August 21, 2013

Hideaway heaven - La Palazzetta del Vescovo

Once in a blue moon do you happen upon such a fine discovery that it is almost hard to share it? On that rare ocassion I find myself a little tempted to be Gollum like, holding my "precious" find in my mind and wondering if I can bear to give the knowledge away! But, of course,  I have really got to let you in on this one, it is just to fabulous not to share. On our holiday in Umbria, we stumbled upon the perfect small hotel tucked away in the hills - La Palazzetta del Vescovo. A beautifully renovated stone building, once a bishop's summer residence, the nine bedroomed hotel is owned and run by a delightful couple, Stefano and Paola. The welcome is so warm, the food -locally sourced and divinely cooked by Paola- so delicious, and the rooms so comfortable, our ten year old asked if we could move in permanently! That request might also have had something to do with the deliciously cool infinity swimming pool with 180 degree views of the rolling Umbrian hills and valleys, and the fact that there are free soft drinks, fruit and homemade cake - no wonder he wanted to stay forever!  The immediate surroundings of vineyards and olives groves are so peaceful and an added bonus is that the location is sufficiently high to avoid mosquitos.

This time of year all the meals are served on the terrace (see top picture), and Paola's cooking really is wonderful. Stefano is always on hand to suggest local wines to go with each dish, and at the end of the evening meal Paola arrives from the kitchen for a chat before we all turn in for the evening. We had three rooms on the same floor with an interconnecting sitting room/library with a fireplace and lovely views which was the perfect reading/cardplaying room. Importantly, the room prices are very good value especially when you compare to a place of similar quality in England.

So many wonderful places are close by for visiting - the astoundingly beautiful towns of Todi and Orvieto (home of one of the world's most beautiful Cathedrals), are a short drive away and even Rome is only about an hour or so. Umbria is often thought of as Tuscany's slightly scruffy younger sister, but honestly it is breathtakingly lovely and a little less busy too. And everywhere the fields of sunflowers and vines.... Sigh.

One of the kids' favourite foodie discoveries was Paola's breakfast cake - they were so keen to bring this concept home, they begged me to ask Paola for the recipe. It turns out it is made with olive oil instead of butter, and makes a fantastic weekend breakfast treat, or the kids would say anyday breakfast treat. It is also fantastic as a home from school or mid morning energy booster with a cup of coffee. Paola said it is often eaten this way as a snack. It is a light but moist sponge, not too sweet and flavoured with vanilla or chocolate or lemon/orange. I wrote down what I could remember of her ingredients and amounts - it is an approximation but tasted very similar and really delicious. The great thing is you can tweak the flavourings as you like - I added chocolate drops in mine, but very finely cut rosemary, or cocoa powder for a dark chocolate version, ground almonds, or the zest and juice of a lemon or orange are all delicious. Perhaps lavender? It lasts about three days, if it is not eaten faster! I know there seems a lot of rising agent in it but the simplified way I make it- as a  a dump it all together recipe - it needs a bit of extra oomph!

Paola's Breakfast Cake (or my version of, sorry if it is not quite accurate Paola!)

250g well sifted self raising flour
200g caster sugar (or a bit less to taste, I used about 150g but added chocolate chips)
10g baking powder
pinch salt
teaspoon vanilla essence,
120g light/mild olive oil
3 large eggs
125 water/milk

icing sugar to serve

Preheat oven to 180 degrees c
Mix the dry ingredients together well and in another bowl beat eggs until frothy and then beat in oil and vanilla essence until thoroughly combined.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and beat in the oily mixture until well incorporated, pour in the water or milk slowly until the mixture is of a good dropping consistency - you may not need all the water.
Pour into a lined or well greased 9" tin and cook for about 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. I added chocolate drops to my batter, which sink to the bottom as any heavy addition will, but it was lovely to have vanilla-y sponge with a layer of dark chocolate at the base.

Hope you enjoy a little taste of Italy! x

*As always, this is not a sponsored post, all views are simply and honestly mine, I receive nothing for them!*
*apologies for failing to state 'self raising' flour originally - oops!*


  1. It all looks divine, I may well give the cake a go or even try and taste the original sometime, we haven't explored much of Italy.

  2. How gorgeous...

    must try that cake now.

    1. Monica, I hoped it worked, I stupidly forgot to specify self raising flour rather than plain? Correction made now.

  3. So beautiful... makes me want to go back to Italy... maybe next year ;-)

  4. I do know *exactly* what you mean about not wanting to share something so precious!! But THANK YOU for being so generous. I have to say that I am sorely tempted to start packing right away!! It looks beautiful - breakfast cake and all!!


  5. is there a way to subscribe to your lovely blog? this is all quite heavenly. oh how I wish I could cross the pond and head to england and Italy again! xx

    1. There are some subscription options at the bottom of the front page of the blog - hope that helps, let me know if its not clear.

      Come visit! x