Il Fortino di Todi, known historically as the Tower of Porchiano, was constructed on its hilltop perch around 1000 AD. One of a dozen or so watchtowers built to ring Todi, it was garrisoned with soldiers from the town in times of war. From its soaring six-story tower outlooks kept watch on the Tiber river and signaled the town when enemies attempted to sneak along the curving river bank below. The castle was once larger, surrounded by a curtain wall. Only its tower and garrison block remain, forming a bulky and war-like silhouette. With a 360° view overlooking rolling Umbrian countryside, there is still an un-obscured vista of beautiful Todi about two miles away as the crow flies. The Fortino di Todi was never a residence until inhabited for a few decades in the early 20th century by a local farmer who used its ground floor rooms for stables and sties. Fairly much in ruins, the property was purchased in 1988 by an Englishman named Guy Munthe (grandson of Axel Munthe, author of The Story of San Michele) and painstakingly restored. Transformed into an elegant and comfortable residence, the castle played host in Munthe’s time to notables like HRH Princess Margaret of England and actress Helena Bonham-Carter.
Perhaps the most stunning view of the Fortino di Todi occurs upon arrival. The visitor’s car emerges from a tree-lined private drive through tall wrought iron gates supported by tall stone columns. A stunning vista of Todi is visible over the top of the property’s 150 olive trees. A courtyard paved with Roman plinths leads to the two main entrances, one an arched door on the ground floor leading into the dining room; the second, an elaborately carved wooden and iron-studded door, reached by climbing stone stairs and crossing a narrow wooden gallery, provides access to the main entry hall. In addition to the dining room on the ground floor – a handsome room with brick vaulting, massive hooded fireplace, and an antique table that seats up to fourteen – there is a fully modern yet delightfully rustic kitchen, a small powder room/toilet, and a stone stairway leading to the first floor. The kitchen is ‘user friendly’ for those who wish to try their hand preparing local dishes and Italian cuisine. Equipment includes a gas stove, large refrigerator with freezer compartment, dishwasher, toaster, microwave, American and Italian coffee makers, mixer, food processor, pasta maker, and an array of the usual kitchen utensils. There are china, glassware, cutlery, and table linens on hand for up to twenty guests. From the kitchen corridor, an elevator provides easy access to two higher floors, where a door opens onto a large stone-flagged terrace. Tented in warm months, tables and chairs on the terrace provide al fresco dining with a fine view down an alley of cypresses to the Tiber.
On the first floor, the large living room is graced by an ornate gilt mirror and console opposite a magnificent Flemish tapestry. A suite of comfortable sofas and chairs are arranged in front of a huge stone fireplace. A double arch supported by an antique column separates this space from the formal entry, with its 16th and 17th century antique furnishings and fine oil portraits. A winding stone staircase rises from there to the second floor corridor. Here more heirloom furnishings are complimented by painted faux marble decor and the coat-of-arms of Guy Munthe’s aristocratic Swedish ancestors.
The principal common room on the second floor is the cozy library. It is two story’s high, with a wooden gallery surrounding three walls reached by a narrow stair. Old books mingle on the shelves with a nice selection of novels and literature in various languages. The library has a stone fireplace, comfortable seating, it is the location of the ADSL computer connection and satellite TV hookup – an ideal spot for a quiet evening at home.
The Fortino di Todi is furnished with fine family heirlooms, antiques, and paintings from the 17th through 19th centuries, yet is fitted with modern conveniences designed for comfort as well as luxury. Despite having an elevator serving three of the six floors, it must be noted, however, that the house is, indeed, a transformed medieval fortress. Some of its stairways (especially those reaching the Tower Suite) are not suitable for the fainthearted or the physically impaired.
Up to fourteen guests can be accommodated in five bedroom suites located in the castle and one in a cottage in the garden. Bedrooms have their own toilets and showers, and one (in the Princess Margaret Suite) has a unique ‘tub with a view’ – perfect for soaking whilst surveying the surrounding countryside!
The Tower Suite: The Tower Suite is reached by a series of narrow wooden stairs from the library and consists of a large dressing room (with a fold-out sofa bed for two) and an adjacent bathroom with toilet, bidet, sink, and tub. Up another flight of steps is the stupendous two-story high master bedroom with its antique brass & iron four-poster queen-size bed, a ‘prie-dieu’ (praying stand) side table, an antique dresser, and an armoire for clothes. Surrounding the room is a minstrel’s gallery with three medieval stone niche window seats.
The Princess Margaret Suite:
This large bedroom with a beautiful stone fireplace and four-poster bed was used by Princess Margaret on her private visit to Porchiano around 1990. The room is entered via a small antechamber and has its own bathroom with toilet, bidet, sink, and ‘tub with a view’. There is an antique drop-front desk with drawers for clothing, an armoire for hanging clothes, an ancient blanket chest, two ‘prie-dieu’ bedside tables, and an antique brass & iron queen-size bed.
Named for one of the present owner’s five sons, this room boasts the best views from the house, plus a red marble fireplace. Through two large windows, one with a balcony railing, Todi can be spotted through the trees. The room has a small bathroom built into the thickness of the massive castle wall, with a toilet, sink, and ‘Italian shower’. There are two antique brass & iron single beds, an armoire with a drawer for clothes, a small desk, commode, and an antique ‘prie-dieu’ bedside table.
Sofia & Sabina’s Room:
Named for the present owner’s two daughters, this suite has an antique iron double bed, an ancient blanket chest, bedside table, large antique dresser, and a fine antique Piemontese armoire. There is a nice view of the garden and Tiber river from this room, and the bathroom has a toilet, bidet, sink, and shower that gets light and air from one of the castle’s slit windows.
The Monk’s Room:
The coziest and most private of all the castle’s accommodations is this little room reached via a flight of stone steps from the entry courtyard – a perfect retreat for meditation or a good quiet read. The handsome stone vaulted ceiling arches over two single brass beds, a simple armoire, dresser, and table. The bathroom is built into the thick stonewalls and has a toilet, sink, and ‘Italian shower’. Religious prints and an exquisite carved crucifix form the décor of what has always been called the ‘Monk’s Room’ – though for obscure reasons.
Separated from the castle by a garden walk through the fountain court, the cottage consists of two large rooms and a bathroom with toilet, sink, bidet, and shower. There is an antique iron double bed, a dresser, desk, lounging sofa, and a small table and chairs. There is ample room for a child’s crib and, if required, several additional cots for children. An outdoor table and chairs provides another way to enjoy the garden views from this secluded location.
The Castle rises among splendid landscaped gardens extending over two acres, partly fenced by high stonewalls. Lovingly planted over many years, secluded by woodlands and pines, this is a traditional Italian garden divided into a series of ‘rooms’ characterized by pergolas, ponds, fountains, keyhole views, and shrubberies providing theatrical effects. Precious antique statuary and stones - such as rare Etruscan globe-shaped funerary stiles, Roman fregi and cippi – are discovered in niches of greenery along the winding paths.Among the ‘rooms’ are the formal fountain court, where a shooting spray of water helps aerate a shallow goldfish pond, a rose garden with a small stone table for morning coffee or afternoon tea, the ‘Capri garden’ shaded by wisteria and lemon trees, and the semi-circular lawn – ideal for playing croquet or Italian bocce. Most recently added is another outdoor dining area where a travertine table and iron garden chairs shelter under a pergola supported by ancient columns, and where the delightful sound of sprinkling water emanates from a baroque fountain.
The property has a large, sun-drenched swimming pool open between the last Saturday of April and the first Saturday of October. Situated in the garden at a discreet distance from the castle, it is 10x5 meters, with a depth of 1-2.5 meters. The pool area is paved with terra cotta tiles and is well furnished with six sun loungers, an umbrella, and a small pavilion tent.
Disclaimer: Pins in map may not be accurate if Google Maps cannot find the exact address. In this case an approximation is made.