(Continued from Page 1: Self Catering: Explore and Experience Italy!)
Here are more recommended places to stay around Italy. I've stayed and in all of these places and would in any one of them again. Here's the top list, from north to south in Italy.
Torre Barolo, as its name implies, is a 17th century tower, modernized inside to have all the creature comforts. It looks down upon Barolo castle. You can do so while eating dinner n the summer because there's a terrace on top. There are great restaurants withing walking distance, (in Barolo, food is art) and you can go to nearby Barbaresco and drink the regions famous wine in a former church. See Wine Tasting in a Church: Barbaresco. Lots of stairs, as you might expect, so if you can't deal with them then this isn't the place for you.
If you don't want to stay in the countryside but want to be smack in the center of a fantastic town for tourists, and adjacent to the main Piazza, this is the place for you. The bonus is your host, Rebecca Winke, who lives in this 16th century palazzo and can help you have the best vacation in Assisi you can ever imagine. Read our review: Assisi, Stay Where the Action Is! That's the interior of Il Camino apartment below.
Calboccia was our very first vacation rental. Calboccia was once a large family farmhouse (almost 4000 square feet of area) that's been split into an upper and lower apartment. We stayed up top.
The location is perfect--right on the border between Tuscany and Umbria. You can take cooking classes at the local restaurant (La Chiusa--excellent food!).
Il Fontanaro, where you'll settle into the slow life rather quickly, has a variety of lodging options, from apartments to whole farm buildings, all with kitchens. The farm produces top quality olive oils and wine, and Alina operates a very well-stocked wine celler. The vacation rental complex is a short walk into the interesting town of Paciano and a little further to Panicale. Lake Trasimeno is withing reach, and wine lovers will want to visit the Madrevite Winery.
If you're looking for peace and solitude like the neighboring monks (well, perhaps not so much solitude as a hermetic monk...) you might try looking inside Monte Cucco Regional Park for this city resurected from the 1996 earthquake and the fabulous and inexpensive vacation rental called La Piazzetta di Pascelupo inside the park.
The healing waters of Bagni di Lucca are just outiside your door in this Villa you don't need a ton of people to rent with. Magnolia is one of the best thought-out spaces I know for 2 to 4 people.
Agriturismo Montestigliano was once a very large family farm estate recently transformed artistically into vacation apartments and villas. If you get tired of hiking the trails, or heading over to the local bodega to get interesting local food to eat, you can hop in a car and be in Siena In 15 minutes or so. A great staff eager to help you get the most out of Tuscany is at your service.
Castello di Ripa d'Orcia is a thirteenth century castle that offers a Bed and Breakfast in addition to self catering apartments. It's in the Val d'Orcia near the favorite tourist towns of Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia in Siena province. There's an on-premises winery and restaurant as well, so you don't have to cook unless you want to. There are some great walks in the area.
Your friends will be impressed if you tell them you've stayed in a castle apartment, believe me.
Masseria Selvaggi is a 16th century fortified farm near the Puglian coast with a couple of rental apartments inside the walls. Owner Francesco Selvaggi is a renowned glass artists, producing fine art glass as well as stained glass for churches. He holds glass workshops for guests who choose to learn.
But the interesting thing about Francesco is that he is very much in tune with the history of the Messapic civilization that settled in Puglia. I made a video of him explaining the finds of a recent excavation of a child's tomb: Inside the Manduria Archaeological Museum Video.
If you want to know about the local area, near Francesco's Masseria. It's just outside the town of Manduria, known for the up and coming wine Primitivo di Manduria and an interesting destination in itself.
The Dutchess Sea House is found inside the Ducal Palace of Giovinazzo. In the off season this is the fishing village of your dreams. Hang out at the port with the cats anxiously awaiting the fishermen before you head to the bar for your morning coffee.
If you can't get a room at Masseria Selvaggi, you can stay at Masseria Li Mennuli, a three minute walk down the drive. The owner, also named Francesco, produces some very fine Passito, a sweet dessert wine composed of Gewurztraminer and dried Muscat grapes.