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in the shadow of a medieval tower
Umbria seemed like a central spot where we could meet and friends could join us.
The decision to rent a small house and spend a week exploring Umbria was actually driven by happenstance.
Earlier this year I found myself browsing Italian travel sites on the Internet - more as a form of daydreaming than in seriousness. I fell upon a site, promoting "affordable rentals in Umbria."
One of the listings, Tenuta di Canonica, grabbed my attention. The main building, dominated by a 13th century medieval tower, was built on a Roman foundation. It was high on a hill with a 360-degree view of the countryside, and had been renovated by a young couple who had purchased the property within the last few years.
There were two small, one-bedroom apartments on the grounds renting for what indeed seemed "affordable" -- $400 a week.
I thought of my friend Charlotte, with whom I often travel to Italy. She has several close friends in the north and south of Italy and I have relatives and friends near Pisa and Lucca. Umbria seemed like a central spot where we could meet and friends could join us. A phone call later, Charlotte had given me an enthusiastic go-ahead and we settled on a week in early September. With a click of the mouse, I made the reservations through Gira Travel's Web site.
I was a little apprehensive, having planned a vacation without talking to anybody in person, but a few weeks before departure I met Clare Brown, the author of Italy guide books for Karen Brown's Charming Bed & Breakfasts series, while researching an article for my job at Travel Weekly.
Maria and Daniele Fano, the proprietors, were as charming as described in the book, helping us get settled and making recommendations of places to see and restaurants. The Fanos have decorated the main building beautifully, in warm, rich colors. The large living room is inviting, with deep, soft sofas set in front of a huge stone fireplace. Midway up a flight of stairs is a room with stacks of books, CDs and a stereo system, all under vaulted ceiling of medieval brick.
Steps away from the building -- and the small apartment we rented -- is a large swimming pool with lounge chairs from which we could relax and enjoy the panoramic view. There also was a family-like atmosphere at the Tenuta di Canonica that made us feel at home.
Three big friendly dogs prowled around the property, and the Fanos' four-year-old son, Marco, played on the lawn. New guests moved in and out of the main house, which has eight hotel rooms, mingling around the breakfast room where classical music played on the stereo most of the day, or around the pool and the outdoor patio with its rattan chairs and tables.
The week passed in a lovely whirl.
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