(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 - Piemonte
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.
Calboccia - Umbria
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 Agriturismo in Umbria (Near Tuscany)
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.
La Piazzetta di Pascelupo - Umbria
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.
Magnolia Apartment in Villa Talenti - Tuscany Garfagnana
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 - Tuscany, Siena Province
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 Ripa d'Orcia - Tuscany
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. See my review on Europe Travel.
Your friends will be impressed if you tell them you've stayed in a castle apartment, believe me.
Masseria Selvaggi - Puglia
(The two properties below are featured in the Puglia Travel Guide app, shown to the right.)
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 - Puglia
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.
Masseria Li Mennuli - Pugia
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.