Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4228: Calagrana, Apartment
Rooms and apartments on a farm near Umbertide, Umbria
July 2009, Six days
The Calagrana stands on a hillside in the Niccone Valley. This is a tobacco producing area and is therefore very green and rural. Crop spraying in the area is part of the package -- so people with allergies be warned. The location was lovely, there are beautiful views down and across the valley.
My sister took a vacation in that area a couple of years ago and stayed in a villa just up the road and fell in love with the area. Villas are generally rented from Saturday to Saturday and we could not do that so the Calagrana was second choice.
I looked over the location in person in the month of February 2009, I have a friend who lives nearby,I booked shortly afterward. So the answer is I choose that from a recommendation. I had heard they had run a restaurant in Clapham-- near where we lived when we were young, so an inside view from a ex Londoner was anticipated with much interest. The restaurant though is not really suitable for vegetarians and for an average British person a bit on the expensive side. I am told it serves food of a good standard.
You would need a car in that location as there are no shops or cafes within walking distance. It is within a short driving distance of Umbertide, a town that that has shops, markets, chemists and cafes. I like Umbertide a great deal.
We rented one a self-catering apartment, Glicine, suitable for a couple not two people as it has a double bed. The bedroom is en suite.
The second unit, Pepe Rosa was a room for two people it too has a toilet and shower room, no kitchen so does not qualify as a vacation rental.
The swimming pool is set on a steep incline, access down is not easy and the return up the hill can be problematic.
Both units were clean. The towels are changed only once towards the end of our stay, on the Saturday morning. In the Pepe Rosa unit there were very few hangers in the wardrobe.
In both units the beds were comfortable enough certainly no one faulted them. Pepe Rosa had a small area for toiletries.
Glicine did not have a kettle, iron or ironing board. I seem to remember it had two basic pieces of equipment a saucepan and a frying pan. No coffee or tea pot, so equipment could be considered poor. There is a table and four chairs.
Problems or Bonuses
Should you be hoping friends might be allowed to drop by for a chat you will be out of luck as a long list of rules are likely be read out out to you. Indeed I most strongly suggest you ask them to fax the agriturismo rules to you before confirming your booking as they state you are unable to use the pool at the hottest point of the day etc. Better still hire a private villa it will most probably be cheaper and the system more flexible. Rule infringement is firmly dealt with at the Calagrana. Be warned the list is long (e.g., thou shall not be allowed to buy drinks at the bar unless one is ordering a meal). The breakfast is around ten euros for all too often warm fruit juice and a tiny bowl of cornflakes, toast and a slice of flan or cake. Internet research suggests seems to suggest their lunches and dinners are satisfactory but with breakfast as the bench mark, I found I could resist the temptation eat there.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
In their advertising they claim to be welcoming, well they are quite good until you are on their premises. Then out comes THE RULE BOOK. No you can not order drinks at the bar unless you are purchasing a meal. Wine is cheap in Italy -- maybe a complimentary glass/bottle of wine could be provided for guests.
Most of all they seem to think the swimming pool area is there primarily for their daughter and company, who made full use of it while we were there. The pool was not especially large and made even smaller by this adolescent practising water gymnastics with her friend or relation in the centre (every day).
My main grievance was -- I was asked to book two places on a cooking course by a friend. This I did, one was unable to make it, so I found a man willing to step in. I asked Ely, our friendly host, could this man's wife join us by the pool, THEN out came the RULE BOOK. Laws are strict here in Italy - only residents were allowed by the pool. In fact near the END of our stay I felt attacked by our host who appeared with the full set of rules in her hand.
There were plenty more rules only I stopped listening. I am used to hiring villas always enjoy a high level of privacy and all this came as a very nasty surprise to me.
I believe the problem was the daughter wanted the pool to herself and her friends so she may having been telling her mother every time we broke a rule we did not know existed. My sister heard Sophie, the daughter, say, "They moved the sun beds. They should not do that -- they should not move the sun beds." Well unless you moved the sun beds you would have ended up with third degree burns from the sun. I believe Sophie wanted the area to herself. I am pretty sure the daughter should not have been at the pool nor should her friend and the maid, but that was overlooked.
Far from welcoming, we found the owners selfish, officious and aggressive. Use the restaurant if you must -- stay clear of this establishment, if you value true hospitality and friendship.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
If this is agriturismo I am sticking with villa and apartment rentals. The Calagrana was not for me.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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