In 2003, expat couple Chrissie Todd and David Lang took a leap of faith and began construction on their farmhouse and casa vacanza, known as Casa San Gabriel.
David and Chrissie, determined for a life change, decided to take some time off to travel. Chrissie, who had worked in finance, hails from England and David, an Australian, used to work in gold mining.
Even after traveling the world the couple was drawn to the charm of Italy. Upon seeing the first property, after venturing into the central Italian region of Umbria, Chrissie knew she had stumbled upon the one.
“As an accountant, Chrissie wrote the business plans, which were invaluable when it came to presenting to the Italian bank manager to secure the property.”
– owner, David Lang
Fast forward to today and Chrissie and David have fully restored their 16th century farmhouse – considered to be an archeological property – into Casa San Gabriel with three rustic cottages.
The guest cottages, La Cantina, La Stalla, and Il Fienile all offer spectacular views of the peaceful valley below.
The family also manages the neighboring Chiesa del Carmine, on behalf of their English friends, the Sinclairs. A hidden jewel in its own right, Chiesa del Carmine accommodates guests and weddings parties in addition to serving as a working vineyard and farm.
This remodeled church has an extensive land holding, 124 hectares in total, which for Italy is quite significant. Segmenting the property are a mix of vineyards (nearly seven hectares), olive groves (six hectares), a forest (3 hectares) that can be foraged for truffles, and a pasture that supports a thriving organic farm (30 hectares) where fireflies flicker during dusk.
Guests to either property can expect to form wonderful memories – both on and off the grounds.
“Going into the nearby towns for meals are like going into a film set, and they are full of overly helpful and friendly locals.”
Casa San Gabriel is perfectly situated as a base for days trips, as it forms a triangle with the cultural center, Perugia, and Lago Trasimeno. The historical town of Assisi is an easy 50-minute drive to the southwest.
On the property itself guests get to explore an eclectic mix of activities. After exploring a nearby attraction (list below), cool off in Casa San Gabriel’s pool overlooking the Umbrian hills, then take in the rural sunset while sipping homemade orangecello (recipe below) before gazing at the stars at night.
Casa San Gabriel – attractions
Monte Subasio (an hour drive to the southeast) is an option for nature lovers in search of a hike and adrenaline junkies alike; hanggliders launch from the summit. Similarly, Monte Cucco (a 70 minute drive to the east) offers various excursions in its underground caves.
In the parks surrounding Lago Trasimeno, visitors can enjoy paths for cycling, walking, or horse back riding all set set among the Umbrian hills.
If you have kids, rest assured that the two nearby water parks, Tavernelle Water Park and Sansepolcro Water Park, are a possible activity for long summer days.
That said, the idyllic Casa San Gabriel is the main attraction – a setting seemingly from a time gone by. When you first arrive, the owners attention to detail is evident as is their resilience, which underpinned their journey through several renovations and tough times.
In a world where, as David puts it, “your most effective marketing is your last stay” there have been many challenges over the years one of which was the initial renovation over a decade ago.
The recent coronavirus problems are something everyone in Italy is desperate to overcome so that life can return to normal and people can start enjoying Italy for the beautiful country it is once more.
“When we first came, effectively we only had walls and everything else was in ruins. There was no garden of any sort and there were abandoned olive trees. It was a matter of hacking things back, and bringing better soil in.”
Today the property is in full bloom with pergolas replete with wisteria vines and gardens abounding with lavender and other fresh herbs. As we all search to nurture our souls after these trying times, consider an Umbrian retreat at Casa San Gabriel. You will experience total ease, and as David puts it best, ” we are so rural that is has a profound effect of people’s minds.”
Casa San Gabriel – Orangecello Recipe
The owners have graciously shared their delectable orangecello (Italian orange liqueur) – a lovely counterpoint to its more famous cousin, limoncello. Keep in mind that in Italy, 95% pure alcohol is sold at supermarkets, yet a quality grappa or vodka can be substituted.
The total distillation time takes just over three months, so get started early! Store your orangecello in a freezer, and serve as an aperitif (pre-meal) or digestif (post-meal) alongside crêpes.
- the peel of 9x large oranges (if you can find them, tarocco or Sicilian blood oranges)
- 1 liter of alcohol – Italian markets offer 95% pure (alcool a 90°), but Italian grappa or vodka will do just fine
- 1 liter of water
- 1 kilo of sugar
- Add the orange peel to the alcohol and keep in a sealed container for 20 days.
- Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water.
- Combine the cooled syrup with the peel and alcohol mixture. Keep for an additional 30 days in the sealed container.
- Filter the mixture through a nylon sieve into bottles. Leave for 60 days.
Casa San Gabriel – general information
Casa San Gabriel
Località Santa Giuliana 114, Pierantonio (PG) 06019, Italy
telephone: +39 075 9414219 or +39 338 8916641
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