Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 2601: Italian Encounters, Casa Giardino
3bed/2bath house near Umbertide, Umbria
2005, one week
This property is located in Borgo Montemigiano near the top of the rolling hills of the Niccone Valley about five miles North of Umbertide, on the North side of the valley road that runs all the way to Cortona to the West. The road up to the borgo of Montemigiano is paved, but narrow and fairly steep. The location is private and quiet with spectacular views to the south toward Umbertide and beyond. On site olive groves, vegetable garden and vineyards add to the tranquility and rustic feel. You'll need a car because this is off the beaten track, but only five minutes to Niccone or another ten minutes to Umbertide. This was our third stay in the valley just because it is well situated for day trips to the many towns of Tuscany and Umbria.
Driving a few minutes into Umbertide for a quick espresso, or groceries or lunch or dinner or to catch the train to Perugia or to go to the morning vegetable market is certainly not an inconvenience, but is required, since you are truly in the country at Casa Giardino. Nearest restaurant is in Niccone about two miles away. Since eating the local food was a something we did every day, we found that once we left Giardino for the day, we were gone until after dinner at night, so the trek up the hill was never a bother - and it's only a mile or so of paved road, so no big deal.
There is a long history concerning the various buildings in the Borgo and like most in this area they are hundreds of years old and well kept. Of the seven buildings, only two are rentable, so you can count on privacy. Giardino is all on one floor (ground floor) of a two story stone building. The apartment above was being renovated and was unoccupied while we were there.
There is a single entrance to Giardino into a very modest sitting area, kitchen and central hallway off of which are three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. The upstairs is not accessable and not rentable as of 2005. Giardino faces south, so it has the very best views of the valley.
Outside and inside are all refurbished and clean. The iron gate over the front door for security was a bit disconcerting, but we figured out how to pen and close it without the key.
The lawn out front stretches for about 100 feet in both directions and is surrounded by a stone wall. The wall is required because the property drops off about 10-12 feet on two of the three exposed sides - kids beware! There is a pool just up the hill, but by late September, we did not take advantage. Tennis courts just down the hill, also eschewed - remember our priority was eating!
Outside table and several lawn chairs made this a great spot to just sit and read, chat and soak up the afternoon sun and those fantastic valley views.
An added touch is a small church at the very top of the small borgo, that is still in operation for the local farmers and caretakers.
The word that comes to mind when describing this apartment is cozy. While there was ample room for six, another two people would have meant it was crowded. The eat in kitchen was by definition smallish because of the kitchen table - but OK for four of us. The front room/sitting area was comfy, but not very large - a small couch and stuffed chair just inside the front door. The bedrooms were spacious, however.
The beds were queens and there was plenty of drawer space for two people per bedroom. Each bathroom has a standalone shower unit that is just a little cramped, but serviceable. The bathrooms are a little narrow, but nothing to complain about. Since there were two couples, we had had our own bath. With a third couple, someone would have to share.
The kitchen is fully equipped and although we only made one meal there because eating in the local country restaurants was a priority, we found all we needed to get us off in the morning with coffee and a roll or late at night with a quickly prepared snack. Since we didn't really test the kitchen with more than four or with any multi-course meals, I cannot say for sure that everything you'd need is there, but we found what we needed in the cupboards and drawers, on the shelves or in the large storage chest chocked full of dinnerware, gadgets and amenities.
Problems or Bonuses
Local, very pregnant cat visited every morning looking for handouts. She was sweet and she added to the country feeling.
The lack of screens on the windows meant that leaving the windows open at night would insure quite a number of large insects clinging to the bedroom and bathroom walls in the morning.
The local farmer harvested the grapes on the very day we were going to raid the vineyard...timing is everything! He must have tourists figured out.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We never met the on site caretaker - she just left the place unlocked for us, while we drove in from Rome. The web page description of Giardino is accurate.
Last week of September - first week of October - about $1600 per week for four of us, but I think it has gone up recently.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Very picturesque location, authentic buildings and grounds, clean accomodation, spectacular views, fair price. YES, we'd stay at Casa Giardino again. The only concern - keep an eye on kids under 10 or so, that drop over the stone wall could seriously injure someone.
Things to do in this area
Restaurants: Mimi's in Mercatale (review submitted); La Sirena in Terontola (review submitted); Oscari in Monte Santa Maria Tiberina (review submitted).
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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