Comments from our guests at Il Rifugio...
Mel & Janet - Chicago, IL
"I just wanted to get back to you one more time and tell you how much all of us enjoyed our time in Tuscany and at IL Rifugio. I know that we mentioned it several times while we were there but it really was a special experience. FYI, our friends Alicia and Peter met some people at the theater last week who stayed at IL Rifugio last year and they had the same positive experience. If you decide to come to Chicago at some point we'll certainly look forward to seeing you again and possibly meet other veterans of the IL Rifugio experience.
Best of luck with your marketing of a very special place and please give our regards to Shirley."
Nancy Bremner - Wilmette, Illinois
"We all had such a marvelous time in your beautifully restored historical farmhouse. You are the 'perfect hosts'. Everything was better than we had even dreamed. Shirley's delicious dinner was a perfect beginning after our delayed start. The surrounding countryside and Cortona are charming. Watching the sunsets on the patio while having cocktails and visiting was sheer bliss. The day we spent at the winery was a highlight for us. I would highly recommend that tour and lunch to everyone. The proof of a good time is that everyone wants to return !!!! Thank you so much for helping make our vacation memorable in so many ways, delicious and relaxing."
Nancy Bremner, The Quinn's and Alexander's, Meghan and Jack."
Jason Henkel - Sagamore Hills, Ohio
"Our Il Rifugio Experience:
When I was a senior in high school I asked my dad to split the cost of a trip to Europe with me as a graduation gift. My wish was granted; I saved my half and off I went the day after graduation.Our first stop was Tuscany and it forever changed my life.Throughout college, I continued to travel every summer - more than 30 countries and hundreds of cities in all.. But over the years - Tuscany remained my first love, and I had a dream of one day returning to those enchanting hills with my very own family. Finlay the time was right that we could come to Tuscany as a family, the fantasy had grown into a seemingly impossible reality..13 years of adding to the fantasy.
Il Refugio allowed every single individual variable of our fantasy to come true.. and more!!
All that you read and see on this villa's website (CortonaAir.com) is well represented, but it doesn't prepare you for the experience. Il Rifugio has a rich and mysterious history - thanks Chuck for the stories.It's located on a small mountain side overlooking a hundred vineyards and olive groves. With plenty of land (56 acres all to yourself), our gathering of 8 family members felt close with plenty of bonding time, yet, it was easy to escape to your own corner of the villa or property for some quiet reading time or a nap.No neighboring villas could be seen and our little boy could run around the "castle and grounds" chasing dragons and other imaginary creatures. Olive trees are my favorite tree, and to stay in a villa that sits in the middle of a 500 year old olive grove was something very special. My wife and I could sit out over the terrace with the orange setting sun,drinking Grappa and talking about happiness. The ancient stone walls in and around villa, old stone fireplace sand castle-like doors (mixed with the consumption of the local wines) spark your imagination and wonder about all the history that is around you.
To have an authentic rustic villa experience in the heart of Etruscan Italy was amazing. But what made it truly outstanding was the service and the conveniences that the owners Chuck and Shirley provided.Just small things like huge fluffy towels and unlimited hot water with great water-pressure for relaxing showers.. things so untypical in European travel. The look and feel remains old Tuscany, with a twist of modern convenience and customized friendly/down to earth customer service made this a truly amazing experience for us. The authentic Tuscan meals and cooking lessons provided by the owners were icing on the cake. Food, family, beauty and love flooded this week for us.
These days, with all that is going on, quiet/ intimate time with those most important in my life is few and far between. Il Rifugio and the week we spent there has become one of our most cherished memories. This is something that when I'm 90 years old sitting on my front porch,I will remember vividly and be so thankful for.
Thank you Chuck & Shirley for sharing this wonderful place with our family."
Todd Jarvis - Toronto, Canada
" ...we didn't receive our picture we purchased until two weeks ago! It does now hang in our dining room however and is a daily (and wonderful) reminder of our trip to Il Rifugio. I don't know how many people we have showed our pictures to but if 10% end up going to Tuscany (and stay at Il Rifugio), well the tourism numbers should be very healthy. Thanks again for being such wonderful and gracious hosts - we could not have asked for a better vacation. If you will indulge me I have attached my favorite picture of our trip. It captures everything that made it special. Good food, good wine, your wonderful surroundings and great friends. All the best to you and Shirley."
Kate Blanchard - White Bear Lake, Minnesota
"The house was much nicer than I expected. It retains the charm of an old stone farmhouse, but everything inside was clean and comfortable. The kitchen is huge and very user-friendly, including plenty of work-space and a big table for 10. There are two sitting rooms on the first floor, one with a TV and one with a fireplace; as well as a formal dining room and half bath. There is an office/library between floors. On the second floor are four bedrooms, two with private bathrooms and two that share a bathroom between them. There is also an upstairs sitting area. Finally, there is an additional bedroom and bathroom outside of the main house, across from the kitchen and next to the laundry room.
There is a huge private patio that includes a shaded area and another big dining table. The pool is up a winding old stone staircase, lined with wildflowers and the occasional lizard, and overlooks the house and the Tuscan countryside.
All of the furniture was clean and comfortable, and there was more than enough room for all ten of us. The beds were very comfortable, and several of them could be made up as needed, either as twins or as king-sized. The bathrooms were fine and very clean. Two of them had nice, modern glass shower stalls. The other two showers (one stall, one tub) had curtains, but I understand Chuck and Shirley are working toward updating these as well. In any case, there was no shortage of toilets, even for ten of us!
As mentioned previously, the kitchen was lovely and well-stocked with dishes and cooking gear. This and the patio were probably my favorite parts of the house. One day we had an all-day cooking lesson from a local woman, Sonia, who brought along Italian recipes, took us shopping, and then made a number of dishes with us for a huge feast. (This was arranged for us by the owners.)
Shirley and Chuck, both American ex pats, were extremely accommodating proprietors. We were a high maintenance bunch, and they took care of our every need. In addition to the cooking lesson, they also arranged an all-day wine tour for us (with Andrea, who was a wonderful guide). They arranged to have the house cleaned for us twice while we were there, and they also cooked two wonderful five-course dinners for us (in addition to an amazing 'welcome platter' of local hoers-oeuvres when we arrived). They seem open to having as much or as little face-time with guests as the guests want to have."
Francesca and Jack Moir - Summerfield, Florida
"I've been meaning to email you to let you know what a wonderful time we had at your place. You are such delightful and "organized" people, it was such a pleasure to meet you. Please keep me informed as to when your "2 bedroom" spaces will be available.
Hugs to you both."
Judy Marusa - Shelton, Connecticut
"Our group of eight from all around the US, met at Il Rifugio to spend a week exploring Tuscany. The house lived up to all our expectations, which were high.The terraces are generous with comfortable seating and the views,sunsets and starry nights are breathtaking. The house has large spacious rooms and numerous places to sit and dine after preparing a meal in the oversized authentic Tuscan kitchen. The house and grounds are private, serene and envelope you in peace. Chuck and Shirley are warm and welcoming and the meal they prepared for us was a gourmet feast. They never seemed to tire of our endless questions about the house, about driving in Italy, about food, how to hook up our computer or how to find the train station.Personal touches abound at Il Rifugio, pots of flowers everywhere, stone path to swimming pool, candles for ambience and extras such as DVD's and a CD player make for a home away from home. Need an extra blanket, pillow or towel, it's there. What an adventure we had driving to the ancient "walled" cities. The history, the architecture, the stone, the churches,none disappointed us. We came home with cameras full of memories and bellies full of great food, wine and gelato! We were so lucky to have found Il Rifugio for our Tuscan adventure."
Rich and Judy Marusa - CT
John and Jane Wilson - CT
Jim and Kathy Johnston - TX
Patty and John Deasy - Md and CA
Bonnie Titcomb Lewis - Portland, Maine
"Il Rifugio proved to be that one perfect location and place in time where a band of good friends could rekindle old friendships,indulge in endless laughter and conversation, and shape a week into a lifetime of rich memories.
Thank you so much for loaning us Il Rifugio! It was a refuge, indeed, and we all loved being there."
Carmela & John Clarke - Nanuet, NY
"Wow..... that was our first impression as we walked out into the terrace and saw the view! Everything from the view, to the pool, to the kitchen, to the bedrooms were absolutely amazing. Our first night there drinking wine outside watching the sun set was truly fabulous. I can not remember the last time we were all that relaxed.
Thank you for setting up our cooking less on with Debra and Bee. They were so sweet, and dinner was delicious. We learned to make things that we never thought we could make. Thank you for setting up the wine tour with Giuliano. He was great! It was a great way to see so many little towns, that you never thought you would go to see. Thank you for your hospitality and your wonderful house. I am going to miss waking up and looking out the window at Cortona. What we will miss the most is those amazing sunsets.... every night was a different one."
Susan McWhinnie - Kent, CT
"Not a day goes by without thinking of our stay at Il Rifugio. We came home and got back into the rut a little too quickly... butt hings have settled down now and we've been able to really look at the pictures and meet with our friends that stayed with us... we all agree that this was just a perfect week.
The only thing that would have made it more perfect was if it were 2 or 3 weeks. We all think that Cortona is a great spot - plenty to do, see, eat, drink, walk, hike, shop - no need to venture beyond the town.
The farmhouse was all that we expected and much more.It was comfortable, inviting at every turn, picturesque and felt like home.We had so many happy times there - dinners that lasted for hours, wine on the terrace at the end of the day, a fire in the wood burning stove on the cooler days, plenty of spots to be alone and read or plenty of spots to talk with friends.Many thanks for this and all the wonderful memories.
We appreciate your hospitality and filling us in on the history of the house.We look forward to a return visit and have also recommended Il Rifugio to many friends.We hope you and Shirley are well and enjoying late spring in Cortona!"
Mark and Kelly Salamone - Rochester, NY
"We both started looking for a dream location to hold our wedding about a year ago. We started our search on the internet. We knew we wanted to find a villa in northern Italy.
After an exhaustive search we decided to stay at Il Rifugio. We could not have made a better choice!!! We are both honored and surprised that we are the first wedding at Il Rifugio. This was indeed our dream wedding. The memories will remain with us for our entire lifetime.
Shirley and Chuck provided the ideal ending to our wedding day. Shirley prepared what was our finest meal in all of Italy. Chuck served our wedding party and picked the perfect wine to go with every course of our meal.
We feel that our marriage was indeed blessed by having our wedding at Il Rifugio
We plan to come back every five years with our children and grandchildren to relive our perfect day."
Bill Wells & Lisa Ganch - Chicago, Illinois
"Our trip started off with rain and then more rain, and then harder rain. This commenced on the Friday of the Pope's funeral to the following Tuesday morning, when the rainbow appeared. Il Rifugio was just that the first weekend, a refuge, because no matter how strong the wind howled and whipped and whistled, with metal upon metal clanging thrown in, you still felt safe. warm and comfortable in the farmhouse. Good friends, good food and wine, add a dash of good conversation, a nice fire and good music, and you have great stories to tell and remember, despite the rain. ...............then the rainbow came. We now had the pleasure of experiencing the sights and sounds described by previous lodgers. Their words jumped off the pages in your guest book. The birds, the view from the terrace. The layers of countryside, and the friendly wave and greeting from passerby. Coffee on the deck in the sun, great breakfasts for leisurely mornings. Then off to another Tuscan village that amazes and humbles. No village was better or more welcoming than Cortona. There is a great energy there, and when there one feels warmer inside and out. ..............then we had to day "Ciao". We really appreciate you opening up your home to us. Although we did not meet you or your wife personally, we could feel your presence through the personality of Il Rifugio. As my wife stated earlier, we looked for real estate in Tuscany to continue to enjoy this beautiful part of Italy. We later decided that anything we could find, no matter how grand, would fall short of what Il Rifugio has. We will just return here and enjoy the experience again and again. Thank you for your vision, generosity, hospitality and the gift which is 'Il Rifugio'"
Trevor & Esther Hayter - Paddington NSW, Australia
"Il Rifugio was wonderful!" "Our expectations, based on your excellent web site and the comments of others, were high. The site, geographic location, house and garden layout, building quality, landscaping, interior arrangements and fit out exceeded every expectation and satisfied every wish. You have been so thoughtful in catering to your visitors needs and your housekeeping team is obviously a dedicated crowd. Please pass on to Terri, the gardeners and others involved in the upkeep our thanks and admiration - it's a particular mystery how the plantings have developed (from earlier photos on the web site) and look so good with the minimal rainfall of a couple of typical Tuscan summers. Wishing you every good luck with the pool saga! I hope we may recommend Il Rifugio to our friends? We certainly couldn't imagine a better place to spend another sojourn in Italy - hope we will be able to one day."
Grace Bennington - Port St. Lucie, Florida
"Since our three children were little, my husband and I have always taken them on a "Father's Day Trip". It was our gift to them for being such great kids. Now that they're married, we've always invited the spouses to join us. This is a trip we've taken for many years and we've traveled to many places. However, nothing can compare to the time we spent at Il Rifugio this year.
I must admit, seeing pictures and reviewing your web site, I was a bit apprehensive that the house would be too "big", or too "cold" for us. We spend most evenings during our vacation just spending time together talking, relaxing and playing games. Well, my apprehension was unnecessary. The house, with its fireplaces, cozy rooms and comfortable furniture was exactly what we wanted. We especially enjoyed the great "oversized" kitchen as one of our traditions is for each of the kids (and his/her spouse) to cook dinner for the rest of us every evening. Not only was the kitchen well equipped with sizable stove, burners, etc., it was furnished with every possible kitchen utensil the kids could think of. The rest of us could wander in and out of the kitchen at all times without disturbing them. Needless to say, our pictures of the house bring back incredibly fond memories.
The gardens, patios and olive groves gave us spectacular view over the region and watching the weather come over the mountains was incredible. It's hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for such privacy!
Your continued assistance with everything we needed was truly appreciated. From the olive oil tasting with Louise to our "in-home" meal cooked by Terri, your planning and recommendations were were the reasons our time in Cortona was such a memorable experience.
We hope all is well with you. Please give Louise and Terri our best regards (and thanks!). If we should think of returning to Tuscany for a repeat of our time there, we would not hesitate to come back to Il Rifugio for another memorable visit."
Kathryn Liebowitz - Groton, Massachusetts
"As we drove from Florence to our destination in the Tuscan hills about an hour south of the city, poppies and blue iris waved along the roadsides and in the fields. Once in the country, a rural road took us past abandoned farmhouses to the tiny village of Montanare (a post office, bus stop, tobbacci, and assorted other businesses). From here, a right turn wound the final kilometer uphill to Il Rifugio, a restored 18th century farmhouse overlooking its own olive groves, gardens, and fields. From the terraces, we could see across the cultivated valley with its copses and lines of cedars to the medieval fort above the ancient and pristine town of Cortona, and far below the market town of Camucia. Otherworldly describes Il Rifugio: a private spot full of beauty and quiet, bird song and wildflowers.
The house, elegant, spacious, and thoughtfully furnished with an artistic eye for the antique and the contemporary, offers innumerable places to draw, paint, write, and photograph. You can set off walking in almost any direction and come upon old churches, hidden glades, and patches of Mediterranean wildflowers. One favorite woodland path rose gently for about two and a half kilometers and brought us to a spectacular view overlooking Lake Trasimeno.
At night, we toasted the sunsets over the valley. Half the time we prepared meals from the cheeses, olives, salamis, prosciutto, fava beans, fennel, tomatoes, breads, and pastas found in local markets. We frequently lunched al fresco on the stone terrace under a cypress, and once or twice had dinner under the stars. Many evenings, we explored the local restaurants; these ranged from the informal to the refined. Always we ate well, reasonably, and, more than not, in high style.
In early May at Il Rifugio the Judas tree was in blossom and the olive grove in early bud. Although the days climbed into the seventies, Il Rifugio's stone walls kept the interior perfectly cool. Most nights the stars shone bright and, toward the end of our stay, we had the added glory of a full moon. While completely private, Il Rifugio is far from isolated. It lies just ten minutes from Cortona, and about the same distance to Torontolla, one of Italy's major rail stops. We soon found that we could combine driving with public transportation to get just about anywhere. But I have to say that the charm of Il Rifugio made tourist excursions seem less than essential. Our days passed in perfect harmony, divided between time spent luxuriating in the rural life of Il Rifugio and forays to neighboring hill towns and cities. The Italian trains glide quietly, we discovered, through richly varied countryside. One trip took us to Arezzo for the day, another to the wineries of Montepulciano; a third to the Umbrian hill town of Pacciano, and a fourth to Florence. Each excursion brought us back "home" to Il Rifugio, where we began to feel we belonged.
At Il Rifugio, many doors open out onto the terrace, many interior and outdoor places invite contemplation; many vistas ask to be lingered over and returned to in all lights. Our invisible host had arranged everything to make our stay as carefree and delightful as possible: we chose our vino from his ample and exquisite collection of Tuscan and other wines; drank from crystal; ate off traditional Cortonese ceramic ware, still made in the centuries' old pottery and sold along the Via Nationale in Cortona.
In the realm of the prosaic, let me praise the fluffy American towels, the laundry room equipped with the ultimate state-of-the-art washer and dryer, the selection of Italian sightseeing, art, and garden books, the basket of goodies including a bottle of Il Rifugio olive oil on the kitchen table awaiting our arrival, the soporific reading chairs, the comfortable beds, the perennial gardens, the spacious and thoughtfully equipped kitchen, the huge working fireplaces.
We felt utterly removed from the world, yet a short drive brought us to one of the sidewalk cafes in Cortona, where we talked to various English-speaking locals, tried out our Italian, peeked into ancient churches, paid homage to religious relics, prowled museums and simply took our time getting to know this extraordinary hill town. Back in the States, a week later, all this seems quite unreal."
Lee, Josette & Zevy Troxler - Santa Barbara, California
"Every family fortunate enough to add their story to this farmhouse villa's rich history should begin as we did, approaching on a moonless night with an overgrowth of chestnut and olive trees pinning the car to its steep ascent, the city lights and buzzing surrendering to a silent arrival with no real hint of our whereabouts, except for the pietra serena stone walls that greeted us in the night, the thick gnarled chestnut beams suggesting 'you're secure here' and the table laden with super Tuscan wines and cheeses and meats unlike anything you've ever tasted. And then you awaken and shuffle out onto the back veranda with the sun at your back and lighting the long Tuscan valley that sweeps up to the birthplace of European civilization, the Etruscan citadel of Cortona where later in the day you'll be welcomed--without regard to position or place, deadline or commitment--arms open and with the same loving hug that everyone young and old offer each other, with time only for now."
Cassandra & Gabriel Perrignon - Lafayette, California
"We arrived at Il Rifugio after an exhausting drive from France, and all the aches just melted away when we went exploring through this great old farmhouse and discovered for ourselves how lovingly you're restored it. Your hospitality and graciousness were matched only by the perfect mattresses and pillows that made our nights as wonderful as the Tuscan days. See you again next year! "
Maryanne Savino - San Francisco, California
"My stay at Il Rifugio was both a joy and serene. I felt so comforted by the the land and the energy thet surrounded me. My room was so warm and cozy and I slept like a baby every night of my stay. The beauty of the land was so breath-taking, it was as if I was in a constant state of meditation. Chuck was a wonderful and kindhearted host and he made my stay a joyful experience that I will always remember. I highly recommend Il Rifugio to anyone who wishes to experience Bliss!"
Patrick Mahoney - Boston, Massachusetts
"I just wanted to tell you that our stay at Il Rifugio was fantastic! We loved the tranquility of the house as well as its ability to spaciously and comfortably accommodate our many friends for dinners and casual gatherings. The grounds are peaceful and the views of Cortona and the valley are wonderful. I must tell you that gathering and roasting chestnuts was a Tuscan treat! I must compliment you on the Tuscan wine selections, having them available certainly contributed to our enjoyment of meals and time outside on the terrace watching the world go by. I look forward to returning every year!"
Perry Lang - Los Angeles, California
"Il Rifugio is a magical place in the classic Italian stone house tradition. Exactly what we were looking for. We were there with our kids and four other friends and all felt extremely warm and comfortable."
Sage Parker- Santa Barbara, California
"Chuck Ofria has made the most wonderful home in Italy. It is a bonus
for anyone who wants to visit this beautiful spot. I can't imagine staying anywhere else in that area. The convenience of Cortona near by and the pastoral views from the house provided by being just outside the city gives you the benefit of both "country" and "city" living. The rooms are comfortable and homey and the kitchen a center for family and friends. If you like to cook at all, and I love to cook! , It's the best room in the place. Our time there was magical . My only regret is that I don't live there full time!"