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in the shadow of a medieval tower
by Laura Del Rosso

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.

Tenuta di Canonica overlooks both Todi, which rises from another hill about five miles away, and a valley dominated by Lake Corbara.
Clare, who is Karen Brown's mother and has become an expert on Italy through her extensive research for the guides, told me that Tenuta was one of her favorite places in Umbria. In fact, the write up in her Italy book, is a rave. We arrived on a warm, sunny Sunday morning and saw why Clare was so impressed. Tenuta di Canonica overlooks both Todi, which rises from another hill about five miles away, and a valley dominated by Lake Corbara.

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.

see also...
Giro di Umbria
Agritourisimo: Eating out, in!
In the Shadow of a Medieval Tower
What do you know about Umbria?
Visit Umbria
Visit other Italian regions
Daniele was nearly always around, bustling about the maze of ground floor rooms in the ancient main building, usually with a cell phone in one hand. Or he could be found in his office, equipped with computers, fax machines and printers where he took reservations from sales agents in Europe and North America.

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.

About the Author...
The daughter of immigrants from a small town called Molina di Quosa midway between Pisa and Lucca, Laura Del Rosso grew up in California, on the coast south of San Francisco. Her father, Silvio, was part of an Italian farming community on the San Mateo County coast that specialized in growing artichokes. Her parents took the family to Italy every three or four years, and she spent several summers with her grandparents. Today, she writes for a trade newsmagazine, Travel Weekly, and lives in San Francisco. Laura finds she misses Italy desperately if she doesn't get back at least once a year so she usually makes a trip either in June or September, catching up with her relatives in Molina di Quosa and then exploring some new regions, such as she did on her most recent trip when she visited Umbria.


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