La Casa Piccola is a welcoming, three-bedroom house with every amenity set on the wooded lower slopes of the unspoiled Mt Subasio regional park. It's peaceful surroundings make it perfect for a relaxing summer holiday. With beautiful views over vineyards, olive groves and green valleys,it is ideal for experiencing the delights of the Italian countryside while still being in easy reach of the wonderful restaurants, markets, fashion shops and art-filled historic hill-towns of unspoiled Umbria. Sit and read under the pergola in the delightful garden, to the background buzz of crickets and bird song or go walking on the well-marked tracks that criss-cross the mountain itself, where you will rarely sight another walker. You may even see some of the wildlife like badgers, deer or porcupine that make their homes in the woods. The villa is part of a tiny hamlet of houses where the friendly Italian neighbors will make you feel welcome. Ancient Assisi is only seven kilometres away.
Assisi attractions: The first sight of Assisi's pink-stoned buildings and church towers, nestling on the lower slopes of Mt Subasio among olive trees and vineyards, quite literally takes the breath away. Perhaps because St Francis, the patron saint of the ecological movement, was born here in 1181, its beauty has been preserved over the centuries so that it seems little changed since Il Poveretto, as the saint was known, was born here. All who visit sense a special magic in the air as they wander the cobbled streets, with their window boxes of flame-red geraniums, or relax at a table in the main piazza with a coffee or a glass of wine, watching the passing parade. Families of tourists and pilgrims mingle with brown-habited Franciscan monks, the sun makes sparkles in the jets of water from the town fountain, doves fly overhead and all seems right with the world. But perhaps best of all is the Basilica built in honour of St Francis soon after his death in 1226 with its unforgettable Giotto frescoes.
Life of St Francis: The story of St Francis is one of riches to rags. Born into the family of a wealthy cloth merchant, he grew up into a wild teenager who loved wine, women and song and had the money to indulge his pleasures. When Assisi went to war with nearby Perugia, he rode off to battle on his charger in full armour, flag flying, no doubt eager to conquer the world and set even more female hearts a'fluttering. But his war did not last long. Captured by the enemy, he spent a year in the hellhole of a Perugian jail, the first time in his life he had undergone such severe physical and mental torture. The figure who emerged was a changed person. No longer the hell-raising playboy, Francis had discovered a new passion. The rich clothing he had once flaunted suddenly became rags. Instead of mixing with the gilded youth of the town, his friends became the beggars and lepers he had once despised. The old Francis was gone, the new one was emerging. What happened next? Come to Assisi and find out.
Mystic Umbria: Umbria has more saints than any other part of the world. Perhaps it has something to do with the air of mysticism that pervades the atmosphere, the strange half-mist that sometimes hovers over the landscape or just the fact that this is one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, a place where Nature is still an ever-present force. It is called the Green Heat of Italy because the beauty of it woods, lakes and rivers is never withered by an August sun. Its ancient hill towns, with their churches where inevitably the works of old masters can be discovered almost by chance, look down on a vista of sweeping plains, olive groves and vineyards. But even a saint has to eat. So the cuisine (although the solid, no-nonsense Umbrians would never give it such a fancy name) is based on olive oil from its own slopes, locally reared pork and lamb, truffles found in the woods, sheeps' milk cheeses and wines from the Sangiovese grape, the Sagrantino of Montefalco or the fragrant whites of Orvieto.