Hacienda Umbría Gateway to a gourmet getaway

27/Enero/2012 | 14:38

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The region of Umbria, Italy is known for its olive oil, black truffles, and exquisite wines from the many vineyards populating the countryside.  And, as in all of Italy, one's senses are enhanced by the fresh pastas, breads, and meats.  The region is a gourmet lover's delight and surely the inspiration of Alvaro Samper, owner and manager of the hacienda which bears the same name in Ecuador.

Samper, a businessman and gourmet chef, will be the first to set the historical record straight.  His pristine, 300-hectare property in Machachi, south of Quito, belonged to one of Ecuador's greatest philanthropists, Maria Augusta Urrutia.  She was a devout catholic and follower of Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order.  The town of Assisi is located in the Umbria region of Italy and is the reason Urrutia christened the property so.

The Hacienda House

When Samper acquired the hacienda fifteen years ago the original home of Maria Augusta Urrutia had collapsed and decayed to the point where he had to build a new one in its place.  What you find today is a rustic looking ranch house which greets you with a feeling of warmth.  The interior decor, with the warm, salmon-painted walls and an accommodating fireplace, creates an atmosphere of coziness.

Though the home is large, the space is intimate, offering four large rooms for guests.  Each room has two beds and a large bay window which is large enough to be converted into a bed itself  (and sometimes is).  The master bedroom, or premium suite, offers a panoramic view of the surrounding meadow below.

Like so many worthwhile destinations in Ecuador, the route to Hacienda Umbria is a road less traveled.  And directions are given only if Alvaro and Lorena are expecting you.  Once on the Umbria property, visitors will drive more than a kilometer and a half before coming to a fork.  To the right: Agro Umbria – the operation that manages the hundreds of head of cattle, milk and cheese-making operation, and potato farm.  Straight ahead: Umbria Gourmet, the path to something a little more refined.

Umbria Gourmet

As the name Umbria Gourmet suggests, a stay at the hacienda can be an encounter with the smells and tastes of something much finer than a typical menu found in the back country of South America.  Umbria offers nightly stays with breakfast included, but most come for the all-inclusive package to include three meals, appetizers and a wine-tasting (charge for wine is separate).  The all-inclusive visit is  built around the experience of fine foods and wine and a kitchen that is open to all guests as they watch or participate in the creations of Chef Samper.

Samper is not only a chef, but also President of the Cofradia de Vino, a not-for profit organization formed to develop the wine culture of Ecuador, now celebrating ten years since its founding.   He understands how wine is to be integrated with the food he serves.  Umbria has an extensive wine cellar with 1,500 bottles  from all of the great wine producing regions of the world and it is where he offers guests a chance to relax with fine wine and 15-20 different appetizers.

The main meals at Umbria are held in the dining area just off the main kitchen or outside on the patio. This is the countryside where delicacies include things not always found in the city. 

Your fresh garden salad may accompany a delicious pig's feet salad, rabbit cooked in white wine sauce, or tender lamb.  He also offers great soups and stews including a beef and bean soup served with fresh-baked foccacia bread, traditional "caldo de pata" (cow feet) stew, and  "papas con cuero" (potato and pork skin) dish – typical Ecuadorian pottages.

The portions are moderate so guests feel gratified and not over-indulged. Testament to Alvaro's sense of proportion and balance in offering so many dishes is the capacity for guests to indulge in dessert, be it  choclate cake, taxo fruit ice cream, or a very traditional, "mil hojas"  cake-like sweet made of milk, sugar, and vanilla and prepared in layers.

And to end the meal, a sample of Ecuadorian cacao with freshly, brewed Ecuadorian coffee.

Before or After the Meal

Umbria is a large estate, more than 300 hectares of pasture and mountainside with walking, biking, and horseback riding trails available to those who purchase the all-inclusive package.  They also offer day excursions to the nearby volcanos: Cotapaxi and the Illinizas, or a visit to a local flower farm.

Stay at Hacienda Umbria


Lorena del Campo - 26034151 / 094666725 / 099407471

[email protected] / www.haciendaumbria.com

Services & Prices:

$150 suite or $200 premium, includes: breakfast only

$400 suite or $50 premium suite, includes: welcome cocktail / fruit and juice throughout your stay, three meals per day and all activities (horses, bicycling, hiking, tractor rides)

Taxes and service (22%) and alcoholic drinks are not included.

Children under 12 years old, no additional charge.