Local Mornington Peninsula residents Melanie MacDougall and Anthony Little are often asked if they are of Italian heritage, but they can’t claim to be Italian – just madly in love with the Italian people, culture, food and way of life.

A well-travelled couple, they had spent several overseas holidays enjoying all that Italy had to offer, both on tours and independently, and a dream started to evolve. They longed to spend a year living in Italy, enjoying a simple life where they could explore the country in more detail and immerse themselves in the culture.

Explains Melanie, “In 2015, we made that a reality. To live in another country and not just be a tourist is definitely a whole different experience. We chose the tiny village of Acqualoreto in Umbria, population 80. The warmth and welcoming we felt there soon made us feel not just part of the village, but part of a way of life that’s hard to find. We lived a short passeggiata from the piazza, in a 16th century villa set in its own 15 acre olive grove with delicious cherry, fig and walnut trees. Neighbours would drop by, delivering fresh cauliflowers, tomatoes, lemon cakes and wild boar stews. Others would offer toys to our son and invite us for meals with their family. It was a wonderful time, allowing us for the first time in years to truly slow down and feel the rhythms of nature around us and the beautiful change of seasons.”

Over the course of the year, friends and family visited Melanie and Anthony, who enthusiastically showed them their favourite towns, homemade pasta shops, local dairy farms, cantinas and the best coffees & gelaterias. Adds Melanie, “We derived such pleasure from sharing the local secrets and experiences that Umbria offered.”

The couple embraced the slower way of life and loved the more relaxed and unhurried pace, and they discovered they derived so much enjoyment from taking guests on impromptu tours and sharing their passion for Umbria in particular and Italy as a whole.

Umbria is much loved as the ‘green heart of Italy’, with rolling hills and picturesque valleys dotted with vineyards, olive orchards, and fields. Positioned in central Italy between Florence and Rome, Umbria beckons with its enchanting blend of timeless charm, rich history, and natural beauty. Medieval hilltop towns and vineyard-covered hillsides create a canvas of unparalleled beauty where the rhythm of life is set by the tranquil flow of its lush landscapes and the warm hospitality of its people. From the historic wonders of Assisi and Perugia to the rolling hills adorned with olive groves and vineyards, immerse yourself in a cultural tapestry woven with art, history, and the simple joys of la dolce vita.

Upon returning to Australia their dream evolved into the idea of hosting small groups on holiday tours of the area and help others breathe in that magical Italian way of life.

As the Founder and Tour Leader of Verde Italia, Melanie has always loved people and food. She can’t go past a slow lunch in a beautiful hilltop town or vineyard unless she’s shopping in a great Italian boutique she has found. She spent many years in management in the fashion industry -- and naturally, was always drawn to Italy, admiring the style and elegance of Italian designers. Melanie also has extensive experience in event management, marketing and hosting people. In 2015, Melanie worked alongside a wonderful mentor and local, Mario Santoro of True Umbria, assisting to host overseas guests in beautiful Umbrian villas and deliver wonderful authentic experiences.

Co-founder and general man-about-tour, Anthony has fully mastered the crazy Italian way of driving during his year there. While the same might not be said for his Italian language, he more than embraced the theatrical Italian hand gestures so critical for any Italian conversation. On a deeper level, Anthony truly understood and embraced the Italian way of life.

The Verde Italia experience includes:

  • - Luxury accommodation for 10 nights at Podere Masale Villa and Le Cappucinelle Suites & Spa Resort
  • - Breakfast, lunch and dinner including selected regional wines
  • - Local transportation in luxury mini van and supplementary car
  • - Full time Tour Leader & host
  • - Professional Tour Guide for 4 historic towns
  • - 4 hour private cooking class & lunch
  • - Montelfalco wine tour & tasting
  • - Chiesa del Carmine truffle hunting experience & degustation lunch
  • - Private art event
  • - Use of spa facilities at Le Cappucinelle Spa & Suites (subject to availability)
  • - Optional round of golf at Antognella Golf (Club hire & course fees)
  • - Entry fees to all attractions on guided tours
  • - Gratuities for local guides and drivers

To learn more about the magical Italian adventures on offer, call Melanie or Anthony on 1300 853 103.

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