Fancy starting your day milking a cow? Or perhaps a morning workout of kneading a kilo of flour and 20 eggs to make Umbrian cheese bread (a sort of savory panettone)? Or lounging on deck with panoramic views of the Umbrian countryside (the background of the “Mona Lisa”) with handcrafted rosehip jam, homemade bread, and house-cured sliced meats?
Like a choose your own adventure book, you can begin your day at Monestevole, the newest community in the Tribewanted network located near the Perugia airport just 2.5 hours from London Stansted, with any of these activities. Take the farm education path, the luxury rural retreat route, or the agritourism and cooking class avenue.
Tribewanted is a series of communities aiming to operate in a completely sustainable manner from financing to staffing and architecture to agriculture.
In the newly launched model, members pay €10 per month to support the tribe’s activities, but the contribution can also be redeemed as a credit toward stays at the property.
Personally, I prefer a quiet morning, so I spent my days in the 15th century tower and worker’s hamlet waking up slowly in the Stelle (stars) suite.
When Valeria and Alessio, Umbrian natives who restored the estate and co-run it with Tribewanted, first visited the site 16 years ago, the roof on this part of the main house was completely caved in.
Using reclaimed wood or fresh beams from the local forest, they re-enclosed the attic, outfitted it with sumptuous antique furnishings from the owners’ grandmothers, and added a private bath with an intricately tiled shower that made me feel like I had my own private Roman baths.
After a luxuriously hot solar-heated shower under the waterfall faucet, I joined the rest of the current guests to see what was on the menu for today. Not the food menu, but the activity menu.
To encourage guests to participate in Tribe activities when and if they choose, the Tribe has created a pictographic daily schedule outlining all of the activities on offer for the day and the staff member in charge of the activity, so you know who to look for at the appointed time.
According to founder Ben Keene, Tribewanted’s goal for its guests is to provide “a vacation that’s relaxing at times, promotes health and provides a connection with nature. But you also want to have a collection of moments, of memories that make them feel different and stimulate them in a way a traditional agritourism wouldn’t. The best way to do that is through participation.”
During my visit, mornings were usually slow due to late nights (more on that later), but there were always short group hikes around the grounds or visits to the fast-breeding farm animals.
An intriguing litter of piglets had arrived shortly before I did. Exactly half looked like their domestic pig mother and the other half had the sienna red coloring and zebra stripping of their wild boar father.
Though they’re adorable now, these piglets play an important role in the tribe. Meals at Monestevole are always homemade and decidedly Umbrian – the Italian equivalent of hearty meat and potatoes fare.
As one of Italy’s few completely land-locked Italian regions, Umbrian cuisine has long relied on game, dairy, and foraged finds. For lunch and dinner at Monestevole—both included in the room rate—guests feast on freshly prepared pasta and local vegetables accompanied by meats and cheese from Monestevole’s animal inhabitants from prosciutto cured the previous winter to grilled spring lamb.
After lunch, a bit of a siesta can be filled with a nap or a lively round of the Italian card game briscola, much beloved by the men of Monestevole. They’re always keen to incorporate anyone who seems interested in the complex rules and stealthy communication necessary for briscola success.
But the afternoon is when activities at Monestevole really start to pick up. One day, artisanal carpenters joined us to teach both the staff and the guests how to make a mud-walled shed by hand from local ingredients.
The team from sustainable architecture institute Panta Rei assured me that walls made these way completely outlast their modern counterparts because centuries of clay-mixing wisdom goes into creating the perfect combination of hay, earth, sand and water.
Another afternoon we took a day trip to Gubbio, an excellently preserved medieval city nearby that rivals the better-known Tuscan hill towns both in charm, preservation, and attractions.
Gubbio is known for its eclectic palio-like summer celebration, the Festa dei Ceri, in which the city’s strong men carry half-tonne wooden poles topped with saints up the entire mountain behind the city (usually reached by a funicular). The celebration is rounded out by feasting and performances, and many city natives train their flag skills year-round to participate in the performances.
While Gubbio makes an ideal (less than an hour) day trip from Monestevole any day, we were lucky to catch a practice exhibition of flag throwing starring none other than Monestevole’s electrician, Luca!
After the performance, Luca treated us all to an aperitivo in a chic bar with some other local Italian friends. And in that moment, at once a sheer reversal of our rustic country morning but still enveloped by the same sense of inclusion and comforting familiarity that imbues Monestevole, the new Tribewanted experience finally make sense to me.
It’s a home away from home, that keeps going while you’re going but is always ready to welcome you back like you never left. Even the first time you arrive.
And the evening activities always clinch that. For the birthday of one of Valeria’s friends, the whole Tribe – family, staff, and guests – piled into an assortment of vans and headed into town for a two-hour aperitivo followed by what was meant to be a private dinner at a local restaurant.
However, when we arrived at the restaurant, there were only about 12 seats available . . . and more than thirty of us!
But no matter. While the tired Tribewanted guests who had to leave the next day snacked on appetizers, the more energetic parties headed into the back room to dance to a live accordion while we waited for table space to open up.
When one of the Monestevole guests asked the birthday girl if she wanted to sit, she said “No, no. You sit! Have fun! You are my guests and I’m glad you’re here!”
Whatever you want to do – sleep in or go to bed early; drink and dance and party all night with Alessio; learn about local food with Valeria; befriend the local farm animals with Brad; or tour local culture with Filippo and Marisella – you’re welcome to because you’re part of the tribe.
All images © Gabi Logan