Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 3005: Casa in Monferrato, Casa Nella Vigna
3bed/1.5bath house in Asti, Piemonte
Summer 2007, 2 weeks
The cottage is right on the edge of the village of San Martino Alfieri, which is a five minute drive from the road connecting Asti and Alba. You drive through the hilltop village to get to the house, which is at the end of a narrow lane. From the house and terraces, you look out over hillsides, vines, farm buildings, and across to hill towns on the opposite ridges. The houses on each side don't seem to be used much, and the only sounds we heard were the village dogs and roosters.
You can walk down to the village cafe, a great butcher shop, a small alimantarie, and a tiny supermarket a bit further on. In the village is a restaurant (closed during our stay) and an excellent pizzeria. There's a good bakery in the next hilltown of Gavone, more stores in San Damiano d'Asti (which are also open on Monday, along with the weekly market), a huge supermarket in Castagnito and another just before Alba, the organic co-op in Magliano Alfieri. Weekly markets also in Asti, Alba, Costigliole d'Asti, other towns.
The house is an old brick barn, very thoughtfully renovated. It's a clever use of space, using good quality, characteristic, though not flashy materials. You enter through an old wooden door to a hallway, with a nice half bath to the left. A few steps ahead is stairs going to the bedroom level, then the cozy living room, with throw-covered sofa, chair, and rattan love seat. Just a step down to the open eat-in kitchen. There are french doors from the living room leading out to the patio with outdoor table and chairs. Upstairs are two bedrooms, one slightly larger than the other, and a good-sized bathroom. There's also a stairway/ladder to an open loft at the top.
The outside area is one of the things that really makes this house special. The top patio with dining set overlooks the small yard and a huge fig tree. You get peeks of the view from here. You follow stone steps down to a middle terrace with a wonderful view, and then more steps to the lower terrace, where there's the best view of all. There's another dining set here under a pergola, and also a hammock.
The furniture was comfortable and simple. Bright fabrics and colors throughout give the house a cheerful feeling. It had been cleaned before our arrival, and was easy to keep up. As a bonus, there are loose screens at windows and doors to help keep out mosquitoes and flies.
The beds were comfortable, covered in nice linens. Each room had two twin beds, to be pushed together or not. Each bedroom had a large armoire for storage, a French door to a tiny balcony (very useful for drying clothes!) and loose screens. The tiled bathroom had a tub with wall-mounted shower attachment, sink, toilet, and washing machine. Fixtures not new, but in fine shape.
The kitchen had everything we needed for preparing full meals. There's a full-sized fridge, an enamel double sink, drip-style and Moka coffee pots, a small microwave, reliable stove. When we mentioned to the owner that a frying pan was nearing its last days, she cheerfully replaced it. Basic supplies like salt, sugar, dried pasta, oil were in the pantry.
Problems or Bonuses
How much we enjoyed being in this relaxed, lovely setting! The owner supplies just about anything you could need, from market bag to cellphone.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
The owner is an American ex-pat who lives 30 minutes from the house. Her website gives you a very fair depiction of the house. She answers e-mails promptly and fully, and leaves huge amounts of local information for you at the house. I consider it an excellent value.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here, and would return in a heartbeat. I'd recommend it highly to people who are on a return trip to Italy who want to explore an area slightly off the beaten path.
Things to do in this area
In the village, we loved the butcher shop and the pizzeria Rosa Bleu. In Gavone is a good bakery, and a wine co-op shop down the hill. On the Asti-Alba road is the Cascina de Cornale, an organic co-op store and lunchtime restaurant. In San Damiano d'Asti (10 minutes) are two small general grocery stores, several fruit/vegetable stores, at least five bakeries, gelaterias, and a pasta fresca shop. More stores in the other direction in Costigliole d'Asti, as well as the friendly Bar Roma for simple meals. Favorite lunches were at Crota de Calos in Calosso, and Della Posta in Monforte d'Alba.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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