Today I write about my land, Umbria, a region that the "sea" holds within it. Green horizons of breathtaking beauty, boundless and intact, where looks and thoughts are lost.
There are places that have a strong identity, linked to spaces, forms and traditions that are repeated over the centuries.
Here, there is a lively and pulsating reality that has managed to maintain, preserve and enhance a corner of paradise: Castello delle Regine.
Located along the route of the Grand Tour of Southern Umbria, whose soft rolling hills show human activities to be cultivated, harvested and processed over time. The olive trees, many planted five centuries ago, the vineyards, some fifty years old, the Chianina breeding, the vegetable gardens, the woods and the pastures contribute to creating a timeless yet contemporary atmosphere in the mosaic of the many activities carried out.
At the end of the 80s Paolo Nodari, a famous Milanese lawyer of Mantuan origins, arrived by chance and friendship, in the land of Umbria, between Amelia and Narni, in the green heart of Italy. It all began with the purchase of several hectares of woods and olive trees and old Sangiovese Grosso and Merlot vines. Those lands were then joined by others, up to the current extension of about 400 hectares, of which 200 are woodland, 75 are vineyards and 30 are planted with olive trees. Today the farm diversifies with a wine cellar, Chianina and Cinta Senese, an agritourist activity, a restaurant, three swimming pools, several thousand rose plants and 42 km of perfectly maintained white roads.
All this was accomplished in a short space of time, and if the number of years is small, the rest is mind-boggling. A titanic work of territorial redevelopment with the target of an absolute respect the territory.
I met Paolo Nodari and his wife Livia Colantonio at the World Art Education Week, I organized in Narni; an event promoted by UNESCO and supported by the INSEA - International Society for Education though Art.
Paolo did not hesitate to support the initiative by actively involving the company. I find his enthusiasm for the beauty, unique. Its characteristics are brilliant mind and foresight. I want to mention here a Greek aphorism that he told me during our first meeting for the project, "kalòs kai agathòs" "beautiful is good" an absolute equation between the two terms.
I believe that beauty exists only in the eyes, in the heart and in the mind of those who contemplate it as such, and Paolo and Livia, in this sense, go beyond the common imagination.
Curious, I asked why the choice to settle in this area, after their countless trips around the world. “Not everybody happens to arrive at a certain point in their lives and feel the lack and the need for a place to spend restful days, perhaps riding for their estate. Until when, what was only a beautiful dream, became a splendid reality. Living there, then, I realized that in this estate, where I wanted to spend only moments of relaxation, there were all the conditions to give life to a great design. So, from those beautiful vineyards I started producing excellent wines, from those centuries-old olive trees I made good oil and those crumbling and scattered cottages among the vineyards, I restructured them in a luxury farmhouse. And then a restaurant in which to serve only the company's products and a Chianina and Cinta Senese breeding as in the past, free in the pastures and in the oak woods" Paolo Nodari tells me, excited and proud.
Livia Colantonio is a particularly elegant woman, her slender figure and her austere beauty denote a strong and determined character, a fundamental pillar for the company. His attitudes are polyhedral and transversal. In the kitchen she often becomes the protagonist in the creation of unique dishes for which she cleverly manages to combine flavors and colors, a pleasure for sight and taste. But her main role is in marketing; she is brand ambassador for foreign countries.
The house of Paolo and Livia is a fortified structure of the '500 and rises in the central nucleus of the property, Castelluccio Amerino, which has always guarded the surrounding territories. Its position is dominant, on a hill with a 360 ° view, from Mount Terminillo to Soratte. Castelluccio Amerino, originally had a defensive and military character, a watchtower, then a small medieval village, later a rural center inhabited by local farmers. In the early 1950s it was abandoned and fell into complete ruin. Now restored, it retains its massive grandeur, lightened by the Renaissance elegance of the window lintels and the hanging garden, an archetype of perfection. Livia Colantonio, landlady, made the interiors beautiful and pleasant, and playing with ancient history and her name, she created in one room, her garden of Livia, like the one of Emperor Augustus's wife, has frescoed walls with branches of flowers and leaves and blue skies where colorful birds fly.
The property covers about 400 hectares around Castelluccio Amerino which dominates the valley indicated over the centuries as the "Valley of the Queens" between the municipalities of Narni and Amelia, splendid villages of ancient Etruscan, Roman and medieval history. The building was part of the line of fortifications built in strategic places to control the Umbrian valleys always used to reach Rome from the North.
From 1500 the possessions and lands were fiefdom of several patrician families of the place, undergoing its various vicissitudes, until the current ownership reconstituted and enlarged the estate, restoring its ancient vocation to the culture of the vine and the olive tree and aiming to get top quality productions in full respect of the environment. The philosophy is: "The best wine from the best land", ensuring that every step, from grape production to winemaking, uses natural techniques. The harvest is done by hand.
The Agriturismo was started in 2000. The abandoned buildings have been transformed into wonderful apartments, divided into the houses Cipresso and Ulivo, adjacent to the restaurant. The house Quercia is halfway up the hill and house di Patassa, restored in 2004, is located in a clearing on the edge of the forest. The architecture of the houses is rural, referring to the Umbrian tradition, exposed stone, chestnut beams, tiles and tiles, sometimes a dovecote or a tower. The restoration has not altered its character, it has only given new life to the houses, it has provided them with comfort and has rekindled the ancient atmospheres of a time that here really seems to have stopped.
The apartments are spacious and comfortable, often duplex, with solid and masonry internal stairs. In the living room a fireplace with the basket and the already cut wood, the furnishings are rustic, in dark wood, someone is painted. Outside, for guests, a space under the pergola, to be at home and enjoy the countryside and unspoiled nature.
The restaurant offers typical Umbrian cuisine. The atmosphere is elegant and simple at the same time. The character is given by the wooden trusses and the mural fresco bleeding that is inspired by the country dances of Brueghel. The kitchen uses many of the company's products, from excellent chianina meat to extra virgin olive oil. Wines, produced by the Castello delle Regine winery, but not only.
The lush woods, predominantly oaks and holm oaks, extend for about 200 hectares, surrounding the vineyards and olive groves; they are a precious source of oxygen for the environment and create the special microclimate that ensures a strong temperature range between day and night, an important factor for the perfect maturity of the grapes. The company currently produces five different red wines, divided into young, medium-bodied and long-aged wines.
It also produces a rosé from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes, as well as two whites, one, lighter, from Grechetto and Malvasia grapes, the second, more structured, from Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Rhine Riesling grapes. Finally, a particular passito made from Sangiovese grapes. The company also produces a monocultivar moraiolo oil and a PDO based on leccino, frantoio, moraiolo and raio. How much is necessary for the feeding of chianine is produced on the farm, as well as vegetables used by the restaurant. The relais offers an elite tourist offer allowing guests to stay in the estate and taste the products, as well as to enjoy the splendid landscapes rich of history and a generous nature.
Still in the woods they find shelter and food for pen animals, hares and wild boars. The soils, with a prevalence of sand and clay, are rich and fertile and give products that are the expression of this portion of Umbria.
The 8000 olive trees produce precious oil and the gardens of fragrant herbs provide the raw materials for the recipes proposed by the restaurant, where everything that is served is produced on the farm, as well as the succulent Chianina and Cinta Senese meats, pride of the farms; they which enjoy semi-stable housing in the hundred hectares of woods and pastures available to the animals.
The roads inside the property have been intentionally left unpaved in order to respect the overall project, limiting the environmental impact as much as possible; the company is also self-sufficient with regard to the forms of energy with photovoltaic and biomass systems, while five wells and an artificial lake, where rainwater is conveyed, cater for water requirements. The estate, which owes its name to the "Valley of the Queens", due to its splendid location, is located between Narni and Amelia in that part of the territory on the border between Lazio and Umbria. Extraordinary place for the production of wines and oils of superior quality.
The official year of the winery's birth is 2000, modern and absolutely technological. In the "historic" part of the estate there are about 25 hectares of vineyards, mainly cultivated with Sangiovese Grosso and Merlot, with vines that exceed sixty years of life. These give a production whose qualitative choice is made, at the base, of grapes made of low yields, harvested only when completely ripe and only the best are destinated for top wines. The vineyards are left deliberately grassed, the "integrated production" is a kind of biological that provides for the choice to limit the treatments only to the minimum necessary, also thanks to a particular microclimate that does not allow the establishment of diseases in the vineyard due to stagnation and humidity.
All this is not for everyone, but in summary it is instead what happened to Paolo Nodari, flanked by the precious presence of his wife Livia Colantonio. Determined and enthusiastic people, who have brought prestige and prestige to places full of history in total respect for the surrounding natural environment.
"Begin by doing what it is necessary, then what is possible. And suddenly you will be surprised to do the impossible", teached Saint Francis.