Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2177: San Cristoforo, La Casetta
2bed/2bath house near Cagli, Marche
June 2006, One week
La Casetta is gorgeously and conveniently sited, about 10 km. outside the town of Cagli (about 9,000 pop.), 300 yards back from a quiet road, with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and low green mountains; after dark the lighted castle of the hilltop town of Frontone glimmers in the distance. The property contains another rental, La Pieve, and the home of the owners, but each unit is cunningly arranged so that all enjoy privacy. La Casetta is secluded and serene while at the same time providing a marvelous base for explorations of the Marche countryside; it is within easy striking distance of such fascinating larger towns as Gubbio and Urbino, and even Ravenna, with its mangificent mosaics, can be easily reached on a day trip.
Because La Casetta is in the country a car is necessary, but Cagli is a short and easy drive and it has a couple of supermarkets (including a newish Conad one)and other stores, as well as a fine alimentari run by a friend of the owners and an excellent pasta fresca shop. Just a kilometer or two away from the property on the road into Cagli is a simple but pleasant restaurant where we had good pizzas on a couple of occasions.
La Casetta is an older building built of stone and in very good condition. On its ground floor is a living room with a fireplace, couches, and a desk; its kitchen is large enough to contain a dining table that can seat six easily. The arrangement of the two bedrooms on the upper floor affords each a good deal of privacy; in one bedroom the toilet/bath is attached, in the other it's just outside the bedroom door. The house has stone floors with attractive area rugs here and there, and throughout it has nice pictures on its walls. As a whole La Casetta's feeling of hominess far exceeds what one usually finds in a rental property.
French doors from the kitchen open onto a pergola with a table and chairs and a lovely, well-tended small garden planted with both ornamentals and herbs; it's entirely private and the view is unforgettably splendid. We had our breakfasts and chez nous dinners there, and so inviting was it that we sat out in it to read or schmooze most of the time we were at home. Every physical feature of La Casetta was superior, but the pergola/garden was the very best.
The house was spotlessly clean throughout and the furnishings entirely satisfactory. We didn't use the living room much because the weather was fine and it was so pleasant to be in the garden, but had the days or evenings been cooler the two couches and fireplace would have made it a cozy place to be. We especially appreciated the attention to good lighting, in the downstairs rooms as well as the bedrooms; the owners are readers themselves and have anticipated that their guests might be too, which is not always or even usually the case in other rentals we've stayed in. Because of the substantial table in the middle of it, the kitchen was also very pleasant to gather in as well as work in. There's no TV in the house, which we didn't miss at all, but there is a CD-player/radio, and the owners are glad to lend CDs to play on it.
The bedrooms are good sized and the beds very comfortable; each bedroom also has chairs and a table for tossing things on and provides plenty of dresser and armoire space for unpacking and putting away clothing. As mentioned earlier, the lighting for reading in bed is a notable amenity. The sink in one of the bathrooms is smallish but entirely adequate, the showers are good, and there was always plenty of hot water. Everything in the bedrooms and bathrooms was well-kept and very clean.
La Casetta has a notably good batterie de cuisine, of high quality and with everything needed for preparing meals. There are also plenty of serving dishes, crockery, and cutlery, the former attractively displayed in a glass breakfront. The 4-burner countertop/oven is modern and efficient, the refrigerator is of appropriate size, and there's adequate counter space for food preparation. The large table is a real plus, and helps to make the kitchen an enjoyably convivial space for everyone to spend time in.
Problems or Bonuses
From its website and the manual about the house supplied by the owners in advance, we had high expectations for La Casetta, and our only surprise was how much it exceeded them. The house itself was even nicer than we had imagined, and the setting more glorious. The owners have been exceedingly thoughtful about what guests might require or want, and we didn't feel a single thing lacking.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
As fine as the house and setting were, what especially made our stay at La Casetta so pleasurable and memorable was the congeniality and helpfulness of its owners, Peter Greene and Richard Dixon, both of whom are British expats. This begins even before you arrive, when they send by email the 18-page "handbook" for the house, full of useful information about it and also with suggestions for 50 things one might do while a guest there. It lets you know, for instance, that you will be welcome to use their washing machine or computer, both of which we in fact did. Once guests arrive Peter and Richard are instantly and ungrudgingly available for further advice or help, which they manage to be without ever being intrusive on guests' privacy. My suitcase had been lost by the airline, which also bolloxed the arrangements for getting it delivered to me, and Peter and Richard spent a good deal of time by email and phone sorting this out with the carrier; I didn't even have to hang around waiting for its delivery, because they were there to receive it when it finally arrived. They're long-time residents of the area (18 years, as I recall) and know it well, and they provided some excellent suggestions for things to do, supplementing the handbook, by telling us, for instance, of a nearby small town's "snail festival" our first weekend at La Casetta, an event that was tremendously enjoyable and that we wouldn't have known of otherwise. Their warmth and graciousness make what would be by any measure a superior rental venue into an unquestionably outstanding one.
When we stayed in June 2006 the weekly price for La Casetta was 880 euros, which given the quality of the accommodation seemed to us an amazingly good bargain, about $550 per couple (we were sharing the house with friends), less than $80 each per night. One further thing I'd add is that Peter and Richard are very accommodating in how the payment is handled; when I booked I sent a personal check in dollars which required I also pay only a small bank fee for them to cash it, and then once we arrived they were content to wait until we could get to an ATM to draw funds for paying the balance.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would adore to stay here again, and hope to do so, deo volante, and we would recommend it enthusiastically and unqualifiedly. We've rented before in Ireland, England, Denmark, France, and Italy, and have had fine luck with nearly all of these rentals, but La Casetta is the very finest and most satisfying of all of them. A wonderful accommodation, splendid countryside and things to see, and extraordinarily congenial hosts. What more could anyone ask for?
Things to do in this area
Rather than try to list the many interesting things to do in Le Marche I'd suggest prospective visitors purchase the Touring Club of Italy's "Heritage Guide" to Le Marche (available over the internet from a US distributor for $16.95); it's handsomely illustrated and offers dozens--hundreds--of suggestions for sightseeing and restaurants, with good maps of towns to boot. This still not-very-touristed corner of Italy is entirely worth a visit, or, rather, more than one.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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