Mandria Del Dottore Toscano : Tarsia : Calabria : Italy

Mandria Del Dottore Toscano : Tarsia : Calabria : Italy

On our road trip around Italy, driving in the Calabrian south was tiring, so we needed to break the journey up from Villa San Giovanni (where you cross to & from Sicily) to Matera and so consulted our trusty oracles – a well thumbed road map and google. Tarsia seemed to be a place that was just about equi-distant, but very remote. As boutique style hotels seemed to be a bit on the sparse side, we plumped for the agriturismo option.

We found Agriturismo B&B Mandria Del Dottore Toscana through a series of internet searches – although it has to be said, finding it online is MUCH easier than finding it in reality. We got to Tarsia relatively easily, then the trail went cold. One thing we have realised is that Italian road signage, once you’re off the main roads, is pretty rubbish. Road  signs are often covered in vines/foliage, or twisted, or burned, or simply not there. After about an hour of aimless driving around, we gave up and asked for directions in a very small bar. We clearly weren’t the first to do this as a call was made and 15 minutes later, a car arrived, we followed & after many twists and turns across hilly countryside, arrived at our destination.

Mandria Del Dottore Toscano, Tarsia, Calabria

Mandria Del Dottore Toscano, Tarsia, Calabria

This was definitely a very rural location, so if you’re after a wild night of clubbing, this farmhouse won’t appeal. Set in acres of rolling hills, there is literally nothing else around you – apart from horses, olive groves and beautiful silence. We felt the need to whisper until we realised that actually no-one else was around to hear us. I think the owners clocked on that we were a little bit stressed when we arrived, and a bottle of their own wine was put out on the table in front of us, with two glasses. Very little communication as they spoke no English, and our Italian, at the time, was pretty basic – but a generous gesture is a generous gesture in whatever language.

A welcome drink. Much appreciated...

A welcome drink. Much appreciated…

The owners live on the farm, and it is a working farm. It’s rustic and rural and although not full of the most modern amenities, it’s perfect for a bit of a get-away. Most importantly, the bed was super comfortable – something that Italians do hold in high regard as we have not slept in anything other than VERY comfortable since we’ve been away. The bathroom was spotless, with a great sized shower, too. A definite plus point.

Splendid isolation, especially after the hustle & bustle of Sicily.

Splendid isolation, especially after the hustle & bustle of Sicily.

An abundance of prickly pears.

An abundance of prickly pears.

Winter preparation well under way.

Winter preparation well under way.

Autumn sunset in Calabria

Autumn sunset in Calabria.

We could have had dinner (with everything being sourced from the land we were staying on), but as we had a kitchen in the apartment we chose to cook & eat on the terrace. We’d picked up some supplies on the way – it’s worth having some staples to cook with, as if you don’t fancy what’s on the menu that night, you’re stuck. Breakfast was very simple – bread, cheese, preserves, proscuitto – but ALL locally sourced.

There are four apartments. We think we might have had the largest as it was the most expensive, and had a terrace, but it was still only 68 euros to stay the night – worth every cent for the solitude and peace. There is also a swimming pool – although this had just been covered up when we arrived (mid-October), but would imagine this is a welcome relief from the Italian sun in the height of summer…

 

 

 

 

Hotel Rocca Della Sena, Tropea, Calabria

Hotel Rocca Della Sena, Tropea, Calabria

When we were in Italy, last year, we had an awful experience with a hotel in the beautiful Calabrian town of Tropea. We’d booked into Hotel Valemare for four nights, but it was so terrible, we left the next morning, not knowing if we’d get a refund*. We’d heard of Hotel Rocca della Sena and reviews suggested it was amazing, but as were doing a lot of travelling we thought it might be a bit too much above budget. However, lady luck was on our side, and through Booking.com we secured a room, packed our bags, left Valemare and checked into Rocca della Sena. And what a difference…

We were offered coffee on the terrace, over looking the sea as we were checked in – and then told we’d been upgraded. And, this was a real upgrade, as there’s no way we would have booked the honeymoon suite! For three days and three nights we lived in the lap of luxury – and because we’d booked last minute, bagged ourselves the most amazing deal. And after nearly two weeks on the road, this unexpected treat was much appreciated! As well as an en-suite bathroom, we had the added bonus of a huge walk-in shower, with mood lighting. (Well, it was the honeymoon suite, after all!) Plus, a beautiful balcony, with a hammock, sun-loungers and a jacuzzi ? Fresh fruit was delivered each afternoon, but because the breakfasts were so generous, to be honest, this was an unnecessary luxury!

Hotel Rocca della Sena is located about 10 minutes from the centre of Tropea, which is a perfect stop-over point if you’re travelling onwards to Sicily as it’s only about 40 minutes away from the port of Reggio Calabria.The whole experience can  only be described as “understated elegance” – every need is clearly catered for in this hotel, but in a way that is effortlessly unobtrusive. This was a real experience and a stay that we’ll certainly remember for a long time to come.

Tropea itself is described as a jewel, and this description isn’t an exaggeration, especially as it hugs the south west of Italy and so also benefits from glorious sunsets. Perfect to watch from your jacuzzi on the balcony ?

We stayed here in September 2013 and booked through booking.com, receiving a very unexpected upgrade upon arrival.

* We did get a refund, some weeks later, but only through sheer persistence – the refund came from Booking.com, rather than the hotel who steadfastly refused to acknowledge that their accommodation was NOT as described on their website.

tropea : calabria : italy

tropea : calabria : italy

On our travels in Italy last year, we were so lucky to find some real off-the-beaten-track places. We’d hired a car and had no real plan, apart from having a couple of weeks to get from Rome to Ortigia in Sicily on the first part of the trip. So, with trusty road map – I like paper maps, not satnav – off we set after a stay in Frascati. The idea was to meander down the west coast, stopping off wherever took our fancy. If the truth be told, I wasn’t really enamoured by this route. Industrial in lots of place, down-at-heel in others and for long stretches, the really sad sight of prostitutes hanging around, clearly wishing they were somewhere else. It’s not the prettiest of routes which really disappointed me, as I thought that the whole journey would be sort of Amalfi coast-like. However, we did drive right through Naples on a Friday afternoon – and lived to tell the tale…

So, when we did find places we loved, we really loved them. Stand-out stays were in Sperlonga and Castellabate and then probably our favourite, Tropea. Apart from the first night, spent in the utterly appalling Hotel Valemare (still shudder about this place, but if you scroll down to my review on Trip Advisor you’ll get the picture), Tropea absolutely lived up to its reputation as the “jewel in the Calabrian crown”.

And, if you’re a fan of red onions – cipolle di tropea – this is the place for you. These Cipolle Rosse di Tropea are often dubbed “Calabria’s red gold” and are said to have more health benefits than regular onions – and are often eaten raw, because of their amazing sweetness. They can be seen strung outside shops, adorning doorways and piled high on market stalls and produce trucks by the side of the road. And, in every restaurant, you can be absolutely sure that the Tropea red onions will be in abundance…