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Review 91: Italia Reservations, La Pietra and Casa Carina


Review by David from NY who is a SlowTrav Contributor

5bed/4bath house, 1bed/1bath cottage near Cortona, Umbria


August 1999, 1 week


We stayed at La Pietra in August 1999 for a week and enjoyed it thoroughly. This property lives up to all of the hype describing it at the Italia Reservations web site.

The 2-story house has its main living area on the second floor, which has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and sleeps 6. The kitchen and living room are large, nicely decorated and quite comfortable. Downstairs there are two suites that have separate entryways; each with a bedroom and bath and one has an additional sitting area. We were lucky enough in high season to be able to rent only the top floor at a reasonable price. Looking at the web site now, I don't think they're offering that as an option. So this rental is for either a larger group of up to 10-ish (I think you can actually stuff 14 bodies into the house, but people would be sleeping on sofa beds) or a smaller group that wants to spend a good amount of money. Evidently the owners have built a pool on the property. This is new since we were there and has probably raised the price.

Next door, about 100 feet away from La Pietra, is a beautiful honeymoon cottage called Casa Carina. I guess I didn't ask the right questions because the agent didn't tell me about Casa Carina. We arrived expecting one house on the property and, to our dismay, there were two! There was a couple renting the small house while we were there and we basically said hello to them and that was about it - which was fine with all of us. I think that we all liked our privacy.

One of the great things about this house is its setting, isolated way up on the side of a hill with gorgeous western views. It's located about halfway between Cortona and Umbertide on the Umbrian side of the provincial border. It's beautiful country with lots of green forests and quite hilly - contrasting with a typical Tuscan landscape in, say, Chianti. The sunset views are beautiful. There is also a small terraced garden outside. While we were there, there were tomatoes and basil growing in the garden to which we were invited to help ourselves. There was also a sweet cat on the property who always wanted to come into the house and be fed. We managed to keep him outside for the most part, but he'd always expect his saucer of milk, which we gladly provided.

The Italia Reservations people were very efficient and pleasant. There's a booking person in California as well as two owner/partners in Umbria - at least that's what I remember. The American woman who welcomed us, one of the owners, was a good resource for the area and didn't mind being bothered. She came around occasionally to work in the lovely garden. If you go in July, I'd expect the lavender plants around the house to be in bloom. We also enjoyed walks along the road up to the house, which in August had tons of wild blackberry bushes. A number of times we walked, picked and stuffed ourselves.

Speaking of the road up to the house, beware that in order to get up to this house, you must drive on a "strada bianca" for approximately 4 km straight uphill (this means "white road" - the term the Italians use for an unpaved, gravel road). Just this part of the drive takes about 10 minutes. The initial turnoff from the main road down below demands some expertise in turning a very sharp corner and immediately getting into a low gear in order to start the sharp ascent. We occasionally had to make multiple attempts! Two years ago the road needed some repair - at points it was very choppy driving. Perhaps this has been worked on since then. Coming out of the house, once you get down the hill, there are a couple of little villages within a few kilometers for small shopping expeditions. If you want to really go to a grocery store, you'll have to go about a hour away to Cortona or Umbertide.

This property was written up in the Philadelphia Enquirer a few years ago, so it's had quite a lot of publicity. I wouldn't go way out of my way to stay here as if it were THE only place to be, but it certainly is quite beautiful and comfortable.

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

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