Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4125: Owner, Il Sogno
2bed/2bath apartment in Casperia, Lazio
April 2009, One week
Italy and the words “dream vacation” are inextricably linked for me. My first visit to Italy was in 1999. I fell in love with the country, the people, the food, the wine and culture. What’s not to love? Highlights from that trip included a day wandering the Roman Forum, a visit to the Pantheon, and two unforgettable side trips: one to the Umbrian hilltop town of Orvieto, and the other to Byzantium’s outpost on the Adriatic, Ravenna, with all its dazzling mosaics.
Ten years later, we wanted to experience a different side of Italy — something slower paced, more restorative — something with a base in the hills outside the city, but still close enough and connected to Rome for us to be able to hop on a bus or train and head there, or north to Orvieto, if we pleased. Through an online search of hilltop towns in Lazio, we came across a picture of Casperia. There was just something about it that grabbed our attention and captured our imagination. The more pictures we saw and the more we read about the town we realized that “this is the place.”
At first we considered staying in a bed and breakfast, but we discovered the website for “Il Sogno” and opted for a house rental. We are sure glad we did. The photos on the website can only hint at the character and charm of the Phillips’ house. The moment we came through the door we were in love with the place. For one glorious week in April Il Sogno was our home away from home. We love cooking, so we used the kitchen a lot at Il Sogno. The little alimentari outside the walls had everything we needed, from the delicious local campagnolo cheese, to a good selection of local wines, prosecco, and even grappa. There is a butcher shop and great little pasticceria at the gate as well. We highly recommend treating yourself to a weekend meal at the nearby agriturismo, Gusto Al Borgo. Their olive oil is for sale and you would do well to buy as much as you can take home as it is truly wonderful!
From Farfa Abbey to the winding streets of Roccantica to the Archeological Museum in Magliano Sabina, you’ll love exploring the back roads of the Sabine Hills. Orvieto and the delights of Umbria is little more than an hour’s drive away. We found that, in Casperia, every day trip departure had a promise of adventure that was always amply rewarded. But equally rewarding was our down time at Il Sogno.
Just inside the city gate, situated on a picturesque little piazza with a beautiful view of the surrounding Sabine countryside is the Friends Bar. It’s a great place for your morning brioche and cappuccino, but this is also going to be where you’ll want to watch a sunset and toast your good fortune with a Negroni. We availed ourselves of that happy opportunity many a time as we dreamed of the day we would be coming back again.
As stated above, the alimentari (grocery store), pasticceria (bakery) and macceleria (butcher shop) are all located just outside the city gate. It is a "no car town" and there are lots of stairs between the gate and our rental but it was not a steep climb. We were there to relax, not hurry, so we soon got used to it. The agriturismo Gusto Al Borgo will actually send a car to pick you up but if you prefer to drive yourself it is a five minute drive and perhaps a leisurely 25 minute walk.
The owners mention on their website that there are larger stores and other options in the nearby hilltop town of Cantalupo but we never felt we needed them.
The owners have done a lovely and respectful job of rehabilitating and restoring their old house, saving original features wherever possible. The house is on two levels with the dining room, living room/library, kitchen and main bedroom (with fireplace)and main bathroom on the main floor. Downstairs is another beautifully appointed bedroom and en suite bathroom. We were staying during Easter long weekend and so thee were lots of visitors from Rome and other parts but the town was generally peaceful and quiet. The people were very friendly. Some basic Italian and some smiles will take you a long way.
Il Sogno will soon have an adjoining garden for sitting outside. It was recently purchased and being worked on when we were staying there but should be finished soon.
The house was immaculate and had beautiful rustic/antique furniture. The whole place is exceedingly comfortable. The living room has a well stocked library with great books about travel and culture in the region. It suited our needs perfectly.
The beds were great. Large and very comfortbale. There is a large main bathroom upstairs with a huge tiled bath designed to luxuriate in. The photo of the main bathroom on il Sogno's website was perhaps one of the main selling points. There is an en suite for the downstairs bedroom.
The kitchen was great and the fridge was ample. We love to cook and there certainly enough dishes pots and pans for cooking full meals. The antique stone sink I found a bit shallow to my taste but that is a tiny quibble.
Problems or Bonuses
The closest thing I can approximate our stay in Il Sogno to is like the most relaxing stay you can imagine at a cabin on a secluded lake, except instead of a lake you are near the top of a historic thousand year old walled hilltop town with a friendly population of about 800 people including a small ex-pat community. But think of it, instead of your regular lakeside fare, you are just minutes away from a store that provides everything you need to prepare your own gourmet meals with wine, prosecco and grappa if you wish. Instead of a country burger joint you have access to Gusto al Borgo which will provide you any number of memorable feasts with produce grown or raised right there on the farm!
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Rosella, the owner's agent in town was amazing. She's a true gem. She was very helpful and exceedingly patient with our questions and requests. Between her English and our learners Italian we did very well by her.
As far as the reality of the place accurately reflecting the published information? Absolutely! You can feel the love that has been lavished on the place. I admired the way that the work and decor respected the locale and the context.
There were three of us staying at the house and we were lucky to arrive at the tail end of the low season so the week long rental cost divided by three ended up being very affordable.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Are you kidding? I would love to stay there again, and we HAVE recommended Il Sogno to a number of friends and acquaintances already. This past holiday was my first real holiday in 10 years. As mentioned above, we were really looking for a place we could rest and relax in that had easy access by bus train and car to Rome and Orvieto in Umbria but that would not be overrun with tourists. We are Italophiles and wanted to be in a non-touristy but historic Italian environment where we could use our Italian.
Things to do in this area
We really wanted to see Italy off the beaten track. One of my favourite experiences this tour was driving to the nearby hill towns of Roccantica, Montàsola that were literally 15 minutes away in either direction but so different in layout and character than Casperia. Both these towns have great little restaurants. Montàsola has Quello Che C'è C'è and Roccantica has Il Campanile. Both are closed Mondays. I loved the scenery around the little fortified town of Rocchette. The tiny church of Santa Maria in Vescovio situated in the still largley unexcavated ruins of the Roman city Forum Novum had beautiful medieval frescoes.
I have to say that a visit to the ancient hilltop town of Orvieto in nearby Umbria (and hour or so by car on the Autostrada) is a must. We went 10 years ago and I feel in love with it all over again. The highlight of my trip to Orvieto was finding a potter who still made the rustic country style wine ewers you would see in trattorie years ago and I hit the jackpot in Anna Apallaccia's Orviet'Anna on Vicolo dei Dolci just off the Piazza del Duomo. Anna and her cousin Antonio run the shop and share the space with another potter who makes the traditional pottery I was looking for. We bought a number of wine ewers and some olive bowls and pit bowls.
As mentioned above, The Friends Bar just inside the gate in Casperia was our favourite hangout for morning cappuccinos and afternoon libations. I fell in love with the Italian cocktail called a Negroni. One part gin, one part sweet red vermouth and one part Campari over ice with an orange slice.
It's bittersweet taste summed up my entire holiday. Sweet to be in Italy again, and bitter to know I had to go home ... but I drink them now at home in memory of a fabulous holiday that added 10 years to my life and in the anticipation of a trip back there sometime soon. Salute!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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