A magical weekend getaway near Anagni and Fiuggi in the heart of Lazio
The first thing you notice as you climb off the car is the sound of water sweetly falling in a pond where koi fish swim peacefully. Joe and Alana, the owners of Casale San Pietro, a luxury resort in the heart of Lazio near Anagni and Fiuggi and 50 minutes away from Rome, meet you with a smile, like two old friends you haven’t seen in a while. Before you is a stone country house surrounded by olive trees and flora. The hosts motion for you to follow them inside the wide and deep hall furnished with a mix of classical and contemporary elements: wooden ceiling coffer, carpets, sofas that convey a sense of relax just by looking at them. Natural light filters through the white linen curtains adorning the large windows, giving the room an ambiance of impalpable freshness. Without even noticing, you have a glass of Prosecco in your hand and you’re cheering with Joe and Alana in the natural rock cellar. Everything around you vibrates with a sparkling and genuine energy.
Describing the beauty of this luxury holiday farm is a feat. Every object, every detail seems to have been created to be exactly where it is. And yet everything has its own story, a combination of different origins with one common thread: the people who chose them.
Alana and Joe’s life is an adventurous tapestry that starts 30 years ago. Joe was a successful hairdresser in Yorkshire but with Sicilian origins. Alana was the commercial director of an important company in London. One day, she went to one of Joe’s hair salons to get a haircut. That’s how they met and, from that moment on, they walked a new path together. In 2014, in one of their travels to Italy, they realized that their hectic lifestyle was no longer for them. Back then, Casale San Pietro was a rustic place, almost in the shape of the original structure of the farm dating back to 1300. Inside was a restaurant managed by a local couple who could no longer take care of it. Some say luck helps the brave. Joe and Alana chose to be just that. In a short time they repurposed the Casale, turning it into the marvelous temple to wellness that it is today, without altering its authenticity.
Six spacious suites, decorated with impeccable taste, each named after the genuine surroundings: Bel Fiore (beautiful flower), Bella Vista (beautiful view — the name guarantees!), Belmonte (beautiful hill), Lavanda (lavender), Rosmarino (rosemary), Mandorla (almond). Each room has its own balcony facing the steep hill and Anagni in the distance. Around the Casale, providing fairytale-esque ambiance, are a pool warmed year-round, an outdoor bar, white gazebos, a patio with a charming fountain and a wonderful wooden bench that is Alana’s favorite spot. On the backside of the farm, stairs carved in stone take you higher up, to an outdoor sitting room with a breathtaking view of the surrounding scenery which is Joe’s favorite spot, aptly named Il Nido (the nest).
“At some point, you have to take a big leap, and you know things will position themselves to help you. You need to entrust yourself to fate and believe,” says Alana looking in your eyes with a light in hers that tells how incredible this experience has been for her, as you eat a light brunch — bresaola, arugula and parmigiano, melon, rosé wine “Caterina,” named after the producer from a nearby area and extraordinary oil produced here at the Casale. “When I told my boss, after 25 years, that I was leaving to start a new life chapter, I would’ve expected anything except that he would also exclaim that he wanted a fresh start too. It was enlightening, you realize you’re not the only one who, as lucky as I was, was craving something different. Sometimes it’s not easy to balance family and career, especially as a woman. I’ve been there. So when you overcome big challenges, the real mission is to be an example for other women looking for inspiration, who want to find the strength to change their life.”
That’s exactly why Alana and Joe have created the Evolveray project. It consists of girls-only retreats at the Casale, with yoga classes, cooking classes, counseling sessions, meditation, spa (they also offer therapeutic treatments and aromatherapy of the highest quality). Evolveray isn’t the only project they devised. Joe and Alana take their job as hosts as a real mission to pamper their guests, amazing people who often become their friends. “They’re what keeps us young, even if you can say we’re not,” says Joe laughing. They offer experience packets with cultural tours of Rome or the nearby area, which is rich of culture and charm, but also wedding receptions and adrenaline-filled activities like zip-lining or rafting.
The visit to Casale San Pietro is coming to an end. As you lounge on a beach chair, you listen to the sound of water coming from the fountain (water and natural light are the key elements of the Casale) and you let yourself wonder once again at the sense of refined beauty and peace that have surrounded you ever since you arrived here. You watch Alana and Joe in the distance as they clean the table where you ate lunch together, and a line by Maya Angelou, great poetess and activist, comes to mind: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
It’s time to say goodbye to your hosts. Your head is still full of their beautiful story, and you can’t help but be a little bit brave like them. So you ask, “Joe, Alana, what is your secret?” Joe answers sweetly: “Taking things slow. If life taught me anything, it’s that if you really want something, you’ll get there, but not quite how you planned to. You’ll get where you want to, but the path is different.”
As you exit the front door, the last thing you notice is a hatrack by the door. “Why so many hats?” you ask. Alana’s eyes light up as she answers. “Do you know that song by Paul Young that goes, whenever I lay my hat, that’s home?” Alana smiled. “These hats belong to our past guests. They leave their hats because they know they’ll come back.”