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Castel Campagnano: Castello Ducale

35 Via Chiesa, Phone: 0823.863.031
www.castelloducale.com

Reviewed by: Dawn H from NY, review #2637

When: June 2009

A lovely stay in a magnificent castle which is also a winery and being treated like family is a wonderful vacanza!

A view of the very old and enchanting ancient Castello Ducale, photo by David Hopper

I heard about the Castello Ducale from a friend. The only other reference I found was in a book on Campania and Naples. We wanted to have a 'real' Italian experience since we have seen all the major cities more than once, taken friends to see the cities more than once, did small Tuscan towns and generally wanted a slower experience.

In August 2008 we decided to take a week and live in the Castello Ducale and stay for a festival that occurs each August 5th. The trip was wonderful and this year we decided to attend the grape and agricultural festival. The first time we were there In August, Mr. Antonio Donato and his family welcomed us cordially.

The festival in this small town was one of the most incredible experiences we have had, the town being small enough for us to get to know the local characters and they come to know us. I learned that this town had lost about one half of there residents to emigration to America so they had not only ties to the US but cared for America and were generally interested in us. Many people asked us about cities they knew their relatives lived in! I also learned that they celebrate the lives of their lost immigrants in the festival and welcome them back each August.

The hotel is in an actual castle and they have 15 guest rooms. The rooms were very nice, being rustic but completely remodeled and state-of-the –art. I had a balcony that looked over the magnificent courtyard and a lemon tree grew up and practically into my room. There was a water cooler outside the room which also provided hot water for tea. Our friend’s room had a magnificent bathroom with an actual fresco preserved above the tub. While it was hot the rooms were air-conditioned.

In the morning Mr. Donato welcomed us to a breakfast and coffee. One of the nicest things he did was to invite us to local café. After breakfast we accompanied him to a small pastry shop where he ordered us espresso and introduced us to the locals. Despite our language difficulty the people were very friendly. So friendly that later in the day while we strolled the small cobble streets, we were invited to have a snack with them!

There is no restaurant in the hotel but he does have a new industrial kitchen. One day Mr. Donato told us that he would like to invite us to dinner. That night we walked into the large and magnificent courtyard to see tables all set and ready. He had hired a local chef and they served antipasti and made brick oven pizza. This was complemented by the excellent wine he served.

The hotel grounds include a working winery. Below the hotel is a series of wine caves that house hundreds of barrels of wine. We were able to tour these caves where Osvaldo, the son, explained the complete production of their wine. The highlight of the wine caves was a special view of something few could ever imagine. While building a new wine cave a part of the wall came down and Antonio Donato discovered an ancient Byzantine church! All the painted frescoes were still left on the walls. I stood there in amazement. Even my 18 year old son was captivated by the site.

We were also taken in Mr. Donato’s car to the bottling plant to see the wine production, and of course, treated to a tasting. This was included in the price we paid although we had no idea that we would be treated so specially. Mr. Donato wanted our experience to be memorable and he went out of his way to insure we would have a great experience.

My son spent afternoons in the pool on premises and Osvaldo brought us cut up melon and wine! This family went out of their way to insure we were comfortable.

As I stated we needed to slow travel. Walking through the maze of small streets, winding around turns and looking at houses hundreds of years old was enchanting. People were so friendly and welcoming. We went to the Rosso Luna, a tiny bar where we sat outside and chatted with the young people who wanted to work on their English.

We ate at La Bugia, the small restaurant in the town almost every night. The owners were so warm and accommodating. One night the ovens were not lit (they are wood ovens) and they felt terrible. They insisted on making us complimentary antipasto to tide us over. After we ate the owner came to my table and handed us a bottle of his wine and a cork screw. In his broken English he told me to take it to the hotel and enjoy it!!! The restaurant has excellent cheeses and food, hefty portions and we felt like one of the family.

The area is near Amalfi, Pompeii, Naples and about 2 hours south of Rome. There is the incredible palace of Caserta and the spectacular Caserta vecchia nearby. In other words, there was always something to do. Mr. Donato was also willing to arrange tours for us, hire chefs for special events and on our recent trip for a nominal fee he took us to a night garden tour in Caserta at the palace.

The town has a website in Italian and they list all the festivals that one can attend. In June there is the olive and grape festival in which they celebrate the agricultural events. We spent the equivalent of about $140 per night for two adults and our 18 year old son, including a hearty breakfast. The rates are 60-80 euros per night for a single, low season and E80-100 for a double low season.

Mr. Donato told us he would accommodate a group for a lower rate if we wanted to bring many people. He was also willing to provide transportation and arrange tours. One of the nicest things, however, was that we felt that he considered us like family. On hot afternoons we found food waiting for us, complimentary wine and fruits. We never asked for this! His attitude was reflected in the townspeople who were friendly and went out of their way to speak to us, talk to us and welcome us. We will return!

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

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