Who We Are


It's your Turn to Experience Umbria

Everything that Italy has to offer – its food, its wine, its art, culture, nature, panoramas and its ambiance – can be found in abundance right here in Umbria, Italy’s “green heart.” And we at Experience Umbria are dedicated to helping you experience Umbria your own way.

Experience Umbria was founded in 2008 so we could share our love of Umbria and the treasures of Italy with the public. But in a sense ours has been a much longer journey. Bill and Suzy Menard, the founders of Experience Umbria began their love affair with Italy nearly two decades ago when Bill was a student in the Georgetown University Law Center summer program in Florence (Fiesole). That three-month taste of la dolce vita, which they shared with their then one year old son, led to other extended visits to different regions, each its own journey of discovery of a people and place. Then, after attending a cooking class on the Italian Riviera in 1995 they partnered with the chef to establish an internet-based Italian import business – – a small home-based business that supplied artisanal gourmet food products from family-run Italian suppliers to eager American bellies. From those humble beginnings emerged their current business, Bella Italia, a fully blown bricks-and-mortar retail store based in the Washington, DC suburb of Bethesda, Maryland. Bella Italia is dedicated to bringing the good lifeto customers in the D.C. area and across the country (through its website, and features gourmet foods, hand painted ceramics, Italian housewares, jewelry and books. Running Bella Italia has required Bill and Suzy to travel to Italy several times a year in order to find new products and to deepen their relationships with existing suppliers. A tough job but, as they say, someone had to do it.

After a decade of bringing la dolce vita to America, it seemed the right time to bring Americans to Italy, where they could truly experience la dolce vita firsthand, the way Italians do. So in March 2008 Bill and Suzy established Experience Umbria and purchased the beautiful villa La Fattoria del Gelso, a historic stone farmhouse situated on a 40 hectare working farm in one of Italy’s most fertile regions. This purchase was no accident. Bill and Suzy were interested in finding a villa that would house a group from 2-16 people comfortably and provide them with a true Italian experience. Location was important, too, and so they looked for a place that was in the heart of Umbria’s artistic, cultural, historic, culinary and oenological center. Cannara, where La Fattoria del Gelso is located, is just that location, only minutes from the SS75 motorway and a short drive to so many of the region’s gems.

But as comfortable and well-located as La Fattoria del Gelso is, an essential part of being able to share what they have gotten to know and love about Umbria was to be able to share some of the relationships they had developed over the years. That is why they are pleased to have partnered with Javier Casuso, a long time friend and ceramic artist and a resident of the area for the past 25 years. Javier’s knowledge of this region, its people, history and culture are at your disposal throughout your trip. Naturally warm and gregarious and, importantly, fluent in English, Javier is your man in Umbria and is sure to become your friend for a lifetime.

We think our story and our people set an Umbrian experience wth Experience Umbria apart from an ordinary vacation. Please feel free to contact us for assistance planning your vacation and we think you’ll agree. It’s what we do. It’s what we love.

Ci vediamo.

Bill & Suzy






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  © 2008 Experience Umbria Soc. Ag. - tel. (202) 957-3811