We offer a number of options for experiencing Italian food & wine that are designed for individuals all levels of experience, all budgets, and with a range of diverse range of timetables. The only prerequisite for our experiences are a passion for learning—with a special focus on the rich traditions and incredible food and wine of Umbria.
Monte Castello is one of the best-preserved medieval hill-towns in Italy. Its picturesque public spaces invite conversation, fellowship, and an opportunity to savor la dolce vita – the “sweet life” of Italy. Visitors to ICA are amazed by spectacular views of the Tiber River valley below Monte Castello, with hillsides draped by some of the finest vineyards and olive orchards in the world.
Many of the vineyards that surround us produce wines that are unique to this part of Umbria. Varietals such as D.O.C.G. rated, Torgiano Rosso Riserva, Sagrantino and blends recognized with D.O.C. status, such as Montefalco Rosso, are produced nowhere else on earth! Olive orchards also grace the landscape with their blue-green foliage. Their fruit enriches the cuisine of the region with rich oils: full and buttery, smelling of fresh-cut grass, and uniquely peppery in finish. The olive oils produced here are consistently ranked among the best in Italy.
While others fight the heat and crowds of tourists in urban centers like Rome and Florence, our wine tour participants relax in tranquility, eating and drinking with local people: farmers and their families who have been committed to the cultivation of wine and oil for generations. Here, in these beautiful and gentle landscapes, one feels no pressure--and experiences none of the pretense that often attaches itself to appreciation of wine elsewhere. In Italy--especially in Umbria--wine is for people, for enjoyment, for savoring life.
At the same time, our location in the geographic center of Italy also makes it possible to easily make day trips to other famous wine-growing centers, including Montepulciano and the Chianti region of Tuscany. Florence and Rome are equally accessible--short ride away on private busses, accompanied by our knowledgeable guides. These cities, along with others in Umbria, Tuscany, Marche, and Lazio, provide us with many options for urban walking tours of enoteche (wine bars), where one finds the most up-to-date information about vintages, trends, and cutting-edge developments in viticulture.
At ICA, we provide the opportunities to experience wine that are seldom available to most travellers. While we do visit large and famous cantinas (wineries) such as Lungarotti and Arnaldo Caprai, it is often our excursions to small, family-operated cantinas that are most memorable. These winemakers share their enthusiasm and love of wine with visitors, enhancing our visits with stories about their vineyards, the grapes they cultivate, and the wines they produce. It is not unusual for an elderly proprietor of a vineyard to lead visitors out into the fields and identify the rows of Merlot and Sangiovese grapes growing on the hillsides, to describe their nuances and their harvest, even to taste the soil of the vineyard and feel its presence in the rich wines that could be produced like this nowhere else on earth. Our objective at ICA is to connect our guests to these individuals and to their rare commitment to a history and to a product. Wine tour participants enjoy the tranquil, pristine beauty of Umbria, the famous “Green Heart” of Italy at its best.
Ongoing 24/7 bilingual site support
3 gourmet meals per day, with wine at lunch and dinner
Housing on-site or nearby apartments
Ballroom dance classes
Special site admission
Hands on art workshops
Access to special events in region
Excursions and local transport each week as described in the itinerary
Travel Insurance with Emergency Evacuation coverage (required)
Meals on Excursions unless identified
Snacks and beverages at stopovers in transit
How to get started
Sign up for one of our existing programs below, created from our years of programming experience, or work with us to develop your own retreat from the ground up by contacting us.
Using Monte Castello a starting point, our excursions are organized according to passageways through Umbrian Wine Zones surrounding Monte Castello. These zones are traversed by officially identified wine routes, such as the Vini del Cantico Trail (passing through Monte Castello) and the Vini del Sagrantino Trail, or the Vini Etrusco Romana Trail. Each of these offers the opportunity to experience different grapes and numerous blends that are unique and specific to each area.
The routes also offer opportunities to experience a rich history and culture. For example: on an excursion through the beautiful mountains flanking the Tiber river, tasting such varietals as Sangiovese, Grechetto, Trebbiano, Canaiolo, and Malvasia, we stop for an afternoon in the city of Orvieto to visit its extraordinary cathedral, St. Patrick’s Well (a masterpiece of medieval engineering) and the incredible underground city beneath the town.
Another important element is the contentment that comes with knowing you return at the end of the day to our little village, a “home away from home,” to rest, relax. You will know that dinner is waiting for you on our beautiful terrace. After dinner, perhaps you might enjoy dancing to traditional, live music at our Torraccia Bar. Perhaps later, strolling home, you might take time to wander the stone streets experiencing the ambiance of night in a medieval village. You might choose to get up early and experience the sunrise with swallows diving in and out of the mist that fills the Tiber Valley, illuminated by the golden morning light. As you rise in the morning and greet friends in the central square preparing for the day – local people, café owners, expatriates – you realize you have become part of this place--in Monte Castello you are not a tourist, but a guest, a part of our family.
The philosophy of the ICA wine programs is to provide inspiration and insights into the culture and traditions of Italian wine, both in terms of its refinement and in its intimate place in daily and family life. We also believe that a full appreciation of wine is guided by knowledge and understanding. This is rooted in learning to taste and appreciate wine, in understanding the flavor and characteristics of diverse types of grapes and growing conditions that affect them, in understanding the terminology that is used to describe wine, and finally, the relationship of wine to the foods it often accompanies.
wine tour and course options
All our wine experiences are interrelated, thus among a couple or a small group, for example, participating in a Wine Tour and staying at our facilities, some individuals may want to participate in our Sommelier Course, some may not. This is not problem, because the sommelier course and the tour enjoy the same excursions and tastings, those who additionally seek the certification provided by the course simply attend the classes scheduled around these events. For those who do not, there is plenty to do while the sommelier classed are going on - whether it be cooking or art classes, or just enjoying the village and its panoramas.
For individuals vacationing in Monte Castello, as guests at our wonderful hotel or at one of the Bed and Breakfasts, and even for those living in the area to seek to enjoy a trouble-free day of visiting vineyards – or even cities like Rome and Florence- participation in the tours is easy on an a la carte basis. Prices for day visitors are posted under each event. Simple review our Calendar of Events, choose the tour that matched your dates and interests and register online. Prices for day-visitors are given at the end of the description of each tour. Tours are contingent on enrollment of 10 or more. For day-visitors, custom tours are available anytime with 24-hours notice. Day-visitors can also customize their own tours with a private guide — contact us for information, pricing, and planning tips.
Day Programs for Visitors to Monte Castello
Wine Tour Vacations
Providing a general knowledge about Italian (and specifically Umbrian) wine: history, terminology, production, aging, etc.
Developing technical tasting skills to both evaluate and enhance the enjoyment of wine
Introducing participants food & wind pairing, beer (particularly the emerging micro brewing culture of Italy) and spirits, focusing on aperitivi and drinks such as grappa.
Fostering an understanding of the regulations governing the production, distribution, storage, and sales of wine, which are invaluable in selecting Italian wines in shops or grocery stores at home.
An introduction to Food & Wine Pairing
European and American Dining
Food and Wine Menu Planning
Wine and Food Evaluation Techniques
Sauces and Spices
Fish and Shellfish
Poultry and Game Birds
Meat and Wild Game
Soup, Salad, Vegetables, and Vegetarian Cuisine
Wine & Sommelier Courses
ICA is proud to sponsor the first certified Sommelier Program in Italy for non-residents. All participants successfully completing the course will receive a “Special Master” Sommelier certification from Association Italian Sommelier (AIS), the official training association in Italy. For professionals, the certification will not only reflect the technical knowledge that they have gained, but also provide the opportunity to continue on to other levels of Sommelier training.
The intensive course takes place over a seven to twelve-day period, with five, two-hour classes. This time-frame, combined with our all-inclusive services, allows visitors to attain Special Master certification, and still have time within a two-week long visit to allow for travel and recovery time before returning to normal activities. Each tasting will include five to seven wines, ranging from wines of the Umbrian region to those drawn from wine regions around Italy.
We will make a particular emphasis on the unique wines of the Montefalco region of Umbria, which Conde Nast called the “top upcoming wine region of Italy.” Here we will work in particular with the Arnaldo Caprai vineyard, twice selected by Wine Spectator as the “Top Italian Vineyard.”
The course is designed both for individuals who are interested in learning more about the enjoyment of wine, its history, diversity, and its connection to foods, as well to the needs of food service professionals who want to expand their knowledge of wine in technical ways that would provide a step-stone to full Sommelier certification and careers related to wine. Though focused and rigorous, the course is designed to be fun and informative - and paired with delicious foods from our kitchen, as well as the spectacular views from our dining terrace – should leave an unforgettable impression that will enhance participants knowledge of Italian wine, giving it the same depth and complexity.
There will be an extensive introduction to the wines of Umbria, Tuscany, and Lazio with visits to some of the greatest Cantine of the region – combined with an in-depth overview of the wines of Italy in our classrooms, guided by an AIS certified sommelier.
Each day, we will tour the vineyards of the region will be provided with tours and tastings of its rare and unique wines, such as the red, Sagrantino di Montefalco and white, Grechetto wines as well as the famous blends of the region. Italy is the world’s top wine producer and the course will fully utilize the resources of our central location in Italy in order to include a visit to neighboring Tuscany and learn about the production of its famous: Chianti Classico, Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino wines.
Sign up for an existing retreat above or contact us for other availability and custom programs.
The Sommelier course is all-inclusive and includes: airport transfer, accommodation, three meals per day prepared by our Umbrian chef, local transportation, the Sommelier course with certification, cantina fees, and of course – wine. View all our accommodations.
Day Programs for Visitors to Monte Castello
For those already visiting Monte Castello or those residing in the village or region, we offer both wine tasting tours and cooking classes at our Asilo facility.
The tours are day-long events that include lunch and dinner. The schedule of our day trips coincides with that of our Wine Tour participants, so begins at 11 AM with an introduction to the grapes, wines, and cantina we will visit on that day.
The wine-tasting is followed by lunch at Asilo from 1:00 – 2:30 and is followed at 4 PM by visits to cantina in the surrounding region. Each day we will offer visits to a different wine zone surrounding Monte Castello – all within an hour’s drive from the village. Typically, we visit three vineyards, one of which includes a vineyard tour.
Please see our Calendar for the daily trip schedule and events such as the Palio in Siena, the Giostra del Saracino, in Arezzo, soccer fans should also check out the Calcio Storico (Historical Soccer) event in Florence.
€75 per person, per day and includes: lunch, dinner, wine tasting at Asilo, and transportation aboard our private bus, two cantina visits, admission and fees.
Wine Tour Vacations
Our Wine Tour Vacations, provide our guests with five to twelve-day, all-inclusive packages that allow visitors with as little as a week, or as much as two-weeks to visit Italy, learn about and experience Italian wine - but still have time within a two-week long sojourn from work and other responsibilities to allow for travel and recovery time before returning to normal activities.
Visitors are accommodated in private rooms in our 14th century convent, in private apartments dispersed around the city, or in private villas in the countryside around Monte Castello - we have accommodations for every price range and for every sized group.
We provide three-gourmet meals per day, with lunch and dinner accompanied by wine selections - all featuring the fantastic cooking and wine paring of our chef, Katia. We provide airport transfer, and our guests are transported on excursions aboard our private, comfortable and air-conditioned busses. Of course, our staff is available for 24/7 support, while on site. Our objective is that from the time our guests step off the plane – and until they step back on, returning home, that their all-inclusive stay has been stress free and that their lives are forever enriched by this magical place.
In planning your trip, please note that spring, summer, and fall wine experiences are designed to coincide with events such as the grape and olive harvests and release of the annual new wines. Early spring and late fall sessions in particular allow our participants to join in celebration with the inhabitants of the region in harvest festivals, when the leaves of the vineyard are fiery-red and the oil presses flow with the “green-gold”- the award-winning olive oil of the region.
Typical Daily Wine Tour Schedule
Full English/American-style breakfast, followed by a discussion of the day’s activities
Introduction about the wines and growing areas of the day, including wine tasting and wine paring class
Sommelier Class Option
Traditional Umbrian Lunch
Sample Itinerary (5 or 12 day tour)
Italian wine, like those of other countries is identified by appellation. Broadly speaking, “appellation” describes a legally defined and protected area, thus the term is mostly considered in relation to where wine grapes are grown. However, there are other factors considered in “appellation” as well, such as very specific information about geography, types of grapes, how the grapes are grown, and traditions – such as blends of grapes. Because each country is a little different in the way that it identifies factors in appellation, it is a little confusing. Visiting local vineyards changes all this. It introduces you to farmers and winemakers as friends and connects wine to the place, to the soil - to your memories. Suddenly you see terminology - from the other side – as a way of identifying where you were, what you saw, what you tasted.
In Italy D.O.C.G., is the appellation that is the most specific and identifies some of the country’s rarest, it most unique, and its most venerable wines. In Umbria, we have two D.O.C.G. wines: Torgiano Rosso Riserva and the wonderful, Montefalco Sagrantino. We will devote considerable focus to wineries producing these wines. Additionally, however, the next important appellation: “D.O.C.” leads us to numerous points around the region also producing some of Italy’s finest wines.