Village in the Sky

  • Civita di Bagnoregio
All images and video kindly provided by Corte della Maestà



Here is a place to visit in your dreams. Picture an ancient Italian city. Now imagine it perched on a hilltop, commanding over a valley in the depths of Umbria. The calanques have been worn down by the elements, isolating the village, with only a footbridge as its connection to the world. The streets don’t know the first thing about cars. Cats outnumber its human occupants. Beauty is a permanent resident though: it inhabits every cobblestone, every view of the valley caught from narrow alleys, exalted by the play of light and shadow. Every building stands with dignity. Every moment is sweet, everlasting yet fleeting. Welcome to Civita di Bagnoregio.

Read "Paolo Crepet: The Poet Hotelier".

As you cross into the burg, Civita welcomes you with gentleness. Its quiet is not the ominous silence of museums where you are afraid you might break the spell if you cough. This is a living quietude that guides you through the chiaroscuro of cobbled streets, where it is a delight to get lost. As you turn around the Church of San Donato, and the Bishop's Palace appears around the corner, it stands before you: Corte della Maestà, your home in this village in the sky.

Village in the Sky
The ancient Civita di Bagnoregio was founded by the Etruscans, 2,500 years ago.

Corte della Maestà is the refuge of my dear friends Paolo and Cristiana. Together, they have created a special hotel that is also their home. Curating a marvellous art collection, and welcoming guests to their fascinating world of beauty, passion and courage. Any stay at la Corte is unique, just as this place is inimitable.

Village in the Sky
The Bishop's Garden inspires chatty brunches and quiet afternoons in the company of a good book.

Each of the four suites makes reference to a literary theme. The Abbess, with its celebrated iron bathtub and four poster, is a reference to Stendhal’s The Abbess of Castro. The Sleepwalker, a tribute to Vicenzo Belli, captures the drama of the opera and has delightful views of the gardens, the fragrant and lush handiwork of Cristiana. The Writer, devoted to Virginia Woolf, has its own private entrance from the garden, up some stairs and past a pergola of roses.

My favourite, The Intruder, is dedicated to Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian poet who said: “I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited.” To which I could add: I am all the marvellous suites I have slept in.

Village in the Sky
The Abbess Suite is art-fully appointed. Take a look at that bathtub!

What I find most endearing about Corte della Maestà is that your time is your own, in the deepest possible sense. You can sit in The Wolf’s Lair to read a book or try some melodies from the scores lying around on the piano; you can go out to the Bishop’s Garden after an afternoon rain and enjoy the freshness and the tang of herbs, awash in sunset hues. You can scurry to the kitchen for a quick bite of fresh, home-made food, and start a conversation with one of the owners. This is meditation through action, with nothing less than beauty and clarity to gain.

Village in the Sky
Stairs that lead to the Writer Suite.

While the art of dolce far niente comes easily at Corte, and this adventure favours subtle discoveries, there are many activities worth mentioning. The Bishop’s Winery is a 16th century cellar where ham, cheese and wine tastings are organised, featuring the finest producers in the region, in an unbeatable setting. For those with restless legs, there are many hiking opportunities. Lake Bolsena, not far from Civita, makes for a marvellous day trip; and some lovely sights in Umbria are also within reach.

Village in the Sky
Across the footbridge and into a timeless retreat.