In Umbria’s valley of the abbeys
BY ANJA FAHS
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2015)
Somewhere in the solitude of Umbria in Italy, surrounded by thickly forested mountains, cowers a small, old stone house in a little valley. Far from the next valley, the ‘Eremito Hotelito del Alma’ is a unique place where you can go to flee from the loud noise of daily life. This is where you can breath in the characteristic atmosphere of the Umbrian abbey which has always been seen as the cradle of spirituality. Here, where the connection between nature and tranquillity demands peace in the soul.
The Eremito Hotelito del Alma is the ideal place for those who are looking for the fundamentals in order to find inner peace in solitude and tranquillity. It is a mysterious place which is the result of a long journey to discovering the self. The grandeur of the Umbrian valleys which surrounds it intensifies the feeling of spirituality which enchants the eye and the soul.
The hotel calls itself an ‘eco luxury retreat’, and the original structure has been renovated from the early third century according to the principles of ecological design and the rules of bio construction. Here, guests can enjoy the luxury of the present while at the same time feeling the strict simplicity and spirituality of the monastery from the past centuries which the domicile has managed to retain. The worldwide renowned eco hotel is the ideal accommodation for people travelling alone and for anyone who wants to put aside their daily routine in order to spend time in harmony with their basic needs. “When I saw the valley for the first time, I sensed that I was in an extraordinary place: the colours, the lights, the sparkling of the river ford, the tremendous forests of the natural parks…and there, on the hill looking over all these wonders, just a little ruin”, the owner Marcello Murzilli describes what he felt the first time he came to Umbria. In just four years, he had realised this new format of luxury tourism. He allows us an inside view that probably wouldn’t be possible as a guest.
Mr Murzelli, how did you come across this unusual hotel concept?
Marcello Murzilli: After I had sailed around the world and had spent many years running a jungle resort in Mexico, I thought it was time for something else – a completely new project.
Who is the hotel aimed at?
M. M.: I look at it as the first luxury hotel in the world for solitary travellers.
What is special about the Umbrian region?
M. M.: It is a wonderful place, a sort of abbey of the third century. San Benedetto was born here, the monk who built the first monastery in Europe.
You talk of ‘luxury of the third millennium’. What does this mean for you?
M. M.: For me, this is a term for things which represent real luxury – that is ecology, technology and spirituality. To me, real luxury is a love of the fundamentals, from the oceans of Mexico to the green oceans of this valley.
Your guests leave a completely different world full of hecticness, stress and noise behind them. Suddenly they are surrounded by quietness, tranquillity and solitude. How long does it take to acclimatise and how do you help your guests to leave their everyday life behind them?
M. M.: When guests, who have already decided to leave their fast-paced life behind them for a certain time, arrive here, they need about three days. Then they begin to relax and feel the peace here. We don’t really have to do anything; it happens mainly thanks to the nature and the tranquillity.
L’Eremito Hotelito del Alma is one of the first so-called digital detox hotels in Italy. How do guests detox?
M. M.: We have neither WiFi nor tablets, no internet, no TV and of course no telephones. That has the surprising consequence that people suddenly begin to speak to each other again.
The rooms are recreated antique monks cells and offer luxury which is reduced to the essentials. How are the rooms furnished?
M. M.: In the past, I worked in fashion design. Perhaps this experience has helped me to be able to fit out even the smallest hotel room in Europe with the necessary details. The Eremito has 14 rooms with French beds and a small bath and shower. Thanks to modern insulation, the temperature in the rooms always remains constant and comfortable, with no need for air conditioning. Antique under-floor heating, which is powered by a central wood-fired oven, warms the cells. The bedding is made of spun hemp and is embroidered by hand. At the window, there is a desk made of stone with a comfortable chair. Here, you can gain inspiration by looking at the view over the enchanting landscape and the green sea of the valley.
You designed the whole interior of the hotel yourself. Where did you get the carpets, furniture and materials from?
M. M.: I had four years to find all the materials. I bought a lot on the antique markets here in Umbria, Toscana and in the surrounding areas. Most of the carpets are from Morocco. Almost all of them are unique, we didn’t work together with big names for the furnishings.
Do the guests sometimes want to take a ‘souvenir’ home with them, such as a cushion, a stone or something similar?
M. M.: Yes, sometimes they take some of the local pottery with them and of course our home-made jam.
You have had an adventurous life - among other things sailing around the world with a historical ship and running one of the five best eco resorts in the world in Mexico. What attracts you to Italy?
M. M.: I am excited by being able to build the first modern monastery just offering single rooms.
What helps you retain inner balance?
M. M.: I am neither a psychologist nor doctor or guru. For me it is the same as for most others, once I spend a few solitary days in the country I automatically feel more balanced.
Do you have a morning ritual?
M. M.: We have a little chapel in the tower for the guests, where I occasionally go. But I also do yoga and walk in the woods.
Where or when do you feel free and unburdened?
M. M.: When I maintain a little discipline, enjoy nature, friends and good food, then I have almost reached this state.
What other places in the world inspire you?
M. M.: I think I have found my place here.
What do you most value about your guests?
M. M.: Maybe the guests already prepare themselves for harmony when they come to us because in the two years we have been open, all the guests have been very nice and in a great mood, which is wonderful.
If you had one wish to shape the world with as you liked, what would it be?
M. M.: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi)
What will your next project be?
M. M.: After four years hard work, I have finished the Eremito. For now there will be no more projects.
In the eighties, Marcello Murzilli set up the brand ‘El Charro’. Later he decided to sail around the world with ‘Cheone’, a historical sailboat from 1937. In doing so he arrived at a place on the isolated coast of the Mexican pacific where he created an eco resort which he managed for 14 years – the ‘Hotelito Desconocido’. It was selected as ‘one of the top five eco resorts in the world’. Back in Italy, he opened the ‘L’Eremito Hotelito del Alma’ in 2013, the new format of luxury tourism for solitary travellers. It is also one of the first ‘digital detox’ hotels in Italy.
Picture credits © Courtesy of Carolin Saage for Design Hotels™ Made by Originals