I’ll expand my previous post, in which I described the itinerary of our recent trip to Italy, by describing the places we stayed in more detail and bringing a focus onto the big discovery for me – the agriturismo. All of the places we stayed in Italy were very nice, with helpful staff, enough English to get by, and comfortable beds. They’re marked on this map with the blue tags.
In Rome, we stayed in the Hotel Nardizzi Americana on Via Firenze, between the Termini and the Spanish Steps. It’s on the fourth floor of the building (though our rooms were on the first floor, just up from the ground floor). The stairs are large and gentle, but for those with luggage or other issues with stairs, there’s a small and Spartan, but smooth and quiet elevator. The rooms were spacious and attractive and the breakfast was good. We used the Internet terminal to look up agriturismos in Liguria. The hotel is also well-situated for getting around in Rome.
Our second stay was at the Azienda Agriturismo Nobile, just outside of Montepulciano. This was our first agriturismo and it certainly impressed for the beauty of the farm and its surroundings. We arrived after dark and were greeted in our room by the full moon streaming directly in the window of our bedroom. The rooms were in a remodeled and expanded farmhouse and our rooms were an apartment, really, with three bedrooms, two baths, and a kitchenette.
The farm seemed to be that of a gentleman farmer – it was very well-groomed and prosperous-looking – and had both grapes, some of which were being harvested while we were there, and olives. This agriturismo falls into the more luxurious category, as it even had a swimming pool. It didn’t, however, include meals for guests, nor did it involve any real interaction with the people there. They had there own nice house on the other side of a big hedge and the owners spoke no useful English (and our Italian was equally useless), so we didn’t really learn anything about them.
Our beds in Firenze were in the Hotel Villa Bonelli in neighboring Fiesole. This was a very nice place in a nice little town (with a longer history, actually, than Firenze down in the valley), up on a ridge above the valley. It offered a couple of nice restaurants and marvelous views of the city below and the surrounding hills and towns. The hotel was also very comfortable and offered a nice breakfast. There was a big German tour group staying there, which was kind of interesting. We used the Internet terminal to finalize our list of agriturismos in Liguria and made the reservation from there.
Our second agriturismo was the Azienda Agriturismo Carnea, just north of La Spezia and east of the Cinque Terre. It was well out of the beaten path, but offered the best views of all, as it was perched near the top of a wild and rugged ridge, from which we could look east to the marble mountains of the Apuan Alps and south, over the ridges and La Spezia, to the Ligurian Sea. The rooms were quite small, but comfortable and more than adequate. Because the hospitality was the joy here. We took breakfast in a large, sunny room, part of the house of our hosts, Beppe and Laura Castiglione. And two of the nights, we had dinner with them in that room, too.
Laura is a terrific cook and nearly all of what we ate was grown or produced there, on the farm – fruits, vegetables, bread, yogurt, and jams and preserves. Beppe had more than enough English to facilitate wonderful conversations, so that we learned that they had left jobs in the city (Milano) to take on this farming-and-hospitality life. We were thoroughly charmed by how well-suited they were to it. The topper was when, on our last evening there, Beppe pulled out his beloved Martin guitar and played folk and popular tunes, while some of us sang along with him. Best evening of the trip.
Our last stay, in Venezia, was at the Pensione Guerrato/Guerratino. This one was on the fourth floor, too. I don’t think there was an elevator, but it was worth the huff. The staff was very nice and had excellent English. The rooms were very large and quite stylish. And, the breakfast was also very good. The best thing about this place, though, was the location: it was in Italy, in Venezia, and well-placed within Venezia (location, location, and location). Around the corner was the fish market (where I saw more than one fellow starting a cut on a whole tuna), down the street a couple of blocks is the famed Rialto bridge, and just around the corner was a terrific restaurant where we had our last dinner in Italy (but that’s another post).