The indulgent flavors, pastoral vistas, exquisite handmade goods, and preserved art and architecture of Italy have long been revered and romanticized by discerning world travelers and those who appreciate the finer things in life. During the autumn of 2016, a select group of Robb Report VIPs traveled to the heart of the country to experience all of those things—a trip that embraced and highlighted Italy’s charm and provided insider access that only Robb Report can deliver.
The trip began in Umbria, a central region of forested mountains and valleys, and included a multi-night stay at Le Torri di Bagnara. The property is a 1,500-acre private estate that features two restored villa castles, three additional medieval castles, and a working farm—all of which have remained for more than a century under the care of a family with ties to the great-grandnephews of Joseph Bonaparte, direct descendants of Lucien Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon I. As Robb Report’s guests learned, the property is an ideal location for scenic bike rides, as well as romantic strolls filled with beautiful lookout spots.
Le Torri di Bagnara’s main house, Pieve San Quirico castle, features a lemon-tree-lined courtyard, an infinity-edge saltwater swimming pool, and an almost 54,000-square-foot manicured garden created by the famous Tuscan landscape designer Alberto Margheriti, who planted flowers (roses, santolina, Perovskia, and thyme); pomegranate and cherry trees; and laurel, rosemary, and lavender bushes that are continuously in bloom. It was there, in that castle, that Robb Report’s esteemed guests enjoyed numerous decadent meals enhanced by elegant wines showcasing the region’s celebrated Sagrantino and Sangiovese varietals.
Culinary adventures were not limited to the confines of spectacular castle villas. A visit to a family-owned organic farm in Umbria provided a picnic lunch made up of farro salad with vegetables, tortes made from freshly baked focaccia, and, of course, handmade pastas. (A mini regatta on the region’s largest lake followed this simple—though delicious—alfresco lunch.) And on the final day in Umbria, guests experienced the thrill of the hunt as Urbani Truffles hosted a truffle-foraging trip led by some of its skilled hunting dogs. Following that excursion, Robb Report VIPs enjoyed a seven-course, truffle-rich lunch on the 168-year old purveyor’s grounds. Dishes created in its state-of-the-art test kitchen included potatoes stuffed with Emmentaler and fontina cheeses alongside porcini mushrooms and a white-truffle sauce and black-truffle lamb stew.
After enjoying an exclusive tour of a revered winery’s private art collection in Siena, the group descended on Florence and checked into the Portrait Firenze, the newest addition to the Lungarno Collection of hotel properties owned by the Ferragamo Group. In Florence, the group enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour and lunch at Bianchi e Nardi. The exclusive access that the revered house of luxury leather handbags provided set the tone for other experiences awaiting the VIPs in Florence, including a Chianti tasting with members of a winemaking family that had established the style, a cooking lesson at a culinary school founded by a James Beard Award–winning chef, and a multicourse dinner prepared by that culinary school’s team of instructors.
As Robb Report’s exclusive group of VIPs savored a Florentine steak dinner on their last night in Italy—a meal that followed a private tour of the Vasari Corridor at the Uffizi Gallery Museum (home to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus)—they reflected on their once-in-a-lifetime experiences over the trip and concluded that for one week, at least, they had truly lived la dolce vita.