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Review 1123: Owner, Casa Sbarra


Review by jerry from FL

villa, sleeps 10, in Gabbiana, near Carrara, Tuscany North


Sept 18, 2004, 2 weeks


We wanted to be near Carrara, the land of our ancestors, so we rented a villa high in the Apuan Alps in the tiny village of Gabbiana. A very narrow paved road winds its way up from Aulla near the Magra River up through Licciana Nardi high up into the mountain to the village of Gabbiana. The village of Gabbiana, in the Lunigiana region of Massa Carrara, has a population of about 30 Italians, 4 donkeys, 2 dogs, some chickens, and a few cats. The village consists of one Trattoria, a Catholic church and a handful of homes and apartments.

The villa, Casa Sbarra, is an old five bedroom Tuscan family home built in the 18th century, furnished with beautiful antiques. In addition to the five bedrooms, there are two living rooms, a formal dining room, two bathrooms, a large kitchen with a gas stove, an old wood burning oven, and a small kitchen within the three floors of the villa.

The villa can be rented in two sections, sharing the large kitchen, and can accommodate up to 10 people. A small tower room on the third floor overlooks the surrounding mountains.

The views are breath taking. There is a tiny chapel, a small vineyard, and a lovely garden on the property. The chapel can be rented for weddings and often is. On our visit, the feast of the Madonna SS. Maria Addorlorata was celebrated in the chapel on the day after our arrival at the villa. We were invited to join in the celebration by Carlo and his wife Rosi, the owners of the villa. After the Mass in the chapel and the procession of the Madonna through the village, we attended a party in the garden where our hosts and village residents provided local food and homemade wine from the villa’s vineyard. We drank Atillio’s wine made from Trebianno grapes grown in the vineyard.It was wonderful.

Atillio is Carlo’s brother and co owner of the villa, which was their childhood home. During our stay, Atillio showed us how to pick grapes and make wine in ancient wood barrels in the wine cellar. I wish we could return next year to taste this year’s vintage. Atillio’s red and wine wines are outstanding. The feast, with its procession of the Madonna through the village, has been celebrated in the chapel, in Gabbiana, for over 150 years.

We, my wife Shirley, and my brother and his wife decided to rent the entire villa because we needed three bedrooms to accommodate the four of us and two cousins from France. Our French cousins stayed with us during our second week in the villa.

We ate several times in the Trattoria and their food and pizza was excellent. Lunch of antipasti, pasta, a meat, dessert, coffee and wine was 8E per person. No menu, you ate what they made for the day. Dinners at night varied in price but no meals were expensive. Personal pizzas were about 5E or 6E depending on toppings which ranged from cheese, prosciutto, salumi, ham, mushrooms, artichokes, etc. Some of the Gabbiana Trattoria dinner items I remember were, cheese bread, eggplant stuffed bruschette, risotto with porcini, risotto with greens, ravioli with ragú, rabbit with olives, arristo misto of lamb and pork, lardo from nearby Colonnata, prosciutto, salumi, cheese, olives, local porcini mushrooms, (Gabbiana is noted for their porcini and a local resident showed us the porcini he picked in the forest and was drying in the sun), testeroli, pasta with pomodoro sauce, pasta with pesto sauce. Desserts of rice cake and tiramisu are two I remember that were excellent. The rice cake was the same cake recipe my Tuscan grandmother made for us 50 years ago. The house red and white wines were better than any table wine I have had here in the States.

We bought Toscana vino de tavalo in the super market in Terrarosa for 2.40E for 1.5 liter bottle and it was excellent. The commercial cheese and chard ravioli we bought in the super market was as good as my homemade ravioli. The desserts and pastries we purchased in the pastry shop in nearby Bagnone were to die for. Incredible! We cooked some meals in the villa and dined in various restaurants in Colonnata, Portovenere, Sarzana, Pontremoli, and Villa Franca. We visited other cities but I thought you might be interested in Gabbiana because, as far as I know, it has never been reviewed in Slow Travel.

This trip to Italy was special for us because we were able to visit the very old homestead of our grandparents and great grandparents in Carrara and meet with relatives from Carrara for the very first time. We also met relatives from France for the very first time. It was incredible. I could go on forever.

The information I was able to get surfing the Slow Travel website was extremely helpful in my trip planning. Thank you all.

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

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