Thinking about travel this summer? Here's a great experience from last year. Ursula and I flew to Rome and then drove up to a beautifully restored group of farm buildings which my mother had rented for the family and friends for two weeks.
Not a typical rental, it is the home of a friend, whose mother bought the property and did all the restoration over five years, starting in 2000. It is high on a hill, far into the country, five kilometers up a dirt road and buzzing with birds and bees and tons of lavender.
Over the years I've stayed in houses in Italy a number of times (here's my last post on a trip to Tuscany in 2009), and what was remarkable about this visit was the hot, dry, wild but silent landscape of Umbria and the house itself, which was large and lovingly restored with many, many careful details and some modern touches as well.
What do you do in a house like this? You relax. You congregate for meals, talk and read, you spend a lot of time down at the pool (it was very hot) and you drive out most days to tour the surrounding towns and try the local restaurants. You also stay up late. Due to the hot weather and big, winey lunches, dinner was often just finishing at midnight as the cool evening settled in. While the surroundings were stunning, what is most memorable are the many conversations had and the deeper check-in that you get with friends and family members when you're this far away. Good homes do this - they comfort, they inspire and they set the stage for people to connect. In the end of the day, that's what it's really about.