Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1503: Owner, Casa Sora Chiara
3bed/3.5bath house in Montone, Umbria
June 4 - 11, 2005, one week
Located just inside the small walled village of Montone in northern Umbria, about 30 minute drive north of Perugia. The views from Montone are simply amazing. You never get tired of them. The town sits on top of a small mountaintop so as you explore the village you turn a corner and there is another fabulous view. There are several garden spots (like at the Church of San Francesco) where you can go to watch the sunset or just sit there and take in the view. The town felt very safe so we were fine about letting our daughters (ages 9 and 16) have freedom in the town.
The town supposedly has around 1000 residents, but it didn't seem that populated to us. Often during the day the place seemed shuttered, but in the evening people would come out to the piazza. There were some other tourists in town, but not too many, although my impression is that Montone is "getting on the map" and the town is dealing with the changes this brings.
Many of the houses in Montone are connected but Casa Sora Chiara is pretty much freestanding, though very close to neighbors. You can hear the neighbors from the house, but it wasn't disturbing in any way.
The town is very clean and tidy and well maintained. You park outside the town walls and enter the town by going through an arch and climbing 57 steps. The house is right at the top of the steps.
There are mostly no cars in Montone, except for deliveries, etc. It has only a few "drivable" roads with the rest narrow and steep mazes wonderful for exploring. The walk from the house to the Piazza took a couple of minutes and there are 2 restaurants in the Piazza as well as a couple of other small shops.
Our first night we had dinner at the Erbaluna Ristorante in the piazza and it was one of our best meals in Italy. We also had a very nice meal on the terrace (with stunning views) at the Taverna del Verziere, which is almost right across the street from Casa Sora Chiara. There is also at least one other fine restaurant in Montone but we didn't get to it. We frequented the piazza for gelato and coffee and wine at various times during our stay. Early evening was great as the locals gather and we made some friends by the end of our stay.
There is a small grocer that has all your basic needs, fresh milk, cheese, bread, meat, assortment of vegetables, etc. Very friendly folks in Montone, even as we struggled with our limited Italian. The prices at the grocer are a bit more expensive than at the supermarkets in Umbertide (about a 10-15 min. drive) but the convenience is great and it is nice to support the local store. Umbertide is a much larger town and has at least 2 large modern grocery stores. We went to the COOP a couple of times and there was an abundance of anything you might want. There are restaurants in Umbertide and we had coffee and gelato at one in the piazza plus sandwiches at a very small place that happened to be open when we were hungry, but can't report much on them.
The house has been beautifully restored and is lovely. Plenty of room for the 5 of us.
There is no garden with the house. The front door opens onto a small covered area which has a small table and 2 chairs. This is right on the mostly pedestrian street that leads directly to the piazza. It isn't far to the several public garden areas of the town so you can easily find some benches and a little grass.
The photos of the house on the website are accurate. The furnishings are generally comfortable and homey. The living room has a big sofa and coffee table but could use another comfortable chair as the only other seating are too wooden straight backed chairs and a wooden bench. There was such a comfortable chair in the master bedroom which I wished was located in the living room (and I even considered moving there myself). Everything was very clean.
The TV is small and has satellite with CNN and BBC as the only English channels. There are about 20 assorted videos available. There are lots of Italian guidebooks (in English) in the house and numerous novels and magazines.
The dining table is large, seats about 8 easily. There are tablecloths and cloth napkins.
There are 2 bedrooms on the top floor (a lot of stairs to this floor), one with a queen and one with twin beds. There is a modern bathroom with shower on the top floor and also a half bath. The floor below has the large master bedroom with a bathroom. There is a powerful hairdryer.
There is also a "loft" area with a small bed that is a cozy place for reading. Our 9 year old made this her special spot. The master bedroom mattress is very firm, which you may or may not like, but it is in good condition. There were plenty of comforters and blankets, etc. for everybody, which was good as we had an unseasonable cold spell while we were there. There are bedside lamps.
There is also a bathroom with yet another shower on the main floor in the laundry room, so there is no lack of private bathroom space! The laundry was great and worked well. The house had laundry detergent in the cupboard, plus various cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc.
In some ways this kitchen is better stocked than mine at home. There were plenty of high quality pots and pans, plenty of wine glasses and dishes, plenty of utensils and assorted spoons, spatulas, etc. The stove was gas and it was a little tricky to get the hang of getting the flame lit, but was a good stove for cooking. Fridge is large and new. There is an American style coffee pot, plus stovetop espresso makers. There is a funny little old style toaster which works fine but you have to monitor it. There was no microwave. The dishwasher worked very well and there was dishwasher soap under the sink.
The kitchen came well stocked with staples. There were lots of spices and olive oil and vinegar plus tea bags and coffee and sugar. There were unopened boxes of breakfast cereal, pasta, spaghetti sauce. People have left these items behind and you are welcome to use them if you choose. We did and it was great. We left behind some items thatI hope the next folks could use. I recommend going to the house before you go to the grocery to see what is already available.
Problems or Bonuses
The house was larger than we expected, but the website and photos and description from conversations with the owner were accurate. The lighting is a challenge to figure out, but eventually we learned what switch turned on what light and even found a light that we didn't know was a light!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We rented directly from the owner, Margie B., who is American and lives in Mass. She was very helpful in phone conversations and e-mails. We sent a deposit when we booked and balance due 8 weeks before arrival. The contact person in Montone was Anna, who speaks fluent English. We met her in the Piazza at a designated time and she took us to the house and showed us around. Then she came by again on the morning we left. We had no problems during the week so had no reason to contact her, but we had her cell phone number just in case.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, we recommend this place with the following qualification: this is not a good house for someone with small children due the lack of railings along the stairs and along the 1st floor landing. It would be very dangerous for a toddler. Also, anyone with mobility challenges or difficulty climbing steps should not rent this house.
Things to do in this area
We went to Lake Trasimeno, Perugia, Assisi, and Gubbio for day trips. At Lake Trasimeno we took a boat to Isola Maggiore and hiked around the island. A highlight was visiting an old, derelict church there. Hard to describe this old dark church but we loved it.
We spent at least one day just getting the feel of Montone and wandering around. Visiting the museum beside the Church of San Francesco, as well as the old church itself, in Montone is a must. They are only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We never made it to a town on Market Day which was unfortunate. I wished we'd planned that a little better.
Assisi was interesting to us only for the Basilica of St. Francis, lots of tourists everywhere, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss the Basilica. We liked Perugia but went on a Monday and many restaurants were closed. Their market day, as well as Gubbio's, is on Tuesday. The Roman amphitheatre ruins at Gubbio was a highlight and some of us enjoyed taking the open cage funicular to the top at Gubbio.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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