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Acqualoreto Baschi: Agriturismo Il Capricorno

Loc. Il Poggio, 40, Phone: 0744.958182
www.ilcapricorno.it

Reviewed by: Jodgiebee from MA, review #2035

When: August 2007

I've traveled a lot in this area and it's hard to find an un-kitschy place that understands the value of fully-stocking and not skimping ...

Il Capricorno is just outside of a little Italian village called Aqualoreto. It's slightly hidden, up a big slope off the road, and from its front sitting area, you have a panoramic view of medieval Todi and, when clear, the Appenine mountain range. It's pretty much on its own, a good distance away from several neighboring estates--private but not isolated. Of my experience in this area (and I have much), very few farmhouses or villas have this kind of sweeping vista.

The nearest grocery store is the simple but well-stocked market in nearby Collelungo, a 5-minute drive. There is also a tucked away market in Morre, also 5-minutes away but far more basic. The Collelungo market boasts an owner who sings as he cuts meat and speaks passable English. For more major shopping, there is the Coop in Todi. The village of Aqualoreto has La Crucola, a mediocre, overpriced restaurant. Better to go to the simple Rosa dei Venti in Fiore, a 10-minute drive away on the way to Todi. They have excellent pizza made in a wood-burning oven for excellent prices (though the occassional incredibly long wait), and lovely outdoor seating, along with a jungle gym for kids. They also do takeaway pizza.

Todi boasts Pizza Cavour, also with good pizza and nice outdoor seating, and La Mulinella, a more upscale sort of osteria with original variations on local dishes and a pretty open garden. The greatest jewel in the area is a new wine bar and restaurant in Todi, Enoteca Oberdan, a romantic and darling eatery tucked away behind a blue-green door at the very entrance to the city.

Il Capricorno is an old country farmhouse fully restored, ancient from the outside with its stone and its green wooden doors, and polished clean new inside. It's all terracotta floors and gleaming bathrooms, with lots of good natural light (rare in Italian country homes!). I rented a room, La Romantica, one of three. They are all very simple and spotless, with TVs, comfortable beds with new mattresses and white sheets, and redone spacious bathrooms (no bathtubs, sadly, but I'll take a scrubbed clean new bathroom with a shower anyday).

There's a common kitchen and dining area upstairs, usually set for breakfast but very well-equipped and new. And then downstairs there's a congregation area with old marble fireplace, large dining room table, and lots of comfy couches and chairs.

You can rent by the room as I did, or you can rent the whole place kind of as a villa. The true value of Il Capricorno isn't so immediately obvious - yes, it's very pretty, yes it's got a gorgeous location - but when you stay a night, you get it. This place has, I swear, an inordinate amount of peace and tranquility about it. Is it the air? The silence? Being surrounded by trees and nature? The owner Tiziana's sweetness? I couldn't explain it, but the other guests here agreed. It's an amazingly calming place.

The outside area boasts a small table and a larger table, many good lawn chairs, and as I said before, a gorgeous view. It is shared. There is a barbeque and an outdoor oven. There is a pool, pretty much for taking a dip as opposed to a long swim, as it's fairly small and above ground. But it's clean, cool, and private, and surrounded by chaise lounges and umbrellas.

Tiziana obviously takes pride in the place. The house is cleaned very well daily, everything is in good shape, and there is plentiful seating both inside and out, upstairs and down.

The beds were new and didn't have that disturbing lumpy feeling - quite comfortable and with nice smelling sheets. As I have said many times, I liked the bathroom very much: Space, new white tiles, a good shower with good pressure and plentiful hot water, white towels replaced every other day. There were fans and good breezes and lots of pillows and space for all our clothes, and a little writing desk, and shutters to make the room nice and dark at night.

There is a new, well-stocked kitchen with coffeemakers for Italians, for Americans, and for French. There's tea, fruit juice, coffee, butter, jams, etc. The oven and stove work perfectly, the fridge is cold, and there is any type of appliance you can think up, minus perhaps a wok. I am not much of a cook, but the kitchen certainly seemed up to the task.

One good surprise: The AMAZING fresh bread Tiziana bakes daily. In Umbria, where all the bread at local bakeries is saltless and rock-hard within a day, this was a great treat. I also liked the weird little goat family that lives in a fenced-in area on the property.

Tiziana is the onsite person. She's very sweet, a great cook and baker, but not an English speaker, though she understands some. I had heard through a local friend of the place, which has the best prices I'd heard of in the area (I paid 50 a night in the high season, breakfast included, as compared to 45 at a nearby boarding house that lacked a kitchen, common space, or outdoor space). I believe that she has family that can correspond in English via email.

I have to say, I've traveled a lot in this area and it's hard to find an un-kitschy place that understands the value of fully-stocking and not skimping... so I was very, very pleasantly surprised by this simple little tucked away agriturismo so well-prepared for guests and so beautifully taken care of.

I would return, and will return here, whenever I am in the area. And I would recommend it to anyone, saying: It's not glam, it's not some sweeping villa on Capri, but somehow it's better for what it is: A beautiful house in the country with a lot of peace and quiet, for a good price, with fresh bread in the morning, cool evenings, and a lot of relaxation time. It captures, in its own way, the Umbrian spirit: Humble, connected to nature, generous, good.

We took a day trip to Perugia, which was lovely when not too hot, saw the Umbrian main gallery for about 6, got lunch at some local tourist joint (prepare for Perugia before you go, because it can be confusing). It's easy to go to see the massive waterfalls outside of Terni, to go to Aquasparta and Spoleto. Todi is clearly a pretty untouched medieval city, 20 minutes away. It has a remarkable cathedral and piazza, a great gelateria off the main square, and restaurants and shops.

I especially like Orvieto for its Duomo - the most beautiful and golden I have ever seen, a true can't-miss-it spectacle - and its elegance. It's a very straight shot from here, a 30-minute straight drive. There are lots of pretty gift shops and terraced restaurants, as well as more average shopping. Right off the piazza there's a small shop called Dai Fratelli with remarkable cheese and sausages, all artisinal.

But my favorite thing to do was relax, take long walks in the woods (Tiziana's dog came along sometimes) or along the street, bordered by wildflower fields, and sleep, and eat.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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