What Makes for a Good Bed and Breakfast
Two Fine Bed and Breakfasts in Italy
Article and photos by Diana
| 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,
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
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
| Diana at a B and B in Italy.
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.
| Resources for Italian Bed and Breakfasts
20 miles north of Florence near Vicchio.
€80-110 per night for a double with WiFi.
Found through simply searching "agriturismi" near
In Branca, a approximately 7.5 miles from Gubbio.
Diana Saluri Russo teaches
journalism at Clarke College in Dubuque, IA and travels
to Italy frequently.