5,750 eXpectations pointsCheck In: 8th March 2014, Hotel Unit, sleeps 2
La Casella – A Rural Retreat
To kick start our round-the-world trip we’ve booked our first stay for Saturday the 8th of March in Italy. The resort at which we will be staying is La Casella (RCI #6924), situated in the northern region of Umbria not far from the border with Tuscany.
The resort has been awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence and receives good, positive feedback from most guests although the rural location seems to have been a problem for some. That said it looks to be a great base from which to explore the Italian countryside with a plethora of possible day trips. Rome or Florence are both a little under 2 hours drive from the resort whilst the likes of Perugia, Assisi and Sienna are much closer.
The resort itself is billed as an Eco Resort having originally been an agricultural village before the current owners converted the area approximately 25 years ago. Emphasis here is on peace, tranquillity, food and nature. Away from the hustle and bustle of 24/7 life, I imagine that it’s the kind of place that takes a few days to get to grips with as you wind down to much slower pace of life.
Activities include cookery classes, tastings, an equestrian centre and yoga with the local area providing no end of outdoor pursuits. There’s an outdoor pool and large sun deck with stunning views and a small Spa with Jacuzzi and Sauna.
Normally a week here would set you back a very reasonable 11,500 points, however, when you make a booking with your points less than 14 days prior to departure you will receive a 50% discount. Even without the discount the points price to book this holiday is very reasonable which maybe partly due to the fact that the resort has a mandatory half-board policy (see below).
As you would hope from any self-respecting Italian resort, food plays an important role here and deserves special mention since the resort has a mandatory half-board policy.
This is unusual for European resorts, the concept is generally more associated with Mexican and Caribbean resorts where many of the guests will be visiting by means other than timeshare and where all-inclusive is the norm.
Whilst I would normally be quite adverse to mandatory half board in favour of seeking out different restaurants at which to dine, on this occasion I’m far more open to the idea for the following reasons;
One – The location of the resort: As a rural retreat it is hardly a short stroll away from a parade of restaurants. This somewhat dictates that your days will be spent exploring before retreating back to the resort for dinner. If there are any specific restaurants I have a hankering to visit I can do so during the day.
Two – The Menu & Quality: Steered by what produce is in season the chefs prepare classic Italian cuisine with the majority of ingredients sourced from the 800+ acres of land of which the resort occupies. I contacted the resort earlier in the week to get an idea of what meals I could expect and here’s the five course menu they came back with;
Organic Potato Minicake
Wild Fennel & Spinach Cream
Homemade Tagliatelle with Wild Mushrooms
La Casella’s Pork Shoulder with Oven Roasted Potatoes
Orange Semifreddo Dessert
The fact the resort run cookery classes is also a good sign… not all chefs are happy to have civilians enter their kitchens!
Three – The Value: At only €210 per person for the entire week the value appears very good. The price includes mineral water and house wine and the management clearly have a great deal of conviction in their culinary skills.
Arriving in March we’re a little early for “Dinner in the Woods” which runs in the summer season from June – September. Here, guests sets off from the resort venturing by horseback, carriage or on foot into the forest for a candle-lit dinner.
The accommodation which was available through RCI is classed as a “Hotel” – basically a room sleeping 2 without a kitchen. By the look of things the room is basic with a rustic, romantic charm. Expect something very similar to that shown in the image below.
The “Dirt Track”
Some of the reviewers on TripAdvisor were clearly upset with the “dirt track” leading to the resort. This seems more than a little unfair to mark a resort down on such things when the resort is clearly a rural retreat.
Intrigued by all this talk of a road which sounded as if you’d need a tank to reach the resort, I was very surprised to see that Google have managed to traverse the road in one of their camera cars enabling anyone to see it for themselves. From what I can see the road really isn’t all that bad at all! You can take a look here.
Next week we’ll be taking a close look at some of things to see and do in Umbria and across into Tuscany. We’ll also take a brief look ahead at our next stop in Crete.