In Italian, the word “eremito” means “hermit.” With careful forethought, “Eremito” is what wealthy entrepreneur Marcello Murzilli called his luxury hotel in the hills of Umbria opened just a few years ago. Alone on a hillside not far from Tuscany, Eremito looks as though it has been there for seven centuries. And that is exactly what Murzilli, who spent four years designing and building it, hoped.
After sailing around the world on his own yacht, and then opening an environmentally sensitive luxury hotel in Mexico, Murzilli decided to build in his home territory, in an area dotted with ancient monasteries. He built Eremito, of original 13th Century Italian masonry, to look just like one of these hideaways, but instead of monks, the inhabitants are guests looking for solitude, peace, relaxation and quiet. Put away anything digital; after a two-hour train ride north from Rome followed by a nine-mile drive on a dirt road, the building is lighted mostly by candlepower. As the owner explains, “At Eremito, the luxury I wish to offer I found it in the past times when nights were lit with only candles and the moon. Real luxury for me, now as then, is the rediscovery and appreciation for the essential, from the time by the ocean in Mexico to this valley!” The mood here is meditative, reflective, and calm.
That does not mean that you cannot enjoy yoga, a massage, the steam room a and the hot tub, the LED reading lights in the bedrooms or the recorded Gregorian chants heard throughout. The zero-footprint property uses a set of photovoltaic cells to heat the hot tub and warm up those floor stones from underneath. But dinners – grown in the garden beside the building, cooked by Murzilli’s primary school friend Enzo and enhanced with plenty of local wines– are taken in silence, and pre-breakfast optional Bible readings are held in the tiny chapel on the third floor. Murzilli describes his venture as “Franciscan minimalism.” A surprising number of businesses have booked Eremito for retreats, and others have come to recover from divorce, grief, or stress, in what the Conde Nast Traveller spa awards called 2016’s “Best Mental Recovery Space.”
The best outdoor activity is walking the hills, smelling the wild rosemary and rosehips and perhaps catching sight of a bunny. There is no other building in sight in this enormous private reserve. Umbria is called the Land of Shadows, and in the evening it feels magically mysterious.
Bedrooms are simple, each with a single cot, and decorated with the plaque and story of an actual monk who live in this area, on the wall. When one couple said they could share a room, the proprietor said “No, there’s a room for each person.” Our room was named after St. Celestino, who lived from 1215 to 1296, and the one next door was St. Bernardino, born in 1090 and died in 1153.
Do not expect a flat-screen television in these rooms, but you may hear live birdsong outside your window in the morning. Your brown terry bathrobe resembles a hooded ancient monk’s robe.
Lighted nooks along the stonewalls hold sculptures of St. Francis and other religious figures. You could call Eremito an experiential, mindful approach to luxury travel, completely unlike any other hotel yet imagined.