If you translate “i capricci di Merion” to English, you would come out with: the whims of Merion. It’s a very curious name for a hotel, perhaps even a name that cannot be replicated for it is unique and rightfully its own. The name, as explained by husband and wife proprietors Stefano Santuari and Arianna Fiorenzoni, pertains to the villa’s story. The Art Nouveau villa was built in the late 1800 by the Baron of Rondò to appease the whim of his lover Merion who asked him to build the house as a proof of his love. Built, it became the house where she devoted herself to art and music where she played the harp in the peaceful surroundings of the gardens and the Lake Trasimeno nearby.
Once a private villa, I Capricci di Merion Resort is now a luxury hotel that has 10 spacious suites (6 junior suites, 3 deluxe suites and 1 queen suite), a spa, outdoor swimming pools and a restaurant with a capacity of 40 that extends outdoors in the courtyard. This setting is surrounded by an abundance of greenery divided between gardens including vegetable plots, vineyards and olive groves wherein the trees provide their olive oil production of Olio Nobilogoccia. More than a resort, the proprietors conceived the idea of the project as a place to fully immerse yourself to complete relaxation and commune with beauty at 360 degrees and the peace that surrounds it.
At the beginning of summer 2021, I Caprici di Merion took bigger strides in its approach to reopening during an extended period of uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. The couple’s response is taking the undertakings with new confidence and a positive outlook towards the future of the hotel and their clients. That step made them take in a new chef in their restaurant. A young talent with creative ideas who can propose a new identity to the restaurant’s cuisine.
Chef Simone Mancini, in his early thirties, originally came from Tivoli, in the outskirt of Rome, where he studied at Istituto Alberghiero IPSAR in Palombara Sabina then continued his culinary studies at Les Chefs Blanc in Rome. Professional experience took him to restaurants in Lago di Garda, Turin and Montecarlo. Years later, he returned to Tivoli, first to Ristorante Villa Esedra then Fornarina, where he showcased his culinary talent of creativity enhancing the local materials. Il Capriccio Restaurant of Hotel Villa Blu Capri came last summer and there, his inventiveness soared with the vast availability of fresh ingredients of the island.
Umbria has always been a fascination, not only for its natural environment but also for its rich gastronomy. And this year, Simone finds himself in the greenest region of Italy with a predominantly hilly topography and a few aquatic landscapes. Raw materials from the hilly terrain include game, mushrooms, wild boar, truffles, chestnuts, and cereals make up the primary scope of the gastronomy while being positioned close to Lake Trasimeno augments the possibility to be more originative with ideas of adding fresh fish in the menu.
The initial menu that Simone put together is evidenced with his enthusiasm in proposing dishes that focus on the flavors of the territory of Umbria, elements of the hilly terrain, woods and the nearby lake. Indeed, aesthetics play a great role in his creations along with harmonious blending of the raw materials. With him, every dish comes out from the kitchen is a surprise one after the other. Simone has shown a commendable hand on his first plates of pasta: the Fagotello alla Carbonara with Smoked Tench, Umbrian Guanciale and Licorice; and the Spaghettone with Oyster Mayonnaise, Parsley Sauce and Mussel Powder. The prices of the appetizers are around €17, risotto and pasta dishes between €17 to €22, main courses between €20 to €22 and desserts at €8. The three tasting menus to try are: Ancestrale at €40 for 4 courses, Inclinazioni at €55 with 6 courses and Io, Me e Medesimo at €67 with 8 courses chosen by the chef. Pairing with wine and cocktails cost €30. Coordinating the dining area is Luis Hajrullai who also takes care of the wines and mixology.