FARNESE, Italy – This is Farnese, a small town in the province of Lazio. It’s where my grandfather was born and where my father spent a good part of his childhood. But that isn’t the reason for this post.
|The Residenza Farnese|
I hadn’t been to Farnese in a very long time, but a couple of weeks ago I had an overpowering urge to go back. It was if I was being called home and while I wanted to see my cousins again, more than anything else I just wanted to be there.
I was a little concerned about where I would stay. I didn’t want to impose on my cousins, they have full time jobs, a family and responsibilities but in a town with a population of 1,600, there isn’t much need for a hotel. After a bit of research I found that there was a B & B called Residenza Farnese in the heart of the historic center. The owner, Francesca Rodriguez, is from Rome and opened the B & B about four years ago.
The last time I went to Farnese I found myself stranded in the nearby town of Pitigliano and had to call my cousin to come and rescue me. This time I decided to call the B & B and ask if there was transportation between the train station in Montaldo di Castro and Farnese.
The owner of the B & B, Francesca Rodriguez, confirmed my fear, the answer was no, no transportation but she very kindly offered to pick me up at the train station. And she did. I liked her immediately. In the 25 minutes it took to drive back to Farnese I felt I had made a friend.
She told me she opened the B & B about four years ago after becoming disillusioned with the chaos of life in Rome. With both of her sons all grown up and living away from home, one in New York and the other in Brazil, she had the freedom to choose where she wanted to live. She chose Farnese.
I don’t think she ever told me how she decided to open a B & B, but she did say that when she first saw the house in Farnese she felt that it had good bones and was ideally suited for her needs.
The building, which dates from the 1600’s, required a great deal of renovation including a new roof, and part of the challenge was to see how many of the original pieces they would be able to keep. It turned out to be quite a few. The interior doors, for example, are all original to the property, as is the fireplace in the kitchen and the one in a bedroom.
There are five bedrooms at the B & B, two of which she discovered on the upper level after she bought the building. She said it was her architect who actually discovered them. She said he took his life in in hands and walked across wobbly wooden beams to peek into a small hole in a wall that they thought divided the property from the house next door. But it turned out there were two more rooms on the other side.
|A Delightful Mix of Old and New|
There are no records to show who originally built the wall, but she doubted it was the last owner of the house, an old maid called Signorina Gentili. The Signorina had lived in the house until she died at the age of 106, which is when the property was put on the market.
There seems to be a mini revival happening in this small hilltop town. In the four years since Francesca moved here, there has been an uptick in the number of Romans who have moved out of the city and invested in Farnese. While I didn’t meet any of them I did meet an American couple who were also house hunting here.
It was a surprise to hear that it’s not just the Italians who are buying properties here, but also Norwegians who have chosen Farnese as their favorite summer destination. It's the location that draws them here, the town is in the heart of some of the most important Etruscan sites in Italy, but it's the atmosphere and the people that they fall in love with.
The first thing I did when I got home was send some photos of Farnese to my cousin Ginny. I think my finger was still on the “send” key when my phone rang. It was Ginny.
“When are you going back?” she wanted to know.
“Probably in the spring,” I said, “ most likely the end of April.”
“Perfect,” she said. “I want to come with you.”
That really made me happy. My travels with Ginny are always an adventure and there is no reason to think this will be any different.
The Residenza Farnese
Via Giovan Battista Passeri
01010 Farnese, VT
Phone: 39 0761 458 667