As always, click on photos to enlarge. A four-hour drive to Florence to pick up our friends and then a couple of hours to Mantignana and our agriturismo, La Posta di Confine (www.lapostadiconfine.it). We find Via Alta, but the white monster is no match for the steep, winding, one-lane gravel road. About halfway up, the wheels start to spin. White knuckles. Mark backs down a bit and we inch forward. The smell coming from under the hood is not pleasant. With great joy we arrive at the wrought iron gates of La Posta di Confine and announce ourselves. The gates open and we drive into everyone’s dream of Italy, greeted by our hostess, Roberta Biagioni Angeli, and an angel she is.
La Posta Di Confine started life in the 1500s as a tower, a guard post between two castles. It evolved into a residence for tenant farmers attached to a large agricultural estate. Abandoned as a residence in the early 1960s, Marco and Roberta found it in ruins in 1993. But they had a vision. Over the next 15 years they brought it back to life. It certainly helped that Marco does this sort of work for a living. They began receiving guests in 2008.
It is a magical place, filled with furnishings, most antique, that complement the perfect colors Roberta has chosen. Our apartment’s kitchen/dining/sitting room is part bare stone walls and part freshly plastered walls painted in coral and a pale green. Its modern appliances provide everything we need to cook for ourselves, should we wish to. The giant marble sink even makes washing up a pleasure.
And then there is the salt water pool and its terrace, our first stop after unpacking the car. The view down the olive tree covered hill and over the valley is stunning
At breakfast we sample local specialties — cheeses, prosciutto, truffles, yogurt, locally roasted coffee, Roberta’s home-made jams and breads, her wonderful organic olive oil, and each morning a different freshly baked pastry.
In one of our email exchanges, I told Roberta we would be traveling with concert pianist Lisa Lanza. The week before our arrival, Marco had their antique German piano tuned for her. One evening, after dinner, Lisa played a mini-concert for Roberta, Marco, their son Francesco, and the other guests. Magic. Post-concert, we dipped Roberta’s freshly baked biscotti in local Vin Santo while Marco recounted the history of the property and I translated.
The 20 members of the last family to live in the house slept in two small rooms. The father had married twice, producing four sons from each wife. Conditions for them, even into the 1960s, were feudal. The owner of the estate controlled their lives down to decisions as to which sons were allowed to marry. They were extremely poor — no electricity, a tiny flow of water from a hand-dug well. They eked out a living from olive trees and a patch of grain. At one point, according to stories told Marco by local residents, the father went to the estate owner to beg for help as they had so little to eat, and was told he had brought his misery on himself by having too many children. The farmer replied that the Patron could go to the movies, his only entertainment was with his wife.
There were no heirs to the estate on the death of this owner, and the property was taken over by an agricultural cooperative. The peasant family dispersed, drawn to a better life working in the factories of industrializing Umbria.
Should you ever go to Umbria, you would be SO fortunate to be a guest at La Posta di Confine!
P.S. The next day we exchange the white monster for a Fiat 500L and our hill problem is solved.