IN A MONTH in Italy, May 6 through June 3, we stayed in thirteen different apartments, hotels, and agriturismi, relying on four sources for suggestions: Airbnb; Booking.com; Agriturismo.it; and previous knowledge. During that time the euro hovered at about $1.20. The most expensive lodging we found was €77, for an apartment with kitchen; a couple of other places were in the neighborhood of $75 to 80 a night; many others were significantly less. I list all below:
Naples and vicinity:
•Parco Eva (Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 167/6, Naples). We were here seven nights, 6-12 May 2015. It is a comfortable apartment with a good-sized sitting room, an almost equally large bedroom, with a small, efficient kitchen separating them. We found the place through Airbnb ("Spacious Apartment in 1900s Palazzo"), and the hosts were charming, helpful, and attentive. The apartment is on the second floor of its building, which is reached from the top (fifth) floor of another building in front; both have elevators, though a few steps must be climbed to get to the first. The building entrance is perhaps a fifty-meter walk up a fairly steep driveway leading from a guarded gate on the busy Corso Vittorio Emanuele, but the apartments are very quiet.
While the buildings are a good way from the center of the old city — a half hour's leisurely walk, I'd say — one of the three Naples foniculare is a five-minute walk from the gate; it leads down to the Chiaia area, with its shops and restaurants, and up to the rather staid but very rewarding Vomero quarter, from whence another funicular will drop you quickly into the heart of the old city.
A half hour's drive south of Naples will bring you to •La Vecchia Quercia (Via Montevetrano 4, Località Cantina di Campigliano, 84099 San Cipriano Picentino (Salerno); http://www.lavecchiaquercia.it/). We spent one night there, May 13, having remembered it from a stay five years ago; and we found it all we'd recalled and then some: a fine, spacious bedroom with its own little terrace, on a farmstead out in the country, with an excellent dinner and a copious breakfast provided by a gracious, intelligent, cosmopolitan hostess.
Here we stayed in two agriturismi and one apartment. Nothing could have been more different than the two agriturismi, lodgings on working farms, found through the Italian website Agriturismo.it, which offers a useful iPhone app. •BioAgriturismo Tenuta Montenuovo (Contrada Montenuovo, 85030 Calvera (PZ); +39 0973 198 5022) offered a comfortable but rather bare-bones room, WiFi only in the restaurant dining-room and on its terrace, but an absolutely marvelous dinner and a fine breakfast. (14 May 2015) •Masseria Cardillo (SS 407 via Bassentana km 97.5, 75012 Bernalda (MT); +39 0835 748992; http://www.masseriacardillo.it), on the other hand, gave us a stunning room — huge, with a vaulted brick ceiling, elegant furnishings, and a private terrace with table and chairs. And a public sitting room big as a soccer-field and much more elegant, with fireplaces and groupings of sofas; as well as huge lawns, a pergola, a swimming pool and tennis court. Dinner was good though not as exciting as Tenuta Montenuovo’s; and the Roman ruins at Metaponto were conveniently close. (15 May 2015)
In the touristy town of Matera we stayed in •Apartment Casa Tonia (Vicolo Fornaci 7, Matera, 75100; +39 331 1541555), an apartment carved out of a storefront, with a kitchen, sitting room, and bath downstairs, bedroom-loft upstairs — rather an awkward arrangement for an extended stay, I’d think, but reasonably comfortable for a short one. We had trouble finding the place, as our GPS insisted on taking us to Vico Fornaci Vecchi, and we never could determine whether the apartment was on a Vico or a Vicolo. Whatever it is, it’s a pedestrian street, but a covered parking garage is nearby. (16 May 2015; Booking.com)
Just when we were wondering where we’d spend the night we noticed a roadside sign advertising •Agriturismo La Crianza (SP per Torchieroto, km. 3, 73018 Squinzano; +39 328 2487622; http://www.agriturismolacrianza.it), not far from Lecce. Our room was so comfortable and the farm so quiiet that we spent two nights here, using the place as a base from which to explore Lecce and even Gallipoli. The breakfast was nothing to write home about; we dined out; I didn’t notice any swimming pool in the extensive olive grove; but the people were very nice and our room pleasant and comfortable. (17-18 May 2015)
Lazio and Rome:
On the drive from Puglia to Rome, encouraged by a Slow Food restaurant recommendation, we drove by way of Campobasso, where Booking.com provided us with the •Cascina Garden Hotel (Contrada Tappino 61, Campobasso, 86100, Italy; +39 087 498024). The hotel’s high in a hilltop suburb, with parking in its courtyard, a reasonably good breakfast, WiFi in the room, and a comfortable bed. (19 May 2015)
Outside of Rome, not wanting to deal with parking issues, we stayed at another Booking.com suggestion: •Villa Del Patrizio (via di Castelfusano 21, Ostia Antica 00124; +39 06565.57386). The place looked pretty sketchy to me at first, a little like Santa Monica in the 1950s, raffish and unkempt from the outside, with parking on the shoulder of the street; but the one-flight-up room was very nice, with its own little outside terrace, a comfortable bed, clean bath, and good WiFi, and there was a pleasant, cheap little trattoria next door. (20 May 2015)
In Rome itself we had a room from Airbnb ("Bright Room With Balcony Up vatican") in the quiet, primarily residential quarter of Monteverde (Viale di Villa Pamphili, 132 Int. 4, Rome), a big bedroom with balcony, two bathrooms shared with the other three bedrooms (one of which is occupied by the host), with a fine cafe across the street for breakfast but also a well-equipped kitchen for providing our own (and even a simple supper of pasta and salad when we wished). Our host, a young actor, was charming, intelligent, and very helpful, and I’d spend another week here any time. Parking on street; a city bus stop in front of the building. (21-27 May)
The provincial capital Grosseto provided a convenient overnight on the several-hour drive from Rome to Monferrato, and there we spent the night at the •Grand Hotel Bastiani (Piazza Gioberti 64, 58100 Grosseto; +39 056 420047). This was a real bargain found on Booking.com. The deskclerk told us we’d booked perhaps the most beautiful room in the hotel, a very well maintained and updated old hotel a two-minute walk from the main square and the cathedral in this quiet, walled old city. The room was utterly quiet and very comfortable, handsomely furnished, and had windows on two sides, overlooking the quiet streets. Parking is outside the city wall, a block away except on market day, when you have to park farther off. Fine breakfast, but WiFi didn’t reach to our room. (27 May)
Arriving in Monferrato, near Asti, the day before our extended booking, we crashed in the •B&B La Riviera, via Orlassolo 18, Arignano, Castelnuovo Don Bosco 10020; +39 3332263640) near the small city of Chieri. Our room was again quiet and comfortable, the breakfast decent, the WiFi acceptable, and parking no trouble at all on what seems to be a horse-training estate run by a handsome and intelligent young man who couldn’t have been nicer. (28 May, Booking.com)
Our mainstay in Monferrato, though, is the •B&B I Mandorli (Via Troglia 1/3, Cardona di Alfiano Natta; +39.335.6197718; www.imandorli.it). We first stayed here fifteen years ago and have returned several times since. (You can read more about it on my website.) The proprietors, Gabriella and Franco Rampi, are a delightful, thoughtful, humane couple dedicated to an ethical country life. The rooms are quiet, comfortable, beautiful; and the setting is one of the most enchanting landscapes I know. Breakfasts are copious and delicious, and the countryside abounds in good, authentic, traditional restaurants. This will always be one of our favorite places in the world for a relaxing sojourn. (29 May-2 June)
The evening before flying from Torino’s airport we stayed in the •Hotel Cascina Di Corte (Via Castellamonte 2, Venaria Reale 10078; +39 01145932783), found through Booking.com and chosen for its location, ten minutes or so from the airport and fifteen minutes or so from a remarkable restaurant. The hotel turned out to be right around the corner from Venaria’s amazing Reggio, perhaps Piedmont’s equivalent to Versailles, with beautiful, huge gardens. Our room was, again, quiet and comfortable, with a fine bath, quick WiFi, enthusiastic and helpful desk service, and a fine breakfast. (3 June)