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What Makes for a Good Bed and Breakfast Stay?

Two Bed and Breakfasts in Italy

Article and photo by Diana Saluri Russo

Bed and Breakfast in Italy
A bed and breakfast in Italy: Kitchen hearth at Le Due Volpi.

Le Due Volpe

A few days’ stay at beautiful Le Due Volpe bed and breakfast 20 miles north of Florence in Tuscany’s Mugello district soon makes you see the logic of owner Heidi Flores’ distinction between staying with those born to be Bed and Breakfasts hosts and those who fall into it.

“We’ve chosen to come here actively, “Heidi says of she and husband Lorenzo’s choice to buy a stone farm house and convert it to a bed and breakfast. “We didn’t fall into it. Some say ‘Let’s open a bed and breakfast,’ but they don’t know what that means. They think it just means opening up rooms and might even live off site.”

My husband and I, frequent travelers to Italy, spent three days at Le Due Volpe last May and despite the remarkable loveliness and authenticity of the house and grounds, it was Heidi and Lorenzo’s interaction with us and the other guests that charmed us most.

Heidi and Lorenzo know how to find that happy medium (sacred to the B & B guest) between spending time with their guests and leaving them to themselves. Our first night they welcomed us and other guests with wine, cheese and sausage in their wonderful kitchen, a ritual they must perform often, yet their merriment and graciousness is not forced.

After a career managing international schools in Italy and Switzerland, Heidi decided to open the bed and breakfast after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I became ill in 2005 and looked hard at my lifestyle,” she says. 

“I have never looked back. This house is a cure. I have become a different person. There is space here enough for everyone to be undisturbed.”

Heidi, who is Italian, has lived a truly international life and speaks several languages. She was born in Cuba and has lived in British Honduras, Mozambique, and Portugal.

Lorenzo owns a cantina specializing in wines and delicacies in Fiesole near Florence and serves guests his own wine. His wry shyness complements Heidi’s outgoingness. He entertains guests as he grills Bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine beefsteak) in a beautiful covered patio outdoors where he and Heidi share dinner with their guests.

Le Due Volpe offers three double rooms with bath and air conditioning, one with its own little charming cooking and eating area. The rooms are rustic and lovely with artistically tiled baths.

Located a short distance from Sienna, Arezzo, and Urbino Le Due Volpe is even accessible to those traveling without a car: It is a short train ride from Florence to nearby Vicchio where Heidi will pick you up at the train station.  

Casa Branca

A few days after our stay at Le Due Volpe we arrived at the second Bed and Breadfast on our itinerary, Casa Branca, a stone farm house high on a wooded hill a few kilometers from the spectacular medieval city of Gubbio. Still buoyed by the excitement of our stay at Le Due Volpe, we were let down by the curt greeting that made us feel more like interlopers than guests. We soon discovered we were the only guests, which intensified the isolated, lonely feel of the place. At times, as we knocked about the empty house and grounds we encountered our hosts, Paolo and Emanuela, who made an effort to be friendly, but the overall atmosphere was hushed and interactions a bit tense.  

Over the course of our 3-day stay, we took excursions to Gubbio and Urbino, but by our third and final night, we felt so starved for the lively atmosphere at Due Volpe, that we asked to have dinner, expecting that we would dine with our hosts. Instead, when we returned from our day’s sightseeing, we were greeted with a table set for two in the dining room. Our hosts worked in the kitchen and served us a fine but lonely dinner in a formal style as though we were in a restaurant.

The house has been tastefully restored with a great hall with stone walls, wooden beamed ceilings, and an oversized fire place. There are attractive patios and a well-landscaped pool. The seven double rooms are rustic yet updated and pleasant, with large, attractive baths. It may be that our hosts were having an off week, but overall, our experience at Casa Branca  how hard an act Heidi and Lorenzo, who are natural hosts, and our stay at the lovely Le Due Volpe was to follow.

For More Info on the Italian Agriturismo

Le Due Volpe
Found in Alistair Sawday’s “Special Places to Stay: Italy, 5th ,” Alistair Sawday Publishing Co..
20 miles north of Florence near Vicchio €75-95 per night for a double (2-night minimum).
Dinner €20.
Tel.: 0558-407-874

Casa Branca
Found through simply searching "agriturismi" near Gubbio
In Branca, a approximately 7.5 miles from Gubbio
€90 double
€20 dinner
Tel.: 074-927-006

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