Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2182: Le Case Gialle, La Terrazza
cottage/apartments on farm near Bevagna, Umbria
May 27-June 3, 2006, 1 week
Le Case Gialle is an olive farm that produces the most delicious olive oil we have ever tasted (that's all subjective of course, but a restaurant in Bevagna full of customers raving about it is support for this idea). The farm is nicely placed in a gorgeous area of Umbrian country side with rolling hills, olive tree orchards, and those picturesque stone buildings that Italians do so well. Nearby are the towns of Gualdo Cattaneo, Bevagna, Deruta, Todi, Orvieto, and Montefalco. This position was also on a wine route with various wineries very close by - oh heaven!
The property has five stone buildings containing apartments, four of which have terraces that overlook the ever so attractive countryside. The cottages are spaced nicely in duplex style construction (one that is slightly larger than the others is a single cottage) around the side of a hill that leads in the centre down an attractive stone pathway to a swimming pool that is kept exquisitely clean by Mauro, the olive oil master, and one of the owners. Towels are provided for swimming pool use, where the spacious deck has lounge chairs and umbrellas. With a little luck, you might also see the two house sheep munching their way contently along the side of the hill. There is something very relaxing about the situation, all in all.
It was necessary to drive to buy groceries, have a cafe bar coffee or a dinner out. This was not a hardship, however. Gualdo Cattaneo is two kilometres away and is a small, attractive stone village, that was so closed up when we first arrived in the area at approximately 1:30 p.m. that even the bar/cafe was closed for lunch. Bevagna -- about 6 kilometres away -- is a gorgeous, again small, but bigger than Gualdo Cattaneo, stone town, has restaurants, cafes, a pharmacy, enotecas (an establishment dedicated to wine tasting and perhaps meals or appetizers -- frequent these, they are a revelation), shops of all types, a very picturesque church, and friendly, warm people.
Our Italian is sparse, but we tried to do everything in it anyway (you'd be surprised how much can be accomplished with little language involved) and since there is very little English around in Umbria it is a lovely adventure to just go ahead and dive into another language. We had some fabulous encounters with shopkeepers of all types when they knew right away that we were trying to speak their language.
On the other side of Montefalco is a town called Ponteferro, which has nothing to recommend it except the Conad grocery store. It is a beautifully kept store with warm, engaging employees. They were all nervous and excited when we came in, clearly they get zero tourists in there, and when we tried our Italian and enthusiastic body language we all had a wonderful time. We found out what we needed to know, and bought the things we were looking for. It's little spontaneous things like this that can really make a trip.
When we walked into the apartment we had rented, my first thought was, "If this place is for sale, we're buying it." That thought receded somewhat after a bit of time, but it is still a very interesting place: ochre coloured outside walls; ceilings about 15 feet high throughout the inside with dark exposed beams and boards; an entrance hall with a bathroom off it, a bathroom that contains a deliciously roomy shower; good towels; a large kitchen with gas range, sink, a marble top table with carved wooden legs (Mmmm); stone floors, good dishes, and a welcome pack (yes! more on this in a moment); a large bedroom with a large comfy bed with clean, good quality linen, a small writing table with a chair, and a good sized armoir.
The welcome pack: A good supply of zucchero (sorry, love that word - sugar), salt, coffee for the Italian stove top espresso maker that works like a charm, jam, honey, a small bottle of Le Case Gialle's ultra delicious olive oil, and a bottle of wine, delicious wine. Mauro is also a sommelier so he knows how to pick wine.
Our cottage had a small balcony with a table and two chairs that were excellent for having a drink and contemplating the view of the olive trees leading across to the cultivated fields up to the hilltop beyond in the late afternoon, and/or for eating dinner at. There was only one of the five units that I believe did not have a balcony.
Earlier I mentioned the pool, the lounge chairs, the towels provided (not included in the two sets for each person to use in the bathroom over the week), and the pristine pool. It was very relaxed around the pool and people chatted amiably, read, swam, or perhaps dozed off.
Unfortunately for two or three of the days we were there the weather turned very cold and blustery, which put a bit of a crimp in our outdoor life.
The furniture was good, our favourite piece being that kitchen table. The bed was very comfy also.
The bathroom was very well set up and had a roomy shower, which was a sensational treat after the usual cramped and leaky European showers we'd been using before we got there. I'm not complaining; we travel a lot in Europe and are used to shooting the spray towards the wall and moving our bodies rather than the reverse, to minimize the small flood in the bathroom.
We didn't really cook in the kitchen, but there looked to be plenty of pots and pans. There were certainly enough plates and so on for us to have our evening festival dinners of wine, cheese, local sausage, fresh fruit, etc. (we love buying things in the local shops ad eating them for dinner rather than cooking - we are on holiday, after all) and the bread remaining from the morning loaf. Here's where I'd better mention this: There is a complimentary loaf of bread at the door every morning! What a treat. It allowed us to put the coffee on, toast up some bread, and read the ... Oh yes, the complimentary International Heral Tribune. What a thoughtful thing for Silvana and Mauro to do.
Problems or Bonuses
There were a few negatives that surprised us. Usually in Italy, things are emergency room clean, but we didn't find that here. The balcony had cobwebs growing between the railings, the floor of it needed a good hosing off since there were dead bugs and other detritus all over it, and the chairs had not been seen to for some time. There was a kettle in the kitchen that had a black bottom inside that stank when we tried boiling water in it, so we didn't use it. The stove top espresso maker seemed filthy beyond redemption and could use replacing. We did use it though.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Silvana handles all the business with the renters. She is very easy to work with and speaks excellent English. She takes a couple of days to answer emails, but she is very helpful and acts on things immediately. All in all, I would say she is an excellent and easy person to deal with.
We paid 540 Euros for the week of May 27-June 3, 2006, and feel the place is good value at that.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, with only the qualification of the partial cleanliness issue mentioned above.
Things to do in this area
Silvana has provided in each apartment a list of places to eat, go to, where to find a pharmacy, grocery stores and so on. That list was very helpful.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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