of particular note is the finely stucco-ed Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, done on a Greek-cross plan. The church has a neo-classical pronaos and, inside, a panel painted in 1580 by Eusebio da San Giorgio.

We had a (heavy) lunch at L'Acquario Restaurant here. We enjoyed the ambiance here - it was mainly local families, with no foreigners other than us.The service was helpful and friendly. I thought that the food let it down - they seem to have gone for quantity rather than quality. We entered for lunch about 1.15 and it was quite empty, but by 2.00 every table was taken. We asked for the service to be slowed down a bit as we needed a pause between courses. If you order the pasta course, then you won't need the anti pasta. At the end of the meal, they offered a glass of a plum (I think it was) liqueur, that they make themselves, which was very good. Overall our meal was more expensive than I thought the price merited . But we did enjoy the experience. If I were in the town again, I would probably eat here, but order less.

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The prevailing character of Cortona’s architecture is medieval with steep narrow streets situated on a hillside at an elevation of 600 metres that embraces a view of the whole of the Valdichiana. From the Piazza Garibaldi there is a fine prospect of Lake Trasimeno, scene of Hannibal's ambush of the Roman army in 217 BC (Battle of Lake Trasimeno). Parts of the Etruscan city wall can still be seen today as the basis of the present wall. The main street, via Nazionale, is the only street in the town with no gradient.

Cortona is probably best known as the venue for Under the Tuscan Sun. The New York Times writes about the book

Frances Mayes, the author of the memoir “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which recounts her experience restoring an abandoned villa called Bramasole in the Tuscan countryside. The book, published in 1996, spent more than two and a half years on the Times best-seller list and, in 2003, inspired a hot mess of a film adaptation starring Diane Lane. In the intervening years, Mayes has continued to put out Tuscan-themed books at a remarkable rate—“Bella Tuscany," "Bringing Tuscany Home," "Every Day in Tuscany," "The Tuscan Sun Cookbook"—as well as her own line of Tuscan wines, olive oils, and even furniture. In so doing, she has managed to turn a region of Italy into a shorthand for a certain kind of bourgeois luxury and good taste. A savvy M.B.A. student should do a case study.

Certainly today there are more English speaking tourists, and shops, than in most parts of Tuscany and Umbria.

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The historical centre of Gubbio has a decidedly medieval aspect: the town is austere in appearance because of the dark grey stone, narrow streets, and Gothic architecture. Many houses in central Gubbio date to the 14th and 15th centuries, and were originally the dwellings of wealthy merchants. They often have a second door fronting on the street, usually just a few inches from the main entrance. This secondary entrance is narrower, and a foot or so above the actual street level. But there is no agreement as to the purpose of the secondary doors.

We had coffee and cake on the main square. The cafe had been featured in an Italian TV soap, which starred a (well known Italian) actor called Terrence Hill in the part of a priest Don Matteo.

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Despite its proximity to the epicenter of the 2016 earthquakes, Perugia suffered no significant damage. The 14th-century University of Perugia is one of the oldest universities in Italy. And for the most part it remains untouristy and authentic.

Cathedral of San Lorenzo. This has an unusual layout for Italian churches in that the side rather than the front entrance faces the main square. There have been many churches on the site: this one was last worked on around 1490. But finished it was not, as can be clearly seen from the unfinished facade facing the square. This side includes the Loggia di Braccio, an early Renaissance structure. Under it a section of Roman wall and the basement of the old bell tower can be seen. Also found here is the 1264 Pietra della Giustizia ("Justice Stone") with which Perugia announced that it had repaid its public debt, a not inconsiderable feat. Also noteworthy is the external pulpit from which Saint Bernardine of Siena, a virulently anti-homosexual priest, would preach.

Palazzo dei Priori (Town Hall), (Opposite the side of the cathedral, with its main entrance on Corso Vannucci). This is a large building in Italian Gothic style built in the early 1300s. On the side facing the piazza are a griffin, the emblem of Perugia, a 14th century bronze lion, and some chains, from where the keys of Siena were displayed after victory over the Sienese in 1358. Inside is the impressive meeting room, the Sala dei Notari. On the second floor is the Municipal Library. The building also houses the National Gallery of Umbria

Just walking around. There is a great variety of streetscapes as you wander round the city. You can stroll along a Roman aqueduct that connects two of the city's hills. You can walk along the Via delle Volta della Pace, which follows the Etruscan city wall, but is now wholly arched over by a Gothic portico. You can stumble along cobbled streets that have the unique combination of slopes interrupted by small steps that only Italians seem to master. The wide, traffic-free Corso Vannucci, named after the painter known as Il Perugino, is what really makes Perugia. You can loll with the students from the International University on the steps of the Cathedral at one end or amble down the Corso from those steps to sit on a bench at the other end and look over Umbria's hills as the sun sets.

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On to Orvieto

Italy 2008