Under the Tuscan Sun, the best seller by author Frances Mayes, has many people dreaming of a life in Italy. For most of us, that possibility is but a dream. And yet, there is a way to "live" in Italy for a short time by renting a home for one, two, three weeks or more.
I had that experience last fall in Umbria, a region that adjoins Tuscany to the south and east and is the only landlocked state in Italy. With a friend, I rented an apartment in the tiny village of Collesecco where Phyllis Thompson, an English expatriate, has restored a farmhouse dating from 1581. Named Casa Alloro for the bay tree on the grounds, the home has two charming apartments in addition to Ms. Thompson’s own living quarters.
Apartment 3 has one twin-bedded bedroom, living room with sleeper sofa, dining area and kitchen, bath with tub and separate shower and a verandah where you can sit and gaze at olive groves, vineyards and the Apennine Mountains. Apartment 2, on two levels, has two bedrooms, shower, kitchen/dining area, living room and patio with the same lovely view. Both units are nicely furnished and have fully equipped kitchens. An on-site cantina has laundry facilities.
From Collesecco, you can make day trips to the many famous hill towns nearby – Assisi, Todi, Spoleto, Gubbio, Orvieto and Perugia. Also "doable" in a day from Collesecco are Siena and Cortona, well documented in Under the Tuscan Sun. Florence and Rome are close enough for an overnight or a long day.
My friend and I made it a point to be a part of the village as much as possible by trading with the local grocer, butcher, baker, pasticceria, gas station, post office, beauty shop and pizzeria. At the end of our 3-week stay, we were gifted with candy and kisses on both cheeks by Mariella and Franco, owners of the grocery store. We were even invited to bridge games with some English couples who had retired to Umbria.
Umbria is a mostly rural region whose people are hardworking, polite, friendly, but somewhat reserved. Collesecco is about a 3-hour drive from the Rome airport.
Cyberparent, this kind of a holiday would not be everyone’s cup of tea (or espresso). If you are the sort of a traveler who must be on the go every minute and see every historical church, museum and art treasure in a 10-day spree, you would be better served by joining a tour group. However, if you want a more leisurely experience with low key sightseeing, a "home" to return to each evening, and a variety of dining choices including the option to do your own cooking, Casa Alloro might be just right for you. The environment and rhythm of Collesecco and Casa Alloro make it quite suitable for children. Be advised, though, Casa Alloro has no television or radio.
Weekly rental fees for Casa Alloro, as of this writing, are as follows:
High Season – July and August: Apartment 2 – $670; Apartment 3 – $535 Mid Season – April, May, June, September: Apartment 2 – $600, Apartment 3 – $455 Low Season – October thru March: Apartment 2 – $420, Apartment 3 – $360
For specific information on costs and availability, you may contact Ms. Thompson directly.
By mail: Ms. Phyllis Thompson Casa Alloro Collesecco 06030 Marcellano Gualdo Cattaneo Perugia Italy
By telephone or fax: From U.S.A. 011 39 742 97334 From UK 00 39 742 97334 From Italy 074297334
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