Welcome to Gelsi, our magical home nestling in a fold of the hills high above the Tiber. Near enough to the medieval hill town of Todi for your morning coffee or an evening stroll but deep in the quiet countryside.
The house has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a living room with a working fireplace and a large kitchen with a farm table big enough to sit twelve. When you eat outside you have the choice of the courtyard off the kitchen with flowering jasmine all around, or a table under the roses with a view of the olive field and the hillsides around.
The outside of the house is hundreds of years old and built with the traditional Umbrian stone. The inside was rebuilt in the old style in 1990. The floors are still traditional tile and the ceilings are beamed but there is central heating, a dishwasher, a washing machine and a TV with video and satellite stations - the amenities of modern life in a traditional design.
There is a swimming pool and acres of our own fields around for you to wander through. You are about two hours from Rome and two and a half hours from Florence. Some of the loveliest cities of central Italy are a day trip from the house – Siena, Arezzo, Cortona, Perugia, Orvieto, Spoleto and Assisi. Many smaller and equally charming locations are even nearer.
We hope you have a wonderful time and enjoy the house and the countryside as much as we do.
Lorna Ferguson and Terry Clark
Housekeeper and Gardener : The house is taken care of by Andreina Trastulli. She knows how everything works and will come three times a week to clean and do the laundry while you are in residence. Andreina's husband Aldo Schiavoni takes care of the garden and the vines and olive trees.
They live at the bottom of the hill from Gelsi just before you come to the main road to Orvieto. Andreina also takes care of most of the everyday management of Gelsi. She will read the meters when you first arrive and also when you leave.
Andreina does not speak English but use the dictionary and she will work very hard to understand you. If you do not speak Italian Andreina's daughter, Michaela, is learning English and she can help out.
Maintenance: Anna Menghella is responsible for the house maintenance. She comes regularly to check that everything is working properly. If you have a problem with the electricity, gas or water or any of the machines please call Anna. return to top
For a map of Gelsi's location and instructions on how to find Gelsi from Rome and from Florence (we're right in between), go to Getting There.
Please review the weather summary for Perugia, which is the nearest large city about 25 miles to the north of Todi.
The nearest small local stores are in Canonica and Doglio – these are two villages about two miles from the house. Doglio, in particular, is a charming place almost untouched by tourism. They have a wonderful festival for two weeks in June where you can eat, drink and dance with the locals in their tiny walled village.
The supermarket is near the main highway to Perugia and Rome about 6 miles away by car and it carries everything you will need.
More attractive, however, is the greengrocer and delicatessen in the village of Ponte Rio also about 6 miles by car. In Todi, itself, there are specialty shops including pastry shops, delicatessens, and a very good cheese shop. return to top
We recommend that you purchase a good map of the area. The Touring Club Italiano series of maps (1: 200,000) includes one on Umbria and Marche . They are available in most large cities in the U.S.A.
There are lovely country WALKS from Gelsi itself, just follow the footpaths. Some friends from England were more adventurous and I’ll just quote them: “Our Easter Monday expedition into the hills was exhilarating. In the square in Todi we had bought a Martani Trekking Map (1: 25,000) and its associated guide book, covering a rectangle from north east of Todi (from Viepri across to Castagnola and Giano dell’ Umbria) down to a few miles north and west of Terni. The area we trekked through was forest at first (masses of bluebells, primroses, violets, hellebores, corydalis…) and then as we got higher (and as the going got steeper) alpine type meadow with a different array of flowers including crocuses and orchids. It was a delight to see so many flowers – they helped to keep me going up the steep bits. When we stopped at a refuge to eat our lunch it snowed briefly.”
The town of TODI is a gem and worth at least a whole day. From Gelsi, go down the hill to the Orvieto road, turn left and then right over the bridge. The road winds up the hill on the other side, and wind it does but worth it.
There is a tourist information office under the arcades in the main square. The obvious sights are the cathedral and palazzos in the central square, the church of San Fortunato and the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione, just outside the medieval walls. Less obvious are the charming side streets and the Roman remains.
Just off the main square is a restaurant called the Umbria . Do have lunch or dinner there. It has arguably the loveliest views of any restaurant, anywhere. Try to reserve a table outside where you can enjoy the view. This year (2004) a new restaurant opened in Todi called Il Donatello. It is located just off the Corso Cavour, where one turns left to enter the parking area at the Mercato Vecchio. The menu is limited but refined.
There are a number of tennis courts in Todi, outside the walls on the left of the road before you reach the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione beside the parking lot for the funicular. We have not used them but are told you can book them in advance and there are signs at the courts.
In the other direction from Gelsi is the town of MONTECASTELLO DI VIBIO . Go up the hill and you will see the signs at the next major junction, turn right. Montecastello di Vibio has charm as a small, walled medieval town but its central delight is the tiny theatre, Il Teatro della Concordia. Built in 1808 by nine Montecastellesi families it was designed to celebrate the new era of harmony and equality. The theatre had fallen into disrepair and was only restored in the last few years. It is tiny, sitting less than 100 people, but complete with two tiers of boxes. Performances are sporadic, so check the schedule when you first arrive. Or, just go and ask for a tour. The custodians are proud of their restored gem and our tour was given most enthusiastically.
If you are looking for another restaurant fairly near Gelsi we suggest the Fattoria DiVibio. Its restaurant is not a public one, just for their own guests, but if you call the day before they will usually accommodate you. To reach the Fattorio di Vibio follow its signs through Doglio, onto the dirt road and through the woods. It is a nice evening walk from Doglio to the Fattorio. And, the Fattorio has lovely views into the adjacent and seemingly uninhabited valley.
Here are a few more suggestions about RESTAURANTSin the area. Le Noci is in the village of Grutti to the north and east of Todi. It has outdoor tables and Friday and Saturday nights are most festive. This is not delicate food but it is very tasty. There was not a menu when we were there but the waitress recited the options in quite clear Italian and it was not a problem. (Perhaps we should add that neither Lorna nor Terry speaks Italian and we have managed all of these excursions with the aid of a dictionary and the enormous good will of the local residents.)
There are three charming towns that you can visit in one day to the east and north of Todi. MONTEFALCO has yet another delightful central square and is also home to a very good red wine – Sagrantino di Montefalco – you can purchase in the local wine shops. The pride of Montefalco is the Museum of San Francesco , which houses the Benozzo Gozzoli fresco cycle of the Life of St. Francis. The best restaurant is Coccorone in Largo Tempestivi.
Near Montefalco is BEVAGNA, with its Roman ruins and a pair of lovely Romanesque churches in the central square. To the east of Bevagna is SPELLO. Here the church of Santa Maria Maggiore houses some splendid Pinturicchio frescoes. The town itself is delightful. There are two restaurants: Il Molino, piazza Matteotti near Santa Maria Maggiore, comes recommended by others, we have not tried it; and Il Cacciatore at Via Giulia, 42, which has an outside terrace with very pleasant views. However, when we last visited Il Cacciatore it was only serving dinner and not lunch.
If you are an art enthusiast you will not want to miss the Piero della Fancesca paintings in SANSEPOLCRO. You can drive. It is an easy trip on good roads and takes about one hour and one half. Or you can take the train. There is an almost toy-like train service, the central Umbrian line that will take you from the station at Ponte Rio, near Todi, to Perugia and then on to Sansepolcro. Train times are posted at the Ponte Rio station, which you reach by going towards the main Perugia-Terni highway and taking the last right before the highway. Go through the main shopping area of Ponte Rio and stay on the road towards Todi. The station is to your left and is signposted, but not all that clearly.
If you are a serious enthusiast of Piero della Francesca you will also not want to miss his recently restored frescoes in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo . His Mary Magdalene is in the Duomo in Arezzo , and if you drive over the mountains from Arezzo to Sansepolcro you can stop in Monterchi and see his painting of the pregnant Madonna. The drive to Arezzo from Todi is about one and a half hours.
PERUGIA is an attractive city but we do not know it at all well. The following restaurant recommendations in Perugia , however, come from very discerning friends: DaCesarino, La Bocca Mia, and Sandri. The latter is for light lunch, pastries, and sitting out in the sun on the Corso. On the way to Perugia you will pass DERUTA, well known for its ceramic ware.
Another restaurant, highly recommended by locals and visiting friends, is La Posta in Avigliano Umbro, to the south of Todi. Tel: 0744-933-927. It really is run by the local postman. As with many of the restaurants which are some distance from Gelsi, you may want to go initially for lunch rather than drive the back roads after dark.
Other restaurants recommended by friends include: Etrusca in Orvieto; Stalla near Asissi; Villa Roncalli, near Foligno, towards San Eraclio, (very special and rather expensive.) For the gourmet, you may want to try La Chiusa in Montefollonico. A meal here goes well with a visit to Montepulciano.
A few years ago we saw a New York Times article about a country place called Taverna del Pescatore in the village of Pigge , between Spoleto and Assisi . We tried it en route from Norcia to Todi and found it to be very pleasant.
If you fancy a water trip you can drive north to LAKE TRASIMENO and take the ferry over to the Isola Maggiore. Ferry leaves from Passignano, on the north shore of the lake, and there is a hotel and restaurant on the island.
ORVIETO is a must and is only about a 30 to 40 minute drive from Gelsi. The main Orvieto road is at the bottom of the hill and it is a scenic drive. Indeed, if you want the most attractive arrival route to Gelsi from Rome or Florence just take the Orvieto exit from the Autostrada and follow this road. Lorna saw the restored Signorelli paintings in Orvieto cathedral in 1997 and was entranced. She tries to see them each year now.
The easiest way to reach the old part of Orvieto is to drive to the railway station at the foot of the hill. Park the car in the large parking lot to the east of the station. On foot follow the signs to the station. In front of the train station is a stop for the funicular that takes you directly to the top of the hill.
The old twisting road from Orvieto to Todi comes near Gelsi. At the Orvieto end it starts near the train station. It is a scenic but very twisty route.
If you want to take the train to FLORENCE you will need to use the Orvieto station; it is on the main Rome to Florence line. You can also reach ROME from this station. Or, if you do not want to drive into Orvieto, you can take the train from Ponte Rio to Terni and there change onto the main line into Rome . By car, the drive into central Rome will take about two hours and into Florence about two and one half hours.
There are obviously lots of wonderful longish day trips from Gelsi, such as Siena or Gubbio. A little closer are Cortona and Arezzo. Montepulciano is a gem and we think the Renaissance church of San Biagio is actually more beautiful than Todi’s own Santa Maria della Consolazione. The whole southern Tuscan area from Montepulciano to Pienza and Montalcino is worth a visit. And, of course, there is Assisi , which is about 45 minutes away by car.
For amazing natural beauty, we recommend the high mountain plateau called the Piano Grande, near Norcia in eastern Umbria. If you want to walk in these mountains, we suggest that you spend the night in Norcia. return to top