When I’m planning a trip, I enjoy looking at the globe and imagining the path the plane will fly from my home to my destination. While seeing the country I’ll be visiting as only a piece of a knickknack, it’s exhilarating to imagine that in a matter of time, that will be a real place to me where I’ll be making memories.
I spent a lot of time looking at the globe and the internet while I was setting up arrangements for our European honeymoon three years ago. The Montali Country House called to me. It’s an all-vegetarian gourmet guest house in Umbria, Italy. I emailed with Malu, who is one of the proprietors there. Malu told me that their hotel is off the beaten path. For sake of ease, renting a car would be much easier than a taxi. Since I knew very little about traveling by train in Europe, I had no idea how close we would get and from where we’d need to rent a car. We learned as we went along.
We flew from LA to London and London to Paris. Then we took a train from Paris to Interlaken to Zurich to Venice to Verona to Assisi. Finally, we rented a car to drive up the hills of Umbria to the Country House Montali. Automatic cars aren’t common there, and I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. David hadn’t driven one since high school or college. Sadly, he was relearning it all going up hills and mountains, tiny dirt and gravel roads with no gates to keep a person from careening off the hillside. After only recently visiting Juliet’s grave in Verona, I knew all too well what can happen to star crossed lovers. “Crap,” I thought, “we’re on our honeymoon and so in love. We’re doomed.”
After some starting and stopping and rolling down the hill, we made it to the top to the intimate hotel that is Montali Country House. Surrounded by a 25-acre olive grove and dotted with fig trees, the property has beautiful panoramic views and overlooks Lake Trasimeno below.
We checked in with Malu, who was expecting us. We told her that we were on our honeymoon and she said, “Oh, you are beginning the new life!” There was poetry in that, the new life. She showed us to our room, adorned with a painting the color of the sunset going down over the hillside.
We walked the grounds, and sat by the pool enjoying a glass of wine until it was time to get ready for dinner. People dress up for dinner every evening at 8 pm. When we walked in to where all of the guests were gathering, we chatted about our travels, from where we were coming and what was next on our journey. Alberto, Malu’s husband and the other proprietor of the hotel, came over and introduced himself to us, shaking our hands, and then showed us to our table, where we would be eating for the rest of our meals there.
At the beginning of each course, Alberto walked to each of the tables and in a hushed tone told us about the next course, the dish and the preparation methods. He sounded a little something like an announcer at a big golf competition. It created such excitement about the upcoming dish that was about to be experienced. He went table by table, and since he can speak five different languages, he seamlessly spoke to every table with ease. The food was phenomenal and the presentation was superb. The olives at the table were from their own acreage. The figs that were used for dessert had just been picked that day from the grounds. All of the dishes were a beauty to look at as much as to eat. I was still there to enjoy it, and yet, I found myself already wishing we’d planned to stay there longer than two days.