One AWEful view after another
in Tuscany and Umbria
By Allegra Pawlowski
Being a self professed Italophile and “foodie” and having a strong interest in design (architectural and interior) I considered myself pretty lucky to have opportunity to travel to Italy with WIMCO. I had been to Italy several times before, but never had the opportunity to cover so much ground and visit so many beautiful villas!
Suzanne and I spent the first half of our trip on the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Capri, and on Day 7 we headed to Umbria. Having never been to Umbria before, I was anxious to see what it had to offer. Even in the pouring rain I could tell Umbria was beautiful and was probably what Tuscany was like 20 years ago – it has that wonderful undiscovered feeling to it.
The first villa we saw is a new property to WIMCO called Villa HII ARC. This property is perfect for three couples. There are 3bd/3ba and every detail has been addressed. The owners have wonderful taste and have made this house very comfortable, yet luxurious. It is clear they have spent a lot of time in Florence, London and Hong Kong at antique stores and galleries selecting the perfect pieces for their home.
Next we saw Villa HII VIB. HII SNB is a 5bd/3ba property in two buildings. The main building has a living room and two bedrooms which share a bath. Downstairs is another living room, a bedroom with en suite bath, a library, a dining area and the kitchen. Across the lawn is another building with a living area and small kitchenette on the ground floor (with doors to a terrace). Upstairs are two more bedrooms which share a bathroom. Even in the pouring rain, I could tell that the view from HII VIB is wonderful – all green hills spread out before you. Down some tricky steps in the garden you arrive at the pool. Again…the view. This is a great priced family vacation villa.
Down the road, is HII CGF, which was occupied at the time. As we got closer to town on the dirt road, we stopped at Agriturismo/Ristorante Calagrana in hopes of having some lunch before we saw the last 3 properties of the day. It was closed so we trudged on through the raindrops. We ended up over the border in a Tuscan village called Mercatale di Cortona at a trattoria called Mimmi. There was no menu and we ordered what they had that day- lasagna and cannelloni with spinach as Sonia is a vegetarian. Suzanne and I shared a sampler – both lasagna and cannelloni. So far, this was THE best meal I have had on the trip. What a meal!
The final house of the day was HII LAZ. This wonderful 6 bd/5ba, property is located just below the town of Preggio (walking distance) and has fabulous views. There are several areas outside for dining or relaxing and there are three buildings. Also on the property is a guest house. The ground floor of the house has the LR/DR kitchen area and upstairs are two bedrooms (1 room has bunkbeds). From here, the sheep ran by ringing their neck bells. The pool is located below the main house and there is a queen bedroom in the guest house. This is a beautiful property for 4 couples – I see 4 retired couples LOVING this house and area.
We returned to Perugia and thanked Sonia for a wonderful day and headed out to explore Perugia. We walked around for a little bit and settled into some Spaghetti alla Carbonara at Da Cesarino and then called it a day.
We began the day by waking up at the villa BRV AIO, a wonderful villa located about 25 kms away in nearby Sarteano. BRV AIO is a very quiet, private, comfortable yet elegant villa with 6 bd/6 ba. The rooms are wonderfully dressed with warm reds, yellows and blues. The house is large, but it does not feel cold or too spacious because of its size. It is cozy without being small. The villa is also fully modernized with WIFI, showers, fully equipped kitchen – everything you might need and more.
After a hearty breakfast prepared for us by the housekeeper, Angela, we were off to our 9 a.m. appointment at Villa BRV MIM in San Casciano dei Bagni. Over the years, I have read many things about this village, including the book, A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi and wanted to finally see what it was like. BRV MIM is just outside of the center of town (a very easy 3 minute stroll across the street to the main piazza of the village). The villa was at one time a school (built in the 1960’s) and was completely renovated by the present owner, a decorator (which is clear by the interiors). The location cannot be any better. You hear the church bells, you can walk to town for dinner or groceries or you can walk to the nearby spa for treatments. BRV MIM has 6bd/6 ba and is a one level house. The walls are all painted white, making it very crisp and cool in the summer along with the breezes from the beautiful rolling green hills of the Val d’Orcia. I pictured myself here in the summer, spending all of my time by the pool constantly “oohing” and “aahing” over the view. I left this house, very reluctantly, but inspired to completely redecorate my house when I got back to Boston.
After BRV MIM, Suzanne and I realized we had about 45 minutes before our next appointment so we walked into the village to see what an early weekday morning was like in San Casciano dei Bagni. We walked to the Piazza Matteotti and both gasped at what we saw and stopped in our tracks. As the village is located on a hill, the main piazza overlooks the distant and gentle hills of the Val d’Orcia. We expected something like this after having seen BRV MIM, (which has a similar position) but we were not prepared for just how breathtaking the view actually is. The village is enchanting. There are a few parking spaces in the piazza but the village is pedestrian. There is a Michelin rated restaurant overlooking the piazza, located next to Bar Centrale (for your espresso, panino or gelato), a verdure (a tiny vegetable store which displays the veggies as works of art-I love the mini carciofi), a ceramics store for all your tableware, a home decorator store, a tabacchi, a small grocery, an antique jewelry store and last but not least the pasticceria! Even though we had eaten, we just HAD to get something in the pasticceria. We stopped and got a couple of scones with grapes and nuts, an espresso and a cappuccino and grinned at each other from ear to ear.
Sadly it was time to leave our new favorite village, so we returned to the car and drove the mile’s drive to meet the owner of the next villa, Villa BRV LPA. The owner also runs a highly regarded restaurant and hotel in the village. Upon meeting the smiling Nila, we followed her down the road a little bit more to the driveway for BRV LPA. The villa is located directly across the street from the famous Fonteverde Spa. (Guests of the villa enjoy discounts at the spa!) After parking the car in the shade, we got out and could immediately hear the rushing water from the spa which runs under the approach road to the villa and is very peaceful. BRV LPA is a 7 bd/7ba newly built villa located about a 3 minutes drive from the village and has 360 degrees of views. It is situated on a bluff with the stunning hills stretched out before you along with a view up to the village. Nila, welling with pride (as she should be) toured us through her impeccable home. When we reached the kitchen’s herb garden a.k.a. giardino della guerra (garden of the war) we were treated to a heavenly scentfest. Nila kept giving us fresh herbs to smell. The kitchen itself is a chef’s dream, equipped with every gadget or you could hire Nila to prepare a meal for you (she is also the chef at her restaurant and I can tell you she is a PHENOMENAL chef). All of the guestrooms are equipped with hotel like amenities and have hillside views from all of the windows. Suzanne and I immediately thought it was perfect for many of WIMCO’s clients. It is so comfortable and elegant. After thanking Nila for her time and congratulating her on her beautiful home, she invited us to dinner that night at her restaurant. Eager to spend as much time as we could in the village, we accepted the kind offer.
It was almost lunch time and we were not sure we were going to have enough time for lunch later in the day, so when Suzanne and I looked at each other we knew what our next step was- back to the village to find something to tide us over, plus we had an excuse, that was where we were meeting our next villa contact- where else? Bar Centrale. We each enjoyed a cone of gelato and sat on the wall once again, awestruck by the view. Also there this time, was the fish market. The market comes to the piazza once a week in the form of a van. They park and open up one side and display their goods and the villagers descend on them. We did not stick around, but based on the crowd, I am pretty sure they sell out of everything.
We met with Antonietta and her son and followed them to Villa BRV CRT. Driving past BRV LPA and up into the woods, about 5 minutes from the village we arrived at villa BRV CRT. At this point, I did not think it was possible to be more in love with a village and its views but it happened. Villa BRV CRT is located higher than BRV LPA and the views are even more dramatic. Included in this view is Mt. Amiata in the distance. I immediately pictured my stepfather here with his group of friends sitting around the gardens spending the days painting and trying to recreate this view. Sadly, the views are so stunning I do not think they can be replicated by any painter. BRV CRT is a 7 bd/6 ba home decorated with a sort of comfortable rustic elegance.
This village has so much to offer it’s guests – the spa, the views, the quaint shops, the proximity to villages like Pienza (for the cheeses and the restaurant Latte di Luna overlooking the hills), Montalcino (for the wine), Arezzo (for the monthly antiques market), Cortona and Siena for day trips or one could simply spend the day relaxing by the pool enjoying a good book. Like Siena, San Casciano dei Bagni has a Palio in April.
Dinner that night at Nila’s restaurant was the first WOW meal of our two week trip touring WIMCO’s Italian villas. I vowed to return to San Casciano dei Bagni as soon as possible and to redecorate my house immediately.
Interested in more Italian adventures? Explore everything from chocolate factories to underground tunnels in these three Umbrian hill towns: A Weekend in the Umbrian Hill Towns