Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1793: Owner, Casale Sonnino
5bed/3bath villa near Frascati, Lazio
August 2004, one week
We discovered a family treasure in the Alban Hills near Rome named Casale Sonino. It is a beautiful pink villa nestled in olive groves opening on a Renaissance vista of the Tiber plain. It is in Monteporzio Catone, a lovely village overlooking Rome some 24 miles away.
To celebrate our 75th birthdays my wife and I treated our son and daughter, their spouses and our three grandsons - aged 5, 8 and 17 - to a week in the villa in August, the only month we could coordinate various work and school schedules. Perfect weather - temperate and rainless - facilitated touring the region, including nearby Castrl Gondolfo, the Pope's summer residence, as well as Villa d'Este of the fantastic gardens; Orvieto and its gorgeous tile-faced cathedral and Paelstrina with its fabulous archaeological museum. We explored Rome, of course, and Ostia Antica, the ancient port of Rome. Some of its buildings are in better shape than some in New York City.
The weather turned out to be more pleasant than New York in the same month - a surprise to us. Soft breezes blessed the villa most of the day and night. Breakfast was provided by the Villa's owner and some sumptuous dinners. We also dined in several of Monteporzio's excellent and kid-friendly restaurants. We especially enjoyed the regional Frasacatti wines, rarely seen in the US. So, if you are seeking a splendid family location - or for a group of friends - we urge you to look into Casale Sonino.
The nearest dining and grocery facilities were in Monteporzio within walking distance (about a quarter-mile).
The Casale's roots go back 2000 years when the area was summer home to ruling Romans, notable Cato for whom the immediate area (Catone) is named. The villas foundations include some Roman works and a cistern. Walls beside the drive into the villa are made of Roman brick.
The villa is completely private. The setting is magnificent. The villa itself has a huge terrace overlooking the Tiber plain where one can sit and enjoy a drink or read. Outside there is a patio shaded by a grape arbor on a trellis, also a pleasant place to wile away time. The olive groves are a pleasure to stroll in and there are lovely plantings around the villa. The walk to town is an easy up-hill stroll.
Furnishings were regional but seemingly new, though some were antique. The dining area is vast with a huge table and more than enough stately chairs for our group. The dining area windows opened on the vista over the plains. One outlook from the head of the table was like looking at a grand master's painting. Cleanliness was first class with virtually daily attendance by service folks. The "living room" is a very large area next to the dining area. There is no wall between them. There are plenty of comfortable chairs and sofas, a TV and a game board set up.
Beds were comfortable and most of the bedrooms were spacious enough with adequate closet and clothes-hanging arrangements. There were enough bathrooms for our group and - as with the rest of the villa - quite clean and modern.
There is a large, well-equipped kitchen. We did not use it ourselves, but our host did, cooking us some wonderful complete dinners. As cooking enthusiasts ourselves, my wife and I watched and learned.
Problems or Bonuses
Our surprises were all on the pleasant side. The only difficulty we encountered was in locating the villa at night. Its entry gate looks much like that of other private villas on its road. So, some distinctive marker would solve that in a minute.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We dealt directly with the owner who was on-site in her personal apartment, as was her son who manages the estate. The owner, Clotilde Treves and her family are Americans though she was born in Italy and raised at the villa. She was exceptionally pleasant and helpful to our group, acting as our personal guide to Monteporzio and Ostia Antica as well as - as mentioned above - preparing some genuinely authentic regional meals for us.
We found the pricing for our week at the villa a true value, given the setting and easy proximity to Rome, either by car or train, both of which we used.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
The villa is well suited to families or small groups. In our case the adult couples had their own rooms. The two youngest grandsons had their room and the oldest grandson - his choice - slept adjecent to and sometimes on the terrace overlooking the plain and looking up at the stars. We definitely recommend the villa for a family site or a group of friends.
Things to do in this area
First, of course, is Rome where one could easily spend weeks touring. Next is Ostia Antica, the ancient Roman port. It is exceptionally well preverved and facinating - a great day's outing. There is a good, clean, well-stocked cafeteria on-site. The villa is less than 10 miles from Castel Gondolfo a site and community well worth visiting. We saw it when the late Pope John-Paul was in residence, so colorful Swiss guards were everywhere. Villa d'Este is nearby and one of the world's treasure. Palestrina also is an easy drive. Orvieto is a longer drive up the super highway, but a must-see. But the area also abounds in lots of small pleasures.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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