Dating partly from the seventeenth century, this romantic farmhouse with its white-stuccoed, thick stone walls is set in five-acres of grounds with lawns, fruit-trees, flower-beds and a small fish-pond. There is also a welcoming 12m x 6m swimming-pool with amenities including sun-loungers, a hot shower, fridge, a barbecue area and an inside toilet. From the house and grounds there are splendid views across a gentle valley to distant mountains and the medieval, hill-town of Camerino, the site of what is claimed to be the second oldest university in Western Europe. The English owners have lived here since 1989 and have lovingly restored the whole building including the two self-catering apartments. The largest has been available for holiday rentals since 2004: the studio apartment was finished in May, 2008. A guest remarked that it was wonderful to be somewhere free from all sounds of the modern world. Yet the house is close to shops, restaurants, great walks and famed tourist centres.
The Weather: The house is at the end of a private road and so it is a peaceful haven with no sounds of passing traffic and, as we are about 450m above sea level, the air is pure and healthy. Although there can be many sunny days, January to March is usually dry and chilly with a heavy snowfall in early January. (Bolognola, the nearest ski resort, is only a forty-minute drive away.) In April, May and early June, there can be rainy days but Spring is a fantastic season - fruit trees blossom, the sun frequently shines, wild flowers blanket the fields and verges, the birds sing and, at night, the fire-flies glow. From mid-June to early September, it is normally very hot, sunny and dry. Autumn, with its burnished and russet foliage, is a magical time. It does sometime rain and, as the days shorten, it becomes cooler. It is the ideal time for walking and exploring.
Our swimming pool is normally open from mid-May until early October. For the rest of the year, the pool is covered and not used.
Local Wines and Food: The best known regional white wine is Verdicchio, produced mainly in Matelica (10 kilometres away) and Castelli di Jesi. It varies from the cheap and cheerful to superb vintage wine. Local red wines, named after where the wine is made, are Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno. A famous local, sweet, sparkling wine is Vernaccia di Serra Petrona. Produced in Camerino and other nearby towns is a superb aniseed spirit, called Mistrà, that is delightfully used to 'correct' a coffee.
Local foods include 'ciauscolo' (a spreadable salame), 'frappe' (a Carnival sweet made of fried strips of sugared dough) and 'torrone' (a nougat). Among local dishes are 'coniglio in prochetta' (rabbit stuffed with pork and wild fennel), 'polenta' (a solid pasta made from maize flour on top of which is meat or vegetables) and 'vincisgrassi' (a superior lasagna). Local cheeses include 'pecorino' (from sheep's milk) and 'ricotta' (from the remaining whey). Excellent honey and olive oil are also produced locally.
Eating In and Out: Within 3 kilometres of the apartment, there are two supermarkets selling a wide range of foods that includes local and regional specialities. Also close by, there are local specialist bakers, butchers, greengrocers and delicatessens. There is also a local market where it is possible to buy fresh fish. It is, therefore, very easy to buy locally almost any food required - apart from some essential Ingredients for Indian and Chinese food!
Close by, there are several unpretentious restaurants and pizzerias, serving good and inexpensive meals. At some of them, it is possible to eat outside in summer. Within a twenty-minute drive, there are about a dozen slightly more expensive restaurants that present very good food and an excellent range of Italian wines.
All guests are provided with a list of local restaurants and we are very happy, if required, to provide advice and make any required bookings. At weekends in summer and on feast days, it is normally essential to book in advance.
Sydney and Anna Higgins moved permanently to their Italian house in 1990 and have lived there very happily ever since. They are now retired but for much of the last 19 years, they both taught at the University of Camerino where Sydney has been the Professor of English in the Law Faculty. Both are writers and between them they have had published over 50 books, including travel guides, books for children and biographies. In 1993, they founded the Camerino Players, a theatre group that has presented many productions in both English and Italian. The company still flourishes, most recently producing plays for young children. From 1996 to 1999, Sydney organised a very successful annual European Medieval Drama Confrence and Festival. In 2000, he received the award of Camerino Citizen of the Year.
Sydney & Antoinette Higgins purchased this apartment in 1990
We had visited these beautiful and unspoilt rural area of Italy several times when we decided to look for a house we could use for holidays. Eventually, we found this house and because it and the surroundings were so exceptionally beautiful and tranquil we decided, after owning it for a few months, to move here permanently. It is a decision we have never regretted. Although the house is on its own at the end of a long road, we are only ten minutes drive from the centre of the beautiful walled medieval hill town of Camerino with its ancient university, cathedral and one of the mose beautiful theatres in Italy. A short distance away are spectacular mountain walks orand drives, other fascinating sities including Macerata, Tolentino and Urbino. And the sea is only a thirty-minutes drive away.
The previous owner, a local from Camerino, told us that he wished to sell the house only to someone who, like him, would understand that it is a little slice of paradise. It is!
Dear Anna and Sydney,
We are very grateful that we could stay in your "Little Paradise". We will always remember your kindness and friendliness. E have enjoyed your company, your lovely house and Benson!
Despite recent publicity, the Marche is still one of the least visited tourist areas in Italy. Our farmhouse is situated in open countryside within sight of Camerino. This walled, medieval city has a population of less than 5,000. Yet it has its own Archbishop and is the home of a university that claims to be the second oldest in Europe. It is difficult, when sitting at a table outside the bar in the main piazza or when strolling along the narrow streets, not to feel you have wandered into an elaborate film-set. This is an ideal base for exploring this fascinating area. Within easy reach, you can be walking in the Sibylline National Park, having a picnic beside a large mountain lake, sunbathing on an Adriatic beach, visiting the cultural centres of Urbino and Assisi, or finding an unexpected art treasure in a village church. Of course, if you prefer, you can laze, drinking a glass of the excellent local wine, in the silence of our extensive garden or beside our swimming pool.
Ski: About a 45-minute drive away, you can ski in the spectacular scenery of the Sibylline Mountains. The nearest small village is Bolognola, or 'Little Bologna' so named by the four rich families who, in medieval times, fled from Bologna. A few kilometres away, at a height of 1070 meters, is Punterra where there are seven ski lifts taking you up to 1845 meters and the pists that have a run of 5 kilometres. The place is unsophisticated but never overcrowded and with no queues for the ski lifts. It is also unusually cheap! The ski season is normally from mid-December to the end of March.