Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4927: Owner, Porta San Donato
2bed/2bath house in Gualdo Tadino, Umbria
February 2011, 9 days
The apartment is a 13th (I think) century gatehouse leading into the ancient part of the small town of Gualdo Tadino. It's extremely quiet as there's no through traffic, just the occasional local car and the sound of church bells. On one side it's close to other buildings which gives a sense of being part of the local community - from the windows you can watch people going up and down the hill on their daily errands. Also, there are stunning views of the surrounding Apennine Mountains from the apartment windows. The surrounding area was incredibly beautiful, while the town itself is very small, on a hill, with narrow winding medieval streets and several open piazzas. Everyone in the town was extremely helpful and friendly. We didn't see any other tourists there, which for us was a plus as it gave us an opportunity to practice our Italian.
Everything was very close to hand. It was just a few minutes walk up the hill to a fantastic family-run grocery story that had a huge variety of fresh local produce, particularly pecorino cheese, prosciutto, and truffles. It had everything we needed. There are several restaurants and cafes - all within five minutes walking distance. One restaurant in particular, the Hostaria da Baccus was exceptionally good and we ate there six times. Everything was home-made and locally produced. An Internet cafe, a bakery, and even a place to buy gloves where the prices were still in lira, were all nearby.
A very historical building, the archway beneath the apartment in the gatehouse had been widened slightly to accommodate the Pope's carriage during the 14th century. Although it's an ancient building, everything inside was in tip-top shape and had every amenity we could think of. As there was nobody living above or below, it was extremely quiet. The apartment is on two levels - the sitting room, eat-in kitchen and a bathroom on the first floor. Two bedrooms, a hallway and another bathroom on the second floor. Windows on both sides let in lots of light and provided amazing views. It's an independent building, standing alone.
There's no outside area. But, on the ground floor level, underneath the archway, is a storage room on one side (for firewood etc.) and a laundry room on the other side.
The house was extremely clean, everything had been thought of. Firewood was by the fireplace, including fire-starters. The decor was thoughtfully done - lovely curtains and upholstery on the furniture, much of it seemed to be antique. Small carpets where you needed them. All the furniture was exceptionally nice, including a beautiful ceramic table in the kitchen. The sofa and armchairs were comfortable and there was certainly enough furniture for four people. We were only two people, so there was plenty of room for eating at the table in the kitchen.
The bed was amazingly comfortable - much better than the one I have at home! The bedroom was beautifully decorated, very soothing colors and very nice bed covers and duvets. Wonderful views of the surrounding mountains from both the bedrooms. The bedroom we used was large with lots of cupboard space for clothes and a sitting area. The other room was almost as large.
There were two bathrooms, both spotlessly clean. The one upstairs has a toilet, pedestal wash-stand, shower and bidet - very nicely appointed with lots of space to put things. The bathroom downstairs was a bit smaller with a small bath and shower attachment, along with a toilet and washbasin, but perfectly good.
The kitchen had a very nice atmosphere, decorated in a rich, sunny yellow with a unique ceramic table. Many nice antique objects. There seemed to be a good array of pots and pans and every utensil you could imagine, including several coffee pots. Very nice dinner-ware that looked local. We actually only cooked a couple of times, fairly simple things - but that was our choice as we preferred to go to a fabulous restaurant nearby. The kitchen was an easy space to work in, it was well-lit and had a lovely window that looked up the narrow street going up the hill into the center of 'town.' So, you could feel part of the community by being aware of people coming and going on their daily errands.
Problems or Bonuses
We really didn't find any problems at all. As we were there in February when it was quite chilly, one of the lovely bonuses was having a fireplace and a supply of wood which made everything very cozy in the evenings. Also, there was plenty of hot-water for showers, and the central heating was very effective in keeping the apartment toasty.
A very helpful aspect of the apartment was the huge collection of books about the area, including history, travel and even train timetables. Also the owner had created binders full of extremely useful information about the apartment, Gualdo Tadino, and suggestions for places to go in the region. These were invaluable.
Also, we were delighted to find a welcome basket of pasta, sauce, bread, wine and other goodies awaiting us after our long transatlantic flight.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
I dealt exclusively with the owner of the property by email. Elaine is English-speaking (as well as speaking Italian and German I believe). She answered all my questions about the property and the area promptly in a friendly way, and the payments were handled very efficiently and quickly. Elaine has created an extremely detailed web-site where there are photos of every area of the apartment, inside and out - and, everything was exactly as it appeared. We paid $610 for nine nights in the middle of February.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
Yes, I'd absolutely recommend this apartment to friends, and it's a place I'd like to stay in again. No real qualification - except it wouldn't be good if you have trouble walking up stairs.
Things to do in this area
We had a rental car so we went on many day-trips to nearby places. Our interest is in early medieval art, eating and drinking, and admiring architecture and landscape. So, trips to Gubbio, Spello, Assisi and other small hill-towns in the area were very rewarding for all the above. We saw an incredible number of early medieval frescoes - Giotto, Perugino, Pintoricchio etc. 'in situ'. And, we took a train from Assisi to Florence and stayed there for a couple of days, leaving the car in the Assisi station parking lot. Our favorite restaurant was in Gualdo Tadino - Hostaria da Baccus. A five or six minute walk from the apartment, we went there six times! Wonderful local food cooked by the wife, (lots of truffles) while the husband educated us on the local wines. A lively place on Saturday nights!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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