Discovering Casa Fiori in Montefiascone – rustic charm in a little-known corner of the Italian Lakes
Most of us, I suspect, imagine what it would be like to own a rustic holiday home in Italy, with countryside views, fresh fruit growing in the garden, and an outside terrace for wining and dining as the sun goes down. Sadly, for most of us it remains only a dream!
Someone who is happily living the Italian dream, however, is Tyneside-based Paula Graham, who I recently met at a Mussel Club networking event here in Gateshead. Even better, because her home in Italy, called Casa Fiori (‘home of the wildflower’) is also rented out as a holiday let and for watercolour painting holidays, any of us can share the dream – even if only for a week or two at a time.
“Acquired by us in 2006, Casa Fiori is an authentic Italian rural house,” Paula told us, “It’s in a happy choice of location at Montefiascone on Lake Bolsena.
“It’s been sympathetically developed from two agricultural peasant cottages, and these cottages now form a four-bedroomed house. We like to say it has rustic charm tastefully combined with style and comfort!
“We instantly fell in love with the house for its plants, fruits, views, and its three ancient caves in the garden. These caves are formed from volcanic igneous rock (tufo) and form superb natural garden features. We loved the pizza oven, vine-covered pergola and small olive grove, all overlooking the Cimini mountain range, so it’s no wonder we chose this house.”
Sounds lovely! But with most Brits typically looking for property in the better-known areas of Italy – like Tuscany, Umbria or Lake Como – what prompted Paula to head further south to the relatively undiscovered region of Tuscia or Northern Lazio?
“You’re right – this area north of Rome, known in Italy as the central Italian Lakes, is largely unknown to foreign tourists, but it’s a well-held secret among Italians. Having worked and travelled extensively in Italy, we knew this beautiful area ourselves. Montefiascone and Lake Bolsena are a kaleidoscope of magnificent vistas, colours and sunshine – serene and peaceful at times, but vibrant and lively at others.
“The food, wines and festivals are also superb, and were another reason for our choice of location. In fact, the best winery in the area is within walking distance of Casa Fiori. The area is steeped in ancient and medieval history, so you’ve got Etruscan and Roman amphitheatres, a necropolis, World Heritage Sites, cathedrals and forts that all appeal to our cultural interests! This makes it the perfect place to indulge our professional art, art history and Italian language backgrounds.
“In fact, Casa Fiori itself is very near spectacular Orvieto with its famous basilica. The drive north to Orvieto from Montefiascone is considered one of the top 100 drives in the world and forms part of the Milla Miglia course. In the other direction, Viterbo is 15 minutes south of Casa Fiori, and was once home of the Papal Court. Now the town is famous for its fashionable shops, spa hotels, thermal pools, pavement cafes, night life and festivals, especially the Macchina di Santa Rosa every September.
“We realised too that Montefiascone was a great location for travelling to cities like Rome, Florence and Siena, all of which are easily accessible by road and rail.
“So, you can see why we are looking forward to our next visit, for a taste of la dolce vita (the sweet life)!”
We can indeed, Paula! It looks like Lake Bolsena is one more area of Italy to add to our ever-growing to-do list…