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Review 261: Owner, Casa Sora Chiara


Review by Jim from VA

3bed/3.5bath house in Montone, Umbria


July, 2001, two weeks


When English-speaking tourists walk by the open windows and glance in during the dinner hour and say, "Now that's what I've dreamed la dolce vita Italy really is," you're likely to be in Casa Sora Chiara.

This 14th-century stone house located just inside one of the three gates into the unspoiled 9th-century hill town of Montone in Umbria, near Umbertide, is the perfect location for a relaxing yet stimulating, comfortable, memorable stay in Italy.

Walk out the front door and step off the front porch equipped with table and chairs to watch village life go by and you'll turn right and look through the arched village gate, viewing blue mountains in the distance and a bit closer, farm fields - one an olive grove, then the next a vineyard, then another filled with sunflowers in full bloom.

Or turn left and stroll for a minute or less to find yourself in the village square or piazza, where townspeople and visitors sit at tables sipping local wines or enjoying gelato, conversing and watching the small world of Montone go by.

Slip into the greengrocer's shop right on the piazza for ripe fruits and vegetables and other comestibles or go to the butcher's shop across the piazza for meats and cheeses and milk and bread and butter for smiling, friendly service as you plan the evening meal.

Alternatively, try the dining room - or better yet - the outside terrace at a local hotel where the cuisine is top-notch and the attractive owners and their staff attentive and professional as any sophisticated ristorante in Rome. Other choices include a wonderful trattoria just outside the village wall for a delicious, inexpensive dinner or the attractive cool basement restaurant on a side street where your entry is greeted by a burst of sunflowers.

You'll want to use the kitchen facilities at Casa Sora Chiara during part of your visit, however, taking advantage of the restaurant-quality stove/cooker with one special unit for boiling water for huge pots of pasta. The dishwasher and large refrigerator and other kitchen equipment stand out as having been planned and completed to satisfy discriminating cooks.

The beautiful antique dining table and sideboard provide just the right atmosphere and tableware for a beautiful, long dinner filled with conversation and laughter.

After dinner, curl up on the chaise in the balconied library for a good read or move to the living room area for coffee or television.

As you pull yourself out of the comfortable sofa and chairs, you'll appreciate the two-story fresco painted by Maggie Mailer - (Norman's daughter)- as you wander up to fall into bed on firm, comfortable mattresses and springs or as you bathe in a gigantic, luxurious tub or comfortable showers.

It's difficult to tear yourself away from Casa Sora Chiara, but the opportunities are boundless. The city of Perugia - with incredible art galleries and shops and cafes and restaurants and more - is just thirty or forty minutes away on the freeway. The town of Umbertide just down the hill from Montone provides more shopping options with supermarkets and even a shopping mall on the south end of town.

But where to spend days out from Montone? Which hill town or city today? Assisi, with its remarkable Basilica of St. Francis and Roman ruins, high on a mountainside with breathtaking views? Spoleto, little more than an hour away, site of the world-class international music festival now reproduced as Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, South Carolina (and with tickets available for easy purchase the same day as the performance)? Or perhaps San Sepulcro or Citta di Casetello, just minutes to the north, with incredible paintings and frescos; or Gubbio to the northeast with its beautiful ceramics and palazzo and churches and splendid views over a high wall from the town piazza? Montepulciano with its streets that wind to the top of the town past shops filled with bottles and cases of vino brunello? Montefalco with its parks and gardens and Roman sites and charming town square with cafes? Or Orvieto, with its remarkable duomo (cathedral)? Or towns ringing the largest lake in Italy, just an hour away? Florence, one of the world's greatest sites for art and architecture and history and culture, is worth the morning's drive and perhaps even a stay of one or two nights or more, although it's difficult to stay away from Casa Sora Chiara for long.

And in the end, along with memories of Florence or Rome or Pisa or Milan or any of the other great cities or regions of Italy, there's absolutely no doubt that your mind will wander back just as vividly to Casa Sora Chiara and the people and sites of Montone, to Anna who will welcome you and be an invaluable, kind resource for your stay there, and to the genuine embodiment of La Dolce Vita you'll find at this treasure of a house in this wonderful litle town!

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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