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Review 721: Owner, Il Rifugio


Review by Ronaldo from CA

4-5bed/4.5bath house near Cortona, Tuscany East


November 2003, 1 week


Review: Il Rifugio, Eastern Tuscany, near Cortona

When: November 2003, one week

Review: I recently visited Il Rifugio, a private farmhouse owned by some friends of mine. The purpose of this visit was to scout the area and experience all that Il Rifugio has to offer in order to take the guests of my business, Santa Barbara Guiding Company, to Tuscany in 2004.

I traveled alone this trip, and stayed with owners, Chuck and Shirley Ofria for 6 days. I had a wonderful time exploring the farmlands, Cortona, and some of the neighboring cities.

Il Rifugio is a very private 18th century farmhouse, nicely renovated, about a 10 minute drive from the walled city of Cortona. A long private road takes you away from any possible traffic, past another very secluded farm, to Il Rifugio. The farmhouse itself consists of 4 main bedrooms and a bunkhouse, each of which sleep two comfortably. Two rooms have one double sized bed each, the other two and the bunkhouse each have two twins, totaling accommodation for ten people. There are other daybeds and plenty of space that will allow for at least a few more. In addition to these rooms, there is a large, warm and inviting kitchen with its own fireplace, a very comfortable living room with a wonderfully efficient wood burning stove, and at least two other sitting areas. The dining room will seat at least ten people, and there is yet another fireplace upstairs in a comfortable reading room. Outside there are several outdoor dining areas as well as a beautiful view of the local hillside, which is so quintessential of the Tuscany region. Also available are a DVD player and a selection of nice movies. The whole location is peaceful and removed, thus the name “Il Rifugio” (The Refuge).

I would recommend having a car to get around if you plan on visiting the surrounding areas. Otherwise, if you simply want to relax in the warmth of the farmhouse, one of three local taxis will take you to the community store (about 1.5 km away), or to Cortona (about a 10 minute drive).

The farmhouse sits on 55 acres of woodlands (bosco), personal vineyards (vigneto), an olive grove (oliveto), and a small pear grove. If you happen to visit during the olive harvest I recommend volunteering to help pick olives, which is a day of picking, eating, and drinking wine with the locals. In fact, I will be building one of our trips around this season.

During the stay there is a very accommodating maid, Terri, an American who speaks perfect Italian. Although I haven’t met her personally, I hear she is very accommodating and knowledgeable about the area. She greets you, introduces you to the farmhouse, and keeps the place neat as well. She is also available for in-house cooking and translation assistance.

Dining out: Being one who loves food and wine and the whole experience, I found several wonderful places to visit inside Cortona which will appeal to all budgets: • La Saletta is a very nice café and bar with a friendly staff and great wines. Plenty of light dishes to dine on as well. • Taverna Pane e Vino is a nice restaurant with a marvelous wine list, delicious meats, cheeses and pastas. The owner, Arnaldo is very friendly and loves to entertain his guests. • Fufluns is a great place to meet the local people and get a nice bottle of wine with great food. • La Bucaccia is a nice upper scale restaurant located below the street in a charming basement with beautiful surroundings, delicious food and a nice wine list as well.

What to do: From the farmhouse, there are a number of different paths from which you can disappear into the landscape by foot. One will take you to a breathtaking view of Lago Trasimeno (Lake Trasimeno), Italy’s 4th largest lake. This same path will wind through the hills and drop you off near a local restaurant (so I hear). If you want to shop, wine taste, dine out or just drive around and look at the architecture, there are plenty of cities nearby including Cortona, Montelcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, and Arezzo. Just a 1 hour and 20 minute train ride is the beautiful city of Firenze (Florence), and Siena is not that far either. There is plenty to do in Tuscany. Il Rifugio also borders the western boundary of Umbria, which offers its own delights as well. The city of Rome is about a 2 hour and 10 minute train ride away. If you are interested in learning about traditional Tuscan cooking, with a little forward notice Chuck and Shirley will gladly offer one day or multi-day cooking classes with an extremely knowledgeable instructor.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. For those people who like to live like the locals, or take a vacation away from all people, or are looking for a relaxing place to hold a retreat, I highly recommend Il Rifugio. This is a wonderfully charming place with a lot to offer. I will definitely be coming back.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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