Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 4972: Le Case Gialle, Il Portico
cottage/apartments on farm near Bevagna, Umbria
April 2011, One week
Le Case Gialle is 200 meters down a dirt road, just off two paved roads that lead to several nearby towns. The accommodations consist of four units within a single building plus a detached cottage. The owner's house is close by, but all the units have a good deal of privacy including individual patios or terraces. The area is a mix of forest vegetation and land cultivated with olive trees. Some of the units provide decent views of the countryside including Montefalco in the distance.
There is a bar nearby that is an easy walk, and the village of Gualdo Cattaneo is within a couple of kilometers and could probably be hiked to (we didn't). The village is small but does have a bar where we had drinks on one occasion. Bastardo is an easy few minutes drive, and has all the facilities you would need, including a modern laundromat and the largest, brightest, and best stocked supermarket I have seen in Italy (E Mi).
The building is not historical. It is consistent with other local architecture, using a combination of terra cotta, stucco, wood, and stone. At first we were the only guests, but even when the other units were occupied it was quiet and peaceful.
As noted above, each unit has a private sitting area. The Portico unit we rented had an outside covered patio facing the olive grove, hills, and Montefalco. It ran the length of the unit and was separated from other units by plants on one side and the wall of the adjoining unit on the other. The property does have a pool and a surrounding patio, for use by all units.
The furniture was comfortable, simple, and in good condition. There was a sofa in the living area, with the dining table and four chairs part of this room. There was a TV with cable (the only English station we got was the BBC). I believe the sofa converted to a bed. However, I really think this particular unit would be less than ideal for more than two people.
The bed was comfortable and the rustic antique furniture fit nicely with the overall simple theme of the property. The bathroom was adequate and in reasonably good shape, although the shower head was damaged and required care to avoid spraying water over the entire bathroom. We did not bring this up with the owners, due to some other issues noted below.
The kitchen was usable, although the utensils were minimal ... such as there were only two knives aside from the tableware ones, which of course are not usable for meal prep. There is no oven. The kitchen is adequate as long as the meals are kept fairly simple. The quality of dishes, pans, etc. was acceptable but just.
Problems or Bonuses
The owner/husband gave us only minimal information and then left to pick up his wife in Ancona the next morning. There was no manual or binder with information in the unit. The only person left on the property was a ten year old boy who spoke no English. There was nothing, for example, telling us how to use the heating system (it was quite chilly) or the washing machine, which we found in a shed after prowling around the property. This had to be plugged in through another shed, and was unplugged by the boy after a single load. We got it plugged back in, but when the owner's wife returned the units were then locked and we had to take our laundry to town to finish the task. Upon leaving we found that the thermostat in our unit had been set higher than she wanted. We were charged for the laundry loads at the same rate as the better quality commercial units in town, and for excess gas use.
In fairness, I think there was a simple lack of communication by the husband and of course the wife was not there to intercede (though she could have checked up when she did return, as from her comments I suspect his cursory communication was an ongoing issue). The problems could have been avoided altogether by the provision of a simple loose-leaf binder with basic information about heat, laundry, and other related items.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
See above. Onsite interaction was minimal, but we hesitated to approach the owners after it appeared that we had somehow violated laundry rules (through such evidence as the locked shed and removal of the drying racks). On the other hand, when we left a day early to meet some friends in Tuscany the owner's wife discounted the payment by one day. She did seem a bit friendlier at the end, and I wish things had gotten started a bit better. We paid €490 for the week, less one day's rent, plus a charge for the heat and the laundry. Net we wound up paying within €20 of the full weekly rate.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
While I liked the place, I don't think I would stay there again. There are just too many other options and alternatives where the owners have made efforts to provide information about their rules as well as helpful data to allow guests to enjoy the local area. We were left very much "on our own," particularly at first, and wound up pretty obviously stepping over boundaries the owners would have preferred we did not.
However, I would not want this single situation to too negatively brand Le Case Gialle. It is a decent property located in an area that has much to offer. Our own issues were annoying but not "deal breakers."
Things to do in this area
We visited a number of the small, nearby hill towns like Spello, Trevi, Bevagna, and Montefalco. As the following week we were going to Venice and knew our meal expenses there would be quite high we ate "at home" except for one memorable meal at Del Podesta in Bevagna. We're not really shoppers so can't comment on that, although we did buy wine and grappa (for gifts) at a Slow Foods fair in Montefalco. The Sagratino is the local specialty wine, and there was a grappa made from it and oak aged that gave it a light yellow color and slightly smoky taste.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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