We had heard about the Castello di Postignano some time ago: from lovers of reborn villages we certainly could not escape the news that this small Umbrian village, abandoned in the 1960s and returned to life thanks to careful restoration, had been included among the ten most fascinating in Italy.
Spread hotel in the reborn village
And on our tour in Umbria we wanted to start from Sellano, one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, and from the Castello di Postignano Relais, the dream come true of the two architects Gennaro Matacena and Matteo Scaramella, who transformed the ghost village, a medieval village into Valle del Nera, in a widespread charming hotel.
Furthermore, if the desire to stay in a widespread hotel has always been there, this year it has become even more intense as in these villages it is easier than elsewhere to spend a holiday respecting the rules of social distancing imposed by Covid-19.
But what is a widespread hotel? These are hotels created in small villages, often in remote corners of our Bel Paese, creating suites in pre-existing houses, as well as reception, services and common areas. The idea was born years ago in Carnia, exactly after the earthquake that struck Friuli in 1976, where many small villages were abandoned. It was decided to convert the uninhabited villages to tourist accommodation by creating an original hospitality where the guest feels more resident, albeit temporary, than a tourist.
A perfect expression of this philosophy is the Castello di Postignano Relais which, among the ancient houses of the village transformed into 22 large and well-kept suites and library, lounges, billiard room, bowling green, heated swimming pool and small wellness center, represents the ideal place for a experience of relaxation in the nature of Valnerina.
Director Nino Di Bonito told us the story of the village returned to a new life, after welcoming us on the wonderful panoramic terrace offering us a fresh thirst quenching drink.
Currently, what has been defined as “the archetype of Italian hill towns” by the American architect Norman F. Carver Jr, whose photographic reproductions of his book “Italian Hilltowns” are exhibited in a permanent exhibition in the village, present itself as a widespread relais and permanent residence.
There are 60 houses perfectly restored respecting the medieval system, but with everything that is essential for modern liveability, starting from the lift that leads from the street level to the small square where La Casa Rosa is housed, the restaurant where taste the Umbrian specialties prepared with attention to local raw materials by chef Maria.
But what is most striking about this village with its colorful houses leaning against each other is that it is osmotically open to the territory, representing a point of reference for both greedy and cultural moments. Until last year, in fact, on the terrace with a breathtaking view of the valley, in the halls and in the church of the village, high-level events, exhibitions, concerts, jazz music festivals, presentations of literary works and for eight years the review were held “A Castle on the horizon” brought artists from all over the world here. Unfortunately, this year, due to the pandemic, everything has been postponed, but to the delight of its guests, among whom, as we have discovered, many are now regulars, the relais has reopened in compliance with all government security provisions.
Returning to how and when Postignano was brought back to life, it is necessary to make a considerable leap in time up to the Middle Ages when it was a strategic point along the trade route between Umbria, Marche and Lazio, a few kilometers from the Duchy of Spoleto. At the beginning of the eighteenth century its inhabitants began to abandon it by emigrating to the United States. In the 1960s, then, the few remaining families were evacuated due to problems with landslides.
In 1979 the photographer Norman Carver Junior, during a trip to Italy, came across the Castello di Postignano and dedicated a series of shots to the now abandoned village, those on display in the permanent exhibition. But it was in 1992 that the Neapolitan architect and president of the Caronte Tourist shipping company, Gennaro Matacena found himself in these parts, discovering the uninhabited center that was for sale. The entrepreneur, a lover of art and history, was kidnapped and bought the village, with the exception of the tower which is owned by the municipality.
Thus began a long and meticulous restoration that was interrupted by the 1997 earthquake that caused the entire central section to collapse, at the same time leading to an exceptional discovery: the collapse of the apse in the deconsecrated church revealed an even older fresco under the paintings, a Crucifixion datable to the second half of the sixteenth century, and attributable to the circle of De Magistris, known as the “Caldarola”.
Great attention was paid to anti-seismic measures, so much so that during the last earthquake, that of 2016, the only damage was the breaking of two bottles of wine and the stain on the floor was preserved in memory.
After the exciting story we were accompanied by the Director himself, together with our Otto, to our suite called Arrone like a village in the Valnerina near the small town.
The suite is a real mini apartment equipped with a kitchenette with a small fridge whose contents are completely and free of charge for guests, a large living room with fireplace, desk, sofas and dining table, a comfortable bedroom and a large bathroom equipped with a well-stocked and exclusive olive oil bathroom set. A peculiarity: all the suites are marked not by numbers but by the names of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Do not miss the tour through the narrow streets of the village to admire and photograph the glimpses of the stairs, alleys, arches and squares, up to the Rose Garden, which fades into the forest above, and then down towards the swimming pool that emerges among fragrant lavender bushes.
Is recommended to drop in Mrs. Luciana’s shop to browse among her vintage treasures, which are divided between local productions and references to her Swedish origins, between beautiful ceramics and original creations in hemp worked on a frame.
Then the outdoor dinner at the restaurant/trattoria La Casa Rosa to let Maria delight us: from appetizers with robust beef tartare with quail egg and Cannara red onion and delicious bonbons of smoked trout, zucchini flower and ricotta, first courses with Maria’s tagliatelle with vegetable ragout and summer truffle, up to delicious dessert, the hazelnut cream.
We were well advised on wine by choosing one produced in Montefalco but less “usual”: the Rosso della Gobba by Raìna, the cellar of Francesco Mariani, a philosopher winemaker for 20 years who produces artisanal and traditional wines according to the principles of Biodynamics.
Special is the breakfast, which ranges from sweet to savory with fried eggs, scrambled and omelettes prepared live by the friendly and professional Mr. Angelo, and enjoyed on the terrace with the sun caressing the skin and the gaze enraptured by the Umbrian landscape.
It is not easy to greet a place like this where you can breathe beauty and where the courtesy of the staff also plays its part, so we hope ours is a goodbye!