Casa Chiocciola is situated in the hamlet of Sant'Ippolito, once a stop-over on the ancient pilgrimage route to Rome. The traffic today is much lighter - some shepherds minding their flock, some farmers, the occasional hooting owl and the constant presence of the Sibillini Mountain range. Sant'Ippolito is in the countryside of Le Marche (or, The Marches), Central Italy's best kept secret. Le Marche is the perfect destination  for lovers of Italian history, art, gastronomy, hiking and the outdoors. You know, 'la dolce vita.'

 Benvenuto! Welcome! Ciao!

A few years ago, I discovered Le Marche and fell in love. To the west are majestic peaks. On the nearby coast, pristine, sandy beaches meet aquamarine seas. Inland, medieval hilltop towns sparkle in the sunshine.  Around each bend, the landscape  amazes:  an endless sea of bobbing sunflowers, dramatic rolling hills, snow-capped mountains and stunning beaches. (Dustin Hoffman says it best -- watch him here wax poetic, using the words of Leopardi, to pay tribute to the wonders of Le Marche.) A word of warning: first impressions of Le Marche are powerful. They usually are followed by the question: Why haven't I visited here before?!?


As the New York Times recently reported, and Travel & Leisure confirmed shortly afterwards, Le Marche is truly a feast for the senses. The marchigiani have been living off the land and sea for centuries, giving birth to a unique cuisine (princely fish meals from the waters of the Adriatic to a hearty fare of game further inland -- just ask Lo chef famosissimo Jamie Oliver, who was in Le Marche in 2008 to take on the townsfolk in a wild boar pasta contest) and a wide variety of wines (from the world famous Verdicchio to Marchigiani up-and-comers, the Pecorino and Lacrima di Morro). And, yes, this is the land of the white truffle, or Tuber Magnatum Pico. We forage for them each autumn, the subject of a piece I recently wrote for The Guardian. The Times got Italy buzzing when it asked if Le Marche could possibly be the next Tuscany? Sorry to disappoint. Le Marche is a completely different experience. Imagine a Tuscany before the onslaught of tourists in their unsightly tour buses and minus the grumpy locals. The Marchigiani are inquisitive people who dote on newcomers with extra helpings of food and extra wide smiles. There is a motive: they want you to come back.

Set amidst all this wonder is a little hilltop hamlet called Sant'Ippolito in the Commune of Amandola. Casa Chiocciola is an old stone cottage situated off a strada bianca, or white road, nestled between grazing pastures and farms.

The property has commanding, 360-degree views of  some of the tallest peaks in  the Apennines and a panorama of distant hilltop villages. 

  

We rent out Casa Chiocciola from time to time. It has all the amenities: satellite TV, stereo, etc. But you probably will find little use for that here. The natural beauty has been known to reinvigorate the senses and inspire the soul.  Click here for more details.