The 117-year-old Hotel Vannucci in Umbria’s hilltop Città della Pieve reopened in January 2020 after a two-year renovation, only to be closed again because of Covid-19. “But in June, it was open once more and is planning Christmas festivities,” says Geoffrey Weill, “a treasure-filled gem adjacent to the walls of the medieval red-brick Umbrian city of Città della Pieve.”
The Hotel Vannucci dates back to 1903, a mansion created by one Vittoria Spinola, daughter born of the liaison between Italy’s King Vittorio Emanuele II and Rosa Vercellana, known as the “Bella Rosina.” In 2018, the building was bought by Roberto Wirth, fourth-generation owner of the Hassler in Rome, gutted and transformed into a 30-room 21st-century boutique hotel—combining modernity with priceless art and antiques.
The hotel’s elegant Zafferano restaurant reflects Città della Pieve’s most precious commodity, saffron, which grows in its environs (Zafferano is Italian for saffron). The guest rooms are elegant, plush and attached to state-of-the-art bathrooms. The hotel’s lounges, bar, writing room and restaurant reflect the exquisite taste of Astrid Wirth, blending plush modern amenities with historic furniture and paintings.
Even were it placed in the middle of nowhere, the Hotel Vannucci would be worth a visit. But its location in Città della Pieve makes it a bucket-list must. Located 90 minutes from Rome and 90 minutes from Florence, Città della Pieve won the 2013 Pio Alferano Prize as the most perfect city in Italy. Its narrow streets are lined with 600-year-old red-brick houses, 12 churches, and the Teatro Communale-Accademia degli Avvaloranti, built in 1834 and restored in 1990, a jewel-box of a theater, with rings of gilt and cream boxes and acres of red velvet.
Celebrity is not exactly new to Città della Pieve. The hotel is named for Pietro Vannucci, who was born in 1446, became a major artist, and was known as Il Perugino because of Città della Pieve’s proximity to Perugia; he counted amongst his pupils a certain Raphael. Almost six centuries later, many have been attracted to own homes in and around this red-brick jewel, among them actor Colin Firth and singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
“The Vannucci is my special baby,” says Roberto Wirth, “a countryside pearl we have imbued with the same elegance, warmth and passion as the Hassler.”