Category Archives: About Cottages to Castles

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Italy experts: An introduction to Jonathan and Daniela Magoni

Son and daughter of Cottages to Castles’ founder, Jonathan and Daniela Magoni continue their father’s legacy of introducing international holidaymakers to La Dolce Vita. Jonathan manages relations with an extensive network of property owners out of the Italian office, while Daniela is the UK’s ‘voice on the phone’. Here she reflects on the legacy of her family’s business, and shares exciting new changes…

Daniella-photo“January is a time for new beginnings, and as we kick-start 2016, it’s certainly all change at Cottages to Castles. We’ve a brand new partnership with Simpson Travel, a specialist tour operator whose values of warm service and specialised local knowledge, mirror our own.

A new year is also time to pause and reflect. In many ways, our business today is unrecognisable from the one my father started in 1983 with a vision of running holidays for painters. This was six years before the movie Field Of Dreams, but ‘Build it and they will come’ may well have been his motto! Since then the World Wide Web has enabled pilgrims far and wide to experience La Dolce Vita courtesy of our unrivalled collection of authentic holiday properties.

Amid so much change, some things remain reassuringly permanent. Since I took over reservations and customer relations, I’ve committed to ensuring each and every client discovers the right holiday for their personal circumstances, needs and desires. It’s enormously heartening to receive emails from couples and families thanking me for saving them money, finding them the perfect child-friendly villa, or, in some cases, pushing them to think outside the box!

It’s lovely to see so many guests return again and again, though equally delightful when Tuscany and Amalfi Coast diehards can be tempted further afield, providing themselves and their loved ones with wonderful new learning experiences in the process.

But location isn’t everything; the relationships we’ve fostered – some lasting over 20 years – is another important part of what makes us truly unique. We never tire of hearing guests gush about the wonderful home-grown herbs left on their doorstep by their villa’s owner. It’s these little extras, combined with our deep knowledge, that make all the difference.”

For a chance to discover your own piece of Italy, visit our collection or for a personal recommendation, contact Daniela on 01622 775 217.

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Visit Chianti: Stay at Casa Conca d’Oro

Chianti, famous for its wine, is a beautiful area of Tuscany to discover, and the lovely town of Panzano is a great example of why this is the case. The town is perched on the top of a hill, giving it wonderful panoramic views of the valley and the town of Greve below.

It is in Panzano that the Casa Conca d’Oro can be found, a beautiful apartment which offers some of the wonderful views that Panzano boasts. It is the perfect place for a small family, or two couples, looking for a relaxing break, with two double-bedded bedrooms, one of which is en suite. There is another shower room and toilet, ensuring it is a very comfortable apartment for all guests.

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When you visit Chianti, if you would like to try your hand at cooking the Tuscan cuisine, there is a small kitchen equipped with essentials such as hobs, an oven and a fridge. The sitting room/dining area is open plan and can be warmed in the winter months by the wonderful open fireplace that the apartment offers. The owner even provides free firewood.

The lovely outside shaded garden area of the Casa Conca d’Oro is the ideal place to relax and watch the world go by, and guests are invited to try the barbecue, for which you can find meat at the famous local ‘butcher of Panzano’, who sings and offers customers a glass of wine as they purchase their meat.

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In the town itself, there are plenty of different activities and local shops to discover. The centre of Panzano is just a short walk away from the apartment, offering you the chance to leave the car behind and enjoy an evening in one of the many restaurants that the town has to offer. Panzano has every kind of shop you might require, but in case you feel more adventurous, the bigger cities of Siena and Florence are nearby and more or less equidistant.

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Visit Florence: Stay at Capanno di Riorsoli

If you are looking for a holiday which combines beautiful countryside, peace and the possibility of seeing some of the most beautiful historic towns in the world, then we would recommend you visit Florence and stay at Capanno di Riorsoli.

A renovated Tuscan barn, built over two floors, Capanno di Riorsoli is the perfect place for either a winter or summer retreat. In winter, the open fireplace keeps the living room warm and cosy, whilst in the summer months, the swimming pool is open and the perfect place to keep cool. The accommodation comes with two bedrooms, one double on the ground floor which also has direct access to the garden outside, and a twin room on the lower level, meaning that it is ideal for either two couples or a small family.

Capanno di Riorsoli

The aforementioned living room is also located downstairs and is open plan and spacious, doubling up as a dining area. A short trip down four stairs will take you to the kitchen, which is equipped with a small oven, four hobs and a fridge freezer. In addition to the twin room on the lower level, there is another shower room. A major attraction is the garden space that the Capanno boasts, where you can try your hand at cooking Italian cuisine on the barbecue.

Away from the barn, the location could not be better for discovering the beautiful region of Tuscany. It is just 35 kilometres away from the famous city of Florence, with its beautiful architecture and art museums, and a similar distance from the medieval town of Siena. Closer to home, the town of Gambassi Terme provides all shopping essentials and the slightly larger and more famous neighbour, San Gimignano, also provides an interesting day trip. The focus of the region and the barn is peace and relaxation, the perfect mix for taking a break from day-to-day life.

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Visit Tuscany: Stay in Antico Pastificio

For those who want to visit Tuscany to experience the real history of Italy, what could be better than spending time where pasta is created? The Antico Pastificio is precisely this, as an old pasta-making factory which has now been converted into a series of beautiful apartments. It is located in the centre of the bustling town of Greve, in Chianti, and an apartment can be used as a base to discover both a fascinating hilltop town and the beautiful surrounding area.

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A typical apartment in the building has a double bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen with hobs and a fridge, and an open plan living and dining area. The factory has been well converted, as the apartments make use of the old plan, to create space in the rooms with their high ceilings. Apartments also come with satellite television to give the option of having a quiet evening in.

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The owners are friendly and go out of their way to ensure that guests have the most comfortable stay possible, with quiet rooms and games rooms in the building in addition to the swimming pool which is located in the beautifully kept garden. Guests are invited to relax on the hammocks and make use of the outside dining area, barbecue and pizza oven. Every week, there is a pizza night, where guests can enjoy one of the most typical Italian delicacies, and, for food lovers, there is a guide on where the best cookery classes can be found in the local area.

Antico Pastificio’s location allows easy access to the town and its bars and restaurants. The Chianti region is, of course, famous for its magnificent wine, and there are several different tour options available to those who are partial to a glass or two. Greve itself offers fantastic views of the valley below and the Tuscan countryside.

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Visit Tuscany: Stay at Cottage il Gelso

When dreaming about the perfect summer holiday, what could be more appealing than some peace and quiet in a Tuscan valley with nothing but the wonderful view, a good book and a glass of wine to worry about? This dream becomes reality at Cottage il Gelso, a semi-detached cottage located in the heart of Tuscany with views of the infamous rolling hills and the gem of a town, San Gimignano, in the background.

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The cottage is an ideal romantic getaway, appearing to have been built with peace and privacy in mind. The garden has a covered eating area, which allows you to while away the warm afternoon hours with a long lunch as you stare out at the Tuscan countryside. If you prefer to be a little more active then there is a swimming pool just across the road, where you can cool off and catch some rays.

Cottage il Gelso is secure; you have to go through electric gates before parking your car off-road. Inside is just a lovely as outside, with a sitting room area which doubles up as a dining room. There is a kitchen area in the corner which is equipped with hobs, an oven, a fridge and a washing machine. Further into the cottage there is a double bedroom which is air conditioned and comes with insect screens for those hot summer evenings.

Cottage il Gelso 1

As mentioned, San Gimignano is, at 2 kilometres, a short distance away and is the perfect place to discover and eat a delicious meal in the evening. The town is a lovely walled medieval city and is one of UNESCO’s world heritage site and is certainly worth the short trip. The closest airport is in Pisa, which is another alternative for a day trip from this wonderful Tuscan cottage. Last but not least, when you visit Tuscany, don’t forget to make time into your schedule for day trips to Siena and Florence, if possible!

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Visit Tuscany: Stay in Villa Panorama

When considering where to go on holiday, one of the most common requirements is somewhere relaxing. We feel that for those who, when they visit Tuscany, look for peace and quiet during their free time, the Villa Panorama is the ideal place. There is still plenty to do in the area, such as visiting the beautiful medieval city of Siena and Tuscany’s cultural and artistic centre, Florence, yet even the villa itself is a work of art.

villa panorama

Situated in the perfect location to enjoy miles and miles of unspoilt views of the stunning surrounding landscape, the villa is home to a swimming pool, from which the views can also be appreciated. In addition to the pool, children are invited to enjoy the slide and roundabout which can be found on the property. For afternoon and evening meals, there is a barbecue, and the villa is ideal for outside dining, with a table and chairs placed on the lovingly kept lawn.

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Spacious and light inside, the villa remains cool in the summer months, and can be enjoyed by up to eight guests in total. For added comfort, all of the bedrooms are situated upstairs in the property, leaving the downstairs area, with its large living room, dining room, well-equipped kitchen and bathroom available for all. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, two of which come with en suite bathrooms, and one more bathroom. Further entertainment can be found inside, in the form of a table tennis table, a satellite television and a card table.

For days when you are feeling more adventurous, there is plenty to do when you visit Tuscany, including visits to the aforementioned towns of Siena and Florence. Away from the towns and in keeping with the tranquility of the villa, the local area has beautiful countryside, including mountains and a spa, including thermal waters.

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Visit Le Marche: Stay at Casa Patrizia

Located near a small village close to the East coast of Italy, you may feel as though you have your own private piece of paradise at the Casa Patrizia, especially when you see the wonderful, unspoilt view of the Aso Valley from the garden. The Casa is kept to the highest standard by its owner, Patrizia, and allows you to enjoy peace in a beautiful surrounding when you visit Le Marche.

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Another major attraction of the accommodation is the swimming pool, which at 11 x 5.5 metres allows plenty of room for keen swimmers to cool off during the long, warm summer days. For the more active holidaymaker, mountain bikes are also available on the property, and are an excellent way to discover the surrounding mountains, or even the Adriatic Sea, which is only 10 kilometres away from Casa Patrizia.

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On the inside, the house does not disappoint, with space for up to 9 guests, making it perfect for groups or extended families, and stretches for two storeys. The ground floor is home to a spacious living area, a well-equipped kitchen and one of the bedrooms, with room for two guests. There is also a shower. Upstairs, there are 4 more bedrooms in total, one en suite double room, two others with double beds, and a single room, alongside another shower. The furnishings are modern and well kept.

As previously mentioned, the house is 10 kilometres away from the coast, so the golden sandy beaches are a must-visit during a stay here. The coastal towns offer some beautiful fresh seafood for food lovers to enjoy. There are also several immaculately preserved medieval villages to enjoy, and if we have one piece of advice, it would be to rent a car, which allows guests the chance to enjoy driving around the beautiful countryside and hidden spots using the Casa Patrizia as a base.

 

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Visit Puglia: Stay at Trullo Santo Stefano

It is said that the region of Puglia, tucked away in the ‘heel’ of Italy, is one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Far more peaceful than the beaches of the Italian Riviera in the North, when you visit Puglia you can still enjoy stunning beaches and a number of interesting towns which share Italian and Greek architectural influences.

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Perhaps one of the most iconic images of Puglia is of the ‘Trulli,’ conical shaped structures which are thought to date back hundreds of years. The Trullo Santo Stefano offers you the chance to stay in one of these practically unique constructions, complete with a few more luxuries than the original Trulli had.

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Trullo Santo Stefano was refurbished in 2006 and now boasts a swimming pool, a furnished gazebo which overlooks said swimming pool and a garden area which is lined by olive trees. It can hold up to seven people, with three in the left wing and four to the right. The property can be rented by a group of seven, or alternatively two different groups separated out.

The area is very peaceful, and with the nearest town a short drive away, the outside space can be enjoyed in near tranquillity. The accommodation comes with a barbecue, which is a must on a lovely summer’s day and goes superbly with a bottle of the local wine. Puglia produces the most wine in Italy, so there is a lot to try!

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Away from the Trullo Santo Stefano, there is plenty to see when you visit Puglia, as the town of Martina Franca, with its fantastic views of the Itrian valley and white houses, is situated 28 kilometres away. White houses are another common feature in Puglia and are a reminder of the Greek influence on the area. The local town, San Michele Salentino, offers shops, essential services, restaurants and bars, perfect for the summer months.

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Visit Sicily: Stay at Baia Segreta

Sicily is one of the most popular destinations for Italian tourists, and it is easy to see why. The island off the south west coast of Italy is home to some stunning beaches, glorious weather, fantastic food and much more.

There is something for everyone on the island and it does not disappoint in terms of accommodation either, the Baia Segreta home being an example of this. It is located in Scopello in north west Sicily, a beautiful hamlet near to the Zingaro nature reserve, which is home to unspoilt landscapes and some magnificent birds of prey. The location of the house echoes the peace of the reserve down the road.

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The villa itself is magnificent and provides the comforts needed for a dream holiday, including; a swimming pool, private access to a local beach and a spacious covered terrace. The terrace is as wonderful for an early morning coffee as it is for an evening cocktail, and even comes complete with a barbecue. The property can house up to seven guests, however there is space for two more in the d’pendance guest house, which has its own private shower.

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When you can tear yourself away from the property and the beach, there is plenty to explore when you visit Sicily. While the house and its surroundings offer complete tranquillity, the nearby town of Castellammare del Golfo is a hive of activity in the summer months and is filled with restaurants and bars serving local specialities, including Sicily’s most famous export, gelato.

Baia Segreta is easily reached from Sicily’s capital, Palermo, the location of the nearest international airport to Scopello. The city itself offers some beautiful market places, a cathedral and a variety of incredible architecture. It is also probably the first port of call for those wanting to stay in the beautiful Baia Segreta.

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Visit Le Marche: Stay at Casa Solagne

If you dream of lying on a terrace looking out over the beautiful Italian countryside, only having to worry about where you are going to eat in the evening, then the Casa Solange could be the holiday rental for you when you next visit Le Marche. Located a short distance away from the seaside town of San Benedetto del Toro on Italy’s east coast, this villa is the perfect base to unwind and enjoy some time in the sun.

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With the town being a short distance away, the villa benefits from its location, as it offers complete tranquillity and for those who want to escape the rat race of work at home, it really is a change of pace. The villa is complete with a covered terrace, which makes outdoor eating a comfortable option, even on the sunniest days.

Another benefit of Casa Solange is its swimming pool, which can be used from mid-May to the end of September. A dip in the pool is one of the best ways to enjoy the stunning views that are on offer. From one direction there is an unspoilt view of the Adriatic Sea, which stretches out as far as the eye can see. In the other direction there are rolling hills used as farmland to produce the fantastic food which is available in the region.

Casa Solagne

Speaking of food, the town of San Benedetto del Toro, which is also a beach resort, has an impressive number of top quality restaurants for the times when you would prefer not to cook. It is also home to a number of shops which provide all you could want for your relaxing holiday. Italy is the birthplace of the famous expression, ‘la dolce vita,’ and the Casa Solange provides everything you need to enjoy the good life during your well-earned time off.

 

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