The discovery of this villa online was a stroke of considerable luck. Once the decision was made that we would spend a holiday in Tuscany, we began to search the web, landing on VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner). Our first choice was Tuscany but we searched for villas in Piedmonte, Le Marche, Umbria and even into Lazio. One of the choices included a villa near Tivoli, but there was limited availability. We arbitrarily decided on a minimum of 10 weeks, believing that to truly see Tuscany/Umbria, to learn the language and food, we needed time to explore and to truly get to know the customs and people of this region. We focused on several properties and communicated with the owners. We eventually chose this villa based on the rooms available (7) a large swimming pool and an enclosed area, which was important to protect the little ones.
We discussed our plans with the children and all agreed that they would visit. We signed the contract in October. The villa has 7 bedrooms, two balconies, one off of the main bedroom and another off of the principal living room, a large dining room and kitchen. We wanted a suburban setting, yet close to towns and we also wanted quietness and a place with a vista. Well, we found the right place: Vacanze Ferraguzzo.
The property is completely enclosed and has a grassy area that covers about ½ acre. The pool is 21 by 66 feet. The property owners, Lido, Osanna and their son, Luca, meticulously maintain the property and have been extraordinarily responsive to our minor needs and numerous questions about the areas. The villa has six bikes for use, a bocce court, slides for the kids and a children’s area with kid-size tables and chairs. Because of Linda’s gardening interests, Lido tilled a small area for us to plant some herbs – basil and rucula.
In May and early June, we brought our dirty clothes into a laundry service in San Sepolcro, because the weather was cold and rainy, but since then, we’ve used the drying racks provided here at the villa. The clothes dry quickly in the Tuscan (Umbrian) sun. By the way, Mario’s laundry service on the main road in San Sepolcro charges 15 Euros for a bundle of clothes to wash, so wait till you have a bundle, if you plan to wash lots of clothes.
The villa is convenient to a small market, in the town of Fighille (we call it Fig Hill, but it’s pronounced Fee –gee -lee); in fact, it’s within walking distance – about one mile each way – where you can find most anything in the food line – some of the best cold cuts – you must try the Finochiona salami, it has fennel in it and delicious. There is wine, beer, sodas, chips and other tantalizing foods, but you can also buy hard liquor as well. They sell fresh pasta every day. Each of the girls working there is very pleasant, as is the gentleman whom you will also see. One of the girls does speak some English.
For other shopping, there are several major grocery stores, all of which are in San Sepolcro – Coop, Tem and Famila (not familgia). From the villa, it’s about 9 kilometers. It’s more like our supermarkets in the States in that they sell everything including clothes. Unless you need something very special to use, wear or eat, you will find most everything you need in these markets. You can buy most drugs at the pharmacy, often without a prescription.
The owners have been extraordinary helpful with their vast knowledge of the area, where to eat and what to do. One of them is usually on the grounds of the villa every day to ensure that all is functioning properly, but also to ensure the neatness and cleanliness of the area. They are unobtrusive and will come to your rescue only when you need them. The villa is run as a business, very much like a hotel, so that the owners must maintain certain standards imposed by local and state governments. They will ask for your passports on arrival – and also those of your guests, much like most hotels do.
That's Lido on my right and Luca kneeling. As you can see from their work clothes, they are always working to keep the villa, safe, clean and comfortable. They are special people and we know that one day soon, we'll return for another vacation.
Much has been written about Tuscany, including books by Frances Mayes “Under the Tuscan Sun” and her newest, “Everyday Tuscany,” so we had a good grasp of the area before arriving, but while the books and other literature gave us a start, nothing exhilarated us more than to witness firsthand the extraordinary beauty and quality of life in this area. While technically in Umbria, we are less than 500 meters from the Tuscan border and most of the towns and cities we’ve visited are in Tuscany, although occasionally visiting an Umbrian city (Perugia and Spello) and also into Marche to visit Urbino.
Before leaving the U.S. we researched every town and city within the Arezzo region (Arezzo is the titular capital of western Tuscany and has 39 comunes (townships)), subsequently preparing a list of the towns and cities we wanted to visit based on a simple criterion – what’s there that we should see given the time available? As we were using the villa as a base, each outing had to be completed in one day and we tried to limit our travels of less than 80 kilometers (50 miles).
We had several goals before we began our trip: learn the language, learn about the history of this area, learn the customs and, of course, learn more about the regional cooking and also taking a cooking class. In doing so, we explored the history, art and beauty of cittadellas and paesi mediovales (medieval cities) and the many museums we would come across on our visits. We began language studies with a brilliant Italian scholar who taught Latin for 15 years and has a Doctorate in Etymology. Eugenio, whom we meet twice a week for an hour each time, has been extraordinarily patient with us as we both stumble through the language. Our minds have been dominated by Spanish, or in the case of Linda, Spanish and Portuguese, but we’ve progressed and are able to carry on intelligent conversations with locals, store keepers and others. Eugenio lives in Anghiari and works as a cook/waiter at the Gran Duca restaurant in Anghiari, which we highly recommend. It may be useful to know that we have eaten in numerous restaurants, some we’ve revisited on various occasions, but each was very good. We never had a bad meal. You should try the Osteria in Citerna (Sylvia is a sweetheart), La Nena (Mario, Paulo and Erica) and Algheiri Sylvia and Gianni) in Anghiari, but there are several in San Sepolcro that are also very good: Osteria del Poeta, Da Ventura and Fiorentino. You must try the pizza at Balducci’s on the piazza in Anghiari. It’s excellent. Finally, you must visit Citerna. We walked to Citerna twice a week and, at the end on our arrival, the peace de resistance is our cup of cappuccino and a pastry at the Bar, where Fabio and/or Patricia will serve you with a smile. There is nothing more delightful then to sit outside in their patio with a view of the valley and converse with the local residents. This was one of the many highlights of this trip. Then, if you to buy something in the food line, the deli is right next door and Marisa will pleasantly serve you. She is another of the sweethearts of our trip, always smiling and joking. She lives above the Bar and if you need something at the last moment and the stores are closed, Marisa will tend to your requests.
This villa has been home to us for the 10 weeks; we did not try to stay overnight at any location. We find it very comfortable and do not look forward to our departure. It is quiet, serene and beautiful. This visit has fulfilled our dream of enjoying a long vacation in one area of Italy. We will return to this area – and, if available, at Vacanze Ferraguzzo. You will not be disappointed.
To Lido and Luca: We, too, thank you for your friendship and extraordinary patience with us. I know that I can say with great confidence that our children and friends have had a memorable time here at the Villa, in large part to both of you. Grazie