|Minimum Stay||7 nights|
All rooms have breathtaking views over olive groves and woodlands to the glistening mountain peaks. Officially we belong to the Massa Carrara region: romantically this part of Tuscany is known as The Lunigiana (The mountains of the moon).
Too rural to be a villa, too beautiful to be a simple farmhouse, the history of our lovely house is lost in time. Neighbours who were born and bred in Caugliano tell us it is the oldest building in the hamlet. Casa delle Rondini has looked out over the green wooded landscape for 400 years or more, untroubled by the outside world.
Until recently few tourists strayed into this part of Tuscany but there are pilgrim routes close by and we often wonder if the weary travellers lodged under our roof for a night or two.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
How did we come to call the house Casa delle Rondini ( house of the swallows)? Most houses in Italy are named after the people who lived there. For the past 50 years or so the only living inhabitants were the swallows, who returned every summer to nest in every room. The name was a tribute to their tenacity. They are still around swooping just below the surface of the pool in the evening.
CASA DELLE RONDINI has been sensitively restored by local craftsmen to combine features such as vaulted ceilings, an inglenook fireplace, a centuries-old stone staircase and terracotta floors with modern bathrooms, two fully equipped kitchens and an eclectic mix of antique and modern well-designed furniture.
The long building is divided at ground floor level by a galleria which runs from the ancient borgo into the sunny garden where a crystal clear pool waits for you.
The bedrooms are simple, spacious and each one opens separately into the upper hallway. Two of the bedrooms have beautifully carved adjoining doors which mean they are best used by a family or close friends.
THE HOUSE, THE GARDEN, THE VIEWS AND THE POOL
REPRESENT A PEACEFUL HAVEN
the perfect escape from today's manic world and yet only 8 minutes away from Fivizzano.
THINGS TO DO. PLACES TO GO
Nearby: the ancient walled town of Fivizzano with shops, bars, restaurants, a weekly market and during the summer a series of 'manifestazione' ranging from a festa of locally grown food and wine to a car rally, medieval processions and flag throwing to a fashion show almost every week.
EATING OUT is an everyday delight. Most local restaurants serve beautifully presented antipasti (a bewildering number of traditional appetisers), freshly made pasta, locally produced meat, fish and seafood fresh from the nearby coast, seasonal vegetables that taste 'just-picked', the 'best ice-cream in Tuscany’, and a bill that's usually a pleasant surprise.
Riding/trekking nearby, castles on our doorstep the coast 40 minutes away, ski slopes, an hour away.With its heart-stopping views, and peaceful atmosphere the Lunigiana is an area you will return to again and again.
LUNIGIANA AND LIGURIA
Lunigiana remains Tuscany's best kept secret - a land of rivers and castles, vineyards and forests, steep wooded valleys and walled hilltop towns. Here life still follows the seasons.
Yet the sandy coves, stylish marinas and cliff top walks of the stunning Ligurian Coast are only 45 minutes away. This breathtaking coast can be busy in the summer, but amazingly it remains unspoilt. Colour washed houses stacked close together appear to tumble down the cliffs to the sea, much as they did when Byron, Shelley and later DH Lawrence lived and worked here on a stretch of coast that became known as the Bay of Poets.
And for culture lovers and shoppers? The great Tuscan cities of Florence, Pistoia, Piacenza and the less known medieval jewel of Lucca are all easy to reach by train from our local station. Parma, Pisa and Genoa are all about 1.5 hours via the motorway.
Worked in the mad men world of advertising as a copywriter when anything seemed possible right up until the joy went out of the ad world and original thinkers lost out to pc operators. I was born in West Yorkshire and,lived there all my life except for 4 years in East Cornwall when my artist/husband was Principal of Plymouth College of Art. Returned to the north with my teenage children, settled in Ilkley, a delightful Victorian spa town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and my life began again when I met my partner, David,who was a technical director in the engineering trade. .He had no apparent connection with the art world but he is incredibly appreciative,. Casa delle Rondini has more than its share of original paintings - mostly from my side of the family (my son is a painter, my daughter contemporary curator at the National Portrait Gallery) but the delightful blue painted brass beds, the 'bateaux lits' and other antiques were rescued mainly from French junkyards and restored by David. Between us we have 7 grandchildren (4 born in the same year). Every one of our offspring love being here, which is why we only set aside a few weeks in the summer for paying guests.
Barbara Howgate and David Wernham purchased this house in 1999
We didn't intend to buy a property at all -didn't believe in 'second homes' However, looking back it seems that Casa delle Rondini was destined for us.
My passion for Italy goes back to the bohemian sixties. My late husband who was a practising artist and lecturer, our toddler, Sarah, and myself loaded up the car with camping equipment and took off to Italy. each summer. (Once, would you believe, we drove all the way to Siena in a 2CV and by that time there were four of us!) Each morning we went on a tour of the local cultural gems. In the afternoon we lazed around the local swimming pool. Then we had a week or so camping on the coast.Of course we must have passed through the Lunigiana on our way from Parma to Levanto near the Cinque Terre but we were desperate for the sea and scarcely noticed the unspoilt green wooded landscape that typifies the area.
A decade later I find that my partner, David, is just as enraptured by Italy as I am. We lost count of our trips to Chiantishire, grew a little tired of high prices and crowds of tourists and together we re-discovered the Lunigiana. The only snag in the mid Nineties was the poor standard of rented accommodation, and the number of ruined houses which had been abandoned. At New Year 1999 we rented a 2 bedroomed apartment for a few days. We walked onto the terrace looked over the wilderness that had once been a vineyard to the mountains on the horizon and we were lost. Would the English owner sell us the apartment? Not without buying the rest of the medieval semi-ruin. Fortunately for us the price we paid wouldn't have bought us a cupboard in London.So the oldest and most beautiful house in the village became our joy and our responsibility.
Casa delle Rondini - we could have called it Casa della Romantica.
On a sunny morning I can happily sit looking closely at the honey-coloured stone walls which occasionally give up a secret.. A scratched date - 1627! Ah, yes but on one of the blackened beams upstairs there is another date - 1494 - what is the significance of that and why is it carved upside down?
And you will notice the cavity in the terrace wall with the scratched inscription 'Oswaldo e Vittoria' Aprile 1944' .I'm sure this was the secret letterbox of two wartime lovers.
In the evenings just as the sun begins to set the swallows swoop down taking a swift drink from the pool . Then the fireflies take over darting here and there all over the garden. The nightly performance over, we switch on the underwater lights and take a slow easy swim. The water feels like silk as I float on my back and see the sky punctured with pinpricks of light. This is the real thing -star gazing light years away from the current obsession with the so,called super-stars,
It is a large house with the thickest walls I have ever seen. No doubt centuries ago it was somewhere to seek refuge. In every room there is a reminder of the past from the blackened tiles in the first bedroom where the peasant farmers roasted chestnuts to make the flour that the Lunigiana is famous for to the vaulted hideaway inside the kitchen walls, but there are no ghosts, only a great feeling of' peace and love'. Now that' takes me straight back to my sixties roots.
Of course, kids take a different view. Our grandchildren love whooping round the garden, building something or other with a couple of old doors and the old cooking bars from the inglenook fireplace. Occasionally they might take off into the hamlet, but they won't get far before someone spots and returns them. Caugliano is that kind of place.
Best of all we liked the genuine hilltop village atmosphere in Caugliano - no tourists, no postcard stands and walls probably 500 years old. Yet only a few kilometres away is the little town of Fivizzano which provides all you need - your daily food , morning espresso, delicious gelato in the square and you get the best pizzasin town from the pizzeria next door to the gelatoria
The house is huge, very old, very genuine and furnished with love and style.
The garden is very private with an unspoilt view of olive groves and mountains. It is big enough for the kids to run around and swim, yet one could still find a quiet corner for a nap and enjoy sun-hot sweet plums from the trees in the garden. The pool was nice, kept clean by a local guy who came many times a week.
After the pool, the best part of the garden was the pergola. All life in the evenings went on there, It's big enough to accommodate a really large group of friends.
A nice alternative in the evenings is the upper terrace, especially of you want to try the real pizza oven!
Whenever we get together with our friends we like to remember last summer. There is something in the air in Caugliano that makes one feel stronger about it as time goes by.
My overall impression is just wonderfull. We were happy with the beautifull house, the rooms,the garden, the pool, This is certainly a place to come back to. Although quite isolated and far from shops, you can enjoy the quietness and beautiful nature.It was each time a pleasure to drive to Fivizzano to do the shopping and have a drink on the marketplace.
The house and rooms, kitchen, bathrooms are very comfortable, and plenty of towels in every room as well as for the pool. This was a highlight in all my holidays!
Our family group of 10 (3 generations) have just returned from a memorable week at the Casa delle Rondini and wished we could have stayed there for several more weeks.
The facilities are excellent - clean and comfortable with everything one could need. It is a beautiful artistically restored home with soul and charm.
We all found our favourite spots to relax and chill.
The pool is excellent, enjoyed by all, especially the children who spent hours in it playing games.
Caugliano is a charming hamlet tucked away at the top of a steep winding track which became familiar by the end of our stay, but initially in hired car with left hand drive it was slightly alarming. We were greeted by Gino, the caretaker, who was extremely friendly and helpful. He came to our assistance when one of our party needed to see a doctor and it was reassuring to know he was there if required.
Fivizzano,only a short drive away is ideal for shopping - a good supermarket and other specialist shops. It became a favourite for an evening stroll and meal, takeaway pizza or icecream at the excellent galateria. It is a delightful small town that is worth exploring.
I would certainly recommend this property to others but there are some steep stairs which could be difficult for less agile visitors.
The owners David and Barbara were extremely friendly and helpful throughout the booking process and sent us all the information we required, and of course there is a lot of information at the property also.
Thank you from us all for letting us stay in your beautiful home in the sun.
Everything about this beautiful house is just perfect. Our first stay was nearly 3 years ago when we took our grown up family and 10 of us had the most amazing fortnight. The property has everything you could possibly need, the setting is breathtaking, the neighbours delightful. We love the Fivizzano area and have holidayed here many times, but now we've found ourselves returning time and again to this spot, and in fact feel quite at home. We are returning for a week in May with some friends who have never visited Italy and feel this will be perfect as a base to break them in gently to the Italian way of life. We're returning again in August with all the family as we had such a wonderful time with them before, that they all want to return with us again!
The property is clean and well maintained, not difficult to find, but off the beaten track so nice and quiet too. Just a short drive into Fivizzano for all the facilities this lovely town has to offer - shops, banks, bars, restaurants, but all very much in the Italian way of life, not at all touristy, and you get a real chance to practice your Italian!
We would recommend this property to all our friends, and family, without any hesitation - and Barbara and David are a delight!
Very good value accomodation for Tuscany. Clean and well maintained. The owners provided reliable information and prompt service. One of the villagers popped in daily to clean the pool, offer advice and generally check all was in order.
The house was in good condition with modern facilities and plenty of decent standard toilets and showers and decent matresses bedding etc.
We rented the whole property and would gladly recommend it. The upstairs terrace made a good outdoor dining area and its kitchen was just big enough for 10 of us all to dine and cook for the whole party. Any more would probably be too many if you want to eat together.
You would have to be pretty tolerant of strangers to rent only half of the property as there is no real split in the outdoor space. Casa Bella has much the better deal for outdoor living.
The property is not totally private as the terrace of the property next door overlooks the garden, but this was never an inconvenience to us.
Caugliano is a lovely village at the top of a very steep hill. Walking anywhere is only for the enthusiastic. Car required. Close to Fivizzano which is lovely and has all facilities.
Within fairly easy driving distance of Pisa and Florence
Like many other villages in the Lunigiana, Caugliano is perched on a hilltop, with panoramic views of the countryside below. It has neither shop nor bar, but what it does offer is the antidote to stressful, modern living - peace, tranquility and a warm welcome from the people who live here. You will hear cow bells by day, owls or the bark of a deer at night. And yet you are not cut off.
Within 8 minutes you can be sipping a beer or enjoying 'the best ice cream in Tuscany' in the Piazza Medicea, Fivizzano.This ancient walled town has bakers, butchers, alimentari, a fishmonger, a brand new supermarket, banks, pharmacies, hairdressers, restaurants and bars. On market day the place is buzzing with locals, visitors and painters. (Our daughter and son-in-law run painting holidays in the area.)
There are castles and riding stables on the doorstep, a thermal spa half an hour away. It's 45 minutes to Lerici, San Terenzo and Portovenere stunningly beautiful and remarkably unspoilt coastal resorts on the Bay of Poets, where Byron, Shelley and DH Lawrence found inspiration.Then there's the world famous Cinque Terre (five ancient fishing villages clinging to the Ligurian cliffs,) best seen by boat from Lerici.
Lucca, a little known Renaissance gem and Puccini's birthplace is an hour away. Florence 2 hours. and Parma 1.5 hours. Pisa airport 1.5 hrs. Genoa 1.75 hrs
Other Activities: Trekking on horseback or on foot, river walking, wine trails, country markets and festas. Castles to explore, land-and-seascapes to die for.
Our favourite day out? Head for Lerici on the Bay of Poets - especially if there are a few clouds drifting over Caugliano. It's a bit of a mystery but perfectly true that the weather on the coast is often different to the meteo in the village.(Remember it works both ways - a glorious day in Caugliano there could be clouds on the coast. And what a coast! The Ligurian coastline comes very close to the much more fashionable Amalfi coast in its unforgettable beauty - spectacular cliffs, green and wooded all the way down to the sea, studded with sun-trapped sandy coves. The ferry from Lerici stops at every village on the Cinque Terre. We hop off for a brimming bowl of pasta al mare, walk to the next village, take a nap on the beach, then catch the return ferry. Land at Lerici for an evening stroll along the marina before a just-caught seafood dinner and you will have had a day you will never forget.
|Fees||No additional mandatory fees|
Although we quote in sterling we are happy to accept euros as all the rental revenue goes directly into our Italian bank account set up specifically to maintain Casa delle Rondini. But if it's easier to pay in sterling, dollars, Swedish krona, Swiss francs or any other currency, that's fine by us Just ask.
Yplease ask fundsrom letting keeping Casa delle Rondini is an ongoing labour of lovr.. Yiur r and Dollars, particularly if you are paying by bank transfer or cash. The rent includes a welcome snack-pack, cleaning, fuel for wood burning stoves, gas, electricity, house towels, pool towels, bed linen cleaning before and after you leave.