Are you dreaming of a chic, comfortable country inn in a quiet corner of Italy? Somewhere with hilltop villages, local winemakers, truffles in the woods? Then you need to know about Villa Giara in Piedmont.
A wonderful region in northern Italy, Piedmont is an open secret to many Europeans but it’s still being discovered by the Brits and United States. It was Lonely Planet’s top region to visit in 2019.
Piedmont, or Piemonte, may be off the beaten path but it produces some of Italy’s finest wine and has 30+ Michelin star restaurants. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage protected landscape and culture, with centuries of art and traditions at its fingertips.
Villa Giara in Piedmont is that rare thing, an up scale Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Luxury Italian country living for less than the price of a London Travelodge.
I was invited by the Villa Giara team to stay for a night in May and I loved it. The easy warmth of the welcome at Villa Giara, the cool comfortable decor and the all-round relaxing vibe makes you feel like you’re staying with your most stylish friend. Villa Giara feels like a private house – and that’s the whole idea!
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Villa Giara facilities
- 10-bedroom boutique guesthouse in Calosso
- Secluded location close to village
- Double rooms with ensuite bathrooms
- Air conditioning
- Seasonal outdoor swimming pool
- Free wi-fi throughout the property
- Complimentary continental breakfast
- Free private parking
Villa Giara’s story
Five years ago Villa Giara was a wreck. Two adjacent former farmhouses on a hillside, it had views, privacy, great bones, and needed a lot of TLC. Then Stephen and Riccardo came along, looking for a project.
Stephen Croncota is former chief marketing officer of Versace, his partner Riccardo Baptista Fernandes is a designer. And they have a shared passion for rescuing and restoring beautiful old houses. Stephen is originally from the US and Riccardo from Portugal and their careers have crossed continents. They’ve lived in Italy before. And it was Italy they felt drawn to for their new vision: a hospitality business centred on creating an authentic experience for their guests. Which is where Villa Giara came in.
Now after a 5 year restoration project, Villa Giara has been re-born. After putting together an excellent team of builders and applying a stylist’s eye view, Stephen and Riccardo have created a storybook Italian country inn. From the discreet and sophisticated colour palette on the exterior, to the books in the sitting room, they have conjured up an atmosphere that’s chic and stylish but also very relaxing.
Riccardo’s brother Hugo makes up the third member of Villa Giara’s friendly team and together they create a warm, welcoming country house style of hospitality for their guests.
No wonder some people book the whole place and invite their friends to celebrate a special occasion. Villa Giara would be perfect for that.
Villa Giara feels like an up-scale home from home. It’s furnished with a clever mix of antiques and lovely fabrics and styled to be comfortable. Jugs of flowers and heaps of books invite you into the living rooms. A sofa and a side table is just waiting for you to settle in with a glass of something cool after a busy day.
Outside there are plenty of places to enjoy sun and shade: the terrace, the poolside, a shady portico or the little breakfast courtyard between the two buildings.
There’s enough room for privacy. With never more than 20 guests it doesn’t feel overly busy. It’s the kind of place where one person might be reading quietly in a corner, another doing lengths in the pool. You might spot a couple of pairs of walking boots, neatly lined up after a day on the local trails. A ‘no children, no pets’ rule means the atmosphere is calm and grown up.
Each of the ten bedrooms is individually furnished. My double room was simple and divine with white painted beams in the lofty ceiling, double aspect views from two pairs of French doors and a couple of vintage chairs that I wanted to take home with me. There was a big armoire for clothes and a little desk with some copies of Cote Ouest and AD to flip through. It was airy and chic and it didn’t feel hotel’y.
The beds have luxurious Italian mattresses, handmade by a family who’ve been doing it for generations. This is the kind of attention to detail that’s a bit unexpected in a B&B and makes a big difference. I had a wonderful night’s sleep.
Villa Giara is set into a hillside with a steeply pitched driveway that hairpins to the top. It’s only a few minutes by car from the historic hilltop town of Calosso, though a walk back from the village could be a workout.
The farmhouses, terrace, pool and yoga deck all have lovely rural views of the valley and hillside opposite: fields, a few houses and a village on the skyline.
In the late afternoon I went for a walk along a little country path strewn with poppies. Clusters of white robinia hung on either side and there was the scent of elderflowers in the air. All I could hear was birdsong, cicadas, a dog barking in the distance, a church bell marking the hour. It was instantly relaxing.
Villa Giara food
Guests have breakfast in Villa Giara’s Limonaia room. This is across the courtyard from the main house and has indoor and outdoor tables. It’s a relaxed affair with fresh fruit, cheese and hams, pastries, muffins, yoghurts and cereals. There’s also a hot quiche dish if you fancy a bigger meal.
Villa Giara is a Bed and Breakfast property so it doesn’t have a restaurant. Arguably it doesn’t need one when Calosso has four excellent restaurants just a short drive away.
But guests can enjoy an evening aperitivo while they ponder the merits of a local trattoria vs a local Michelin rated restaurant. And Hugo rustles up a memorable aperitivo! I was very happy on the terrace with wooden boards of cheese, cured meats and warm filled focaccia plus a delicious local red wine and the sunset.
On Friday evenings Hugo also fires up the pizza oven in the portico. Along with home cooked pizza, one of the 30 (yes, that’s right, 30) local winemakers drops by to host an informal tasting for guests. Unsurprisingly pretty much every visitor signs up for this weekly pizza and wine party.
Villa Giara can also arrange private on-site dining experiences for guests. A lovely way to celebrate a special occasion.
Why stay at Villa Giara
Let’s be clear. There are few things that Villa Giara doesn’t have. You won’t find the standard hotel room kit of mini bar, safe and flat-screen tv here. Nor will your bedside table be stacked with tea bags and sachets of UHT milk. But that’s precisely what gives the place it’s lovely private home vibe.
Instead guests can make themselves coffees and teas at a station in the dining room. Drinks are served until 8pm, after that bottles of wine are available from an honor bar.
As for TVs, Stephen says one of the sitting rooms had a television last year and it was used exactly once. Guests bring their own laptops and iPads and don’t need it.
And guests are treated like individuals. I’d been staying at a friend’s home and had left both insect repellent and plug adaptors behind. Both were magicked up for me. It wasn’t too much trouble.
And it’s the attention to other details that add an exclusive air. Motion sensitive lights in the corridors, a whisper quiet playlist of Latin sounds on the late afternoon terrace, lovely bath products; you feel pampered here.
How to get to Villa Giara Calosso
Piedmont has three international airports within 90 minutes of Calosso: Milan Malpensa airport, Cuneo international airport and Turin Caselle which is the one I used from the UK. It’s about an hour’s drive from Turin to Calosso. Genoa’s airport on the Ligurian coast is another option.
Many of Villa Giara’s European guests bring their own cars, some driving from as far as Norway.
Although Stephen can provide you with contact details of local drivers and taxi companies, you ideally need a car to explore Piedmont properly. If you can bring your own car there’s the added bonus of being able to stock up with local wine too!
Fun things to do near Villa Giara
As Villa Giara is a B&B rather than a full service hotel, the idea is that guests enjoy their breakfasts then head out exploring. But some understandably find it hard to drag themselves away from the sun loungers and the outdoor pool.
To make it easier for them Stephen sends visitors a directory of contacts and restaurants so they can plan and book activities in advance. This desirable document is basically your little black book to the region.
And Stephen has all the local knowledge you could wish for. He can put you in touch with guides and drivers for wine tastings and tours, exclusive ones too. Or a professional truffle hunter, a yoga teacher or a chef to teach a cooking class. He can recommend bike and eBike hire and trails for walking and cycling.
He’ll also tell you about local festivals and antique markets. Stephen and Riccardo have a proven eye for antique treasures. In fact their latest project is a little on-site boutique, DiGristi, which stocks an alluring array of new and thrifted finds. Only the lack of space in my carry-on bag made me leave those cocktail glasses on the table….
Villa Giara is the perfect base for all that the surrounding area has to offer. The rolling countryside is patchwork’ed with vineyards and villages. And from your vantage point in Calosso you have a key to the great wine regions of Piedmont: Langhe, Monferrato and Roero. This is where the great Barolo red wines originate, along with Barbaresco, Barbera and Gavi.
These are also some of the country’s finest truffle hunting grounds. In autumn guests can go on private hunts for the precious white truffle known as ‘white gold’, whilst black truffles can be found during the rest of the year.
Villa Giara’s three local towns make up the region’s golden triangle: the wine town Asti, the truffle town Alba and the thermal bath town Acqui Terme. All are worth a proper visit.
Wine lovers will appreciate a guided tour of the ancient cellars known as the wine cathedrals of Canelli or a trip on TrEnoLMR, the historic wine train of the region.
Day trips into Piedmont from Villa Giara
A stay at Villa Giara also puts you within day-out distance of many classic Italian experiences. To the south lies the Ligurian coast if you fancy picturesque seaside villages and a little beach life. You can choose between glamorous Portofino, the famous Cinque Terre villages or locals’ favourites such as Camogli and Noli.
To the north stand the great Italian cities of Turin and Milan. Elegant Turin is just 30 minutes by train from Asti and like Piedmont itself is an underrated superstar. Whilst cosmopolitan Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world, is less than 2 hours away by road. You can have fun exploring Turin or Milan solo or with family, they are both relatively small but rich in history and interesting finds.
And to the east are the Italian Lakes: the big hitters, Como and Maggiore plus lesser known and magical Lake Orta.
Villa Giara reviews
I’d go back in a heartbeat, just for a few day’s relaxation. I’d plan some lovely restaurants for lunch or evening, learn more about the local and amazingly affordable wines, check out a village antique market or two, and do some laps of that inviting pool. And I know it would feel like staying with friends.
I’ve checked the last 12 months of online reviews for Villa Giara. They say things like: “the finest B&B I’ve ever been to”, ” the perfect base for our wine tour and truffle hunting trip,” “rooms are clean, spacious and beautifully decorated,” “super welcoming hosts, we felt right at home,” “impeccable hospitality …. a true treasure.”
One or two of the overall delighted reviews have added ‘room for improvements’. These include:
“Would have been wonderful to have a restaurant on site,” “a little too much classical music,” and “no hooks for towels… in the bathroom.” They receive cheerful receptive replies. Given some of the reviews I read in this job I don’t think there’s too much cause for concern here!
Update: a M&F reader has just commented below that she and her friends are just back from a very happy visit to Villa Giara and all the bathrooms had gorgeous hooks. (This is why I love my job!)
Villa Giara is only in its second season, so book now while you can!
Villa Giara hosted my stay on the understanding that I would write an honest and unbiased account of my trip. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
Villa Giara FAQs
Villa Giara in Piedmont is close to the historic village of Calosso and about 30 minutes drive from the town of Asti.
Yes, it has a seasonal outdoor pool
No it doesn’t have an on-site restaurant but there are four good restaurants nearby in the village of Calosso
Please note that all visitor information here is for guidance only. Please check the relevant websites for the most up to date information eg. accommodation details, tickets, entrance requirements, opening times etc.
What to read next
Discover Piedmont’s buried treasure: truffles! And read about a guided truffle hunt with an expert and his dog here.
Find out more about magical Piedmont Italy and things to do and see there.
Explore more of the Piedmont region on a visit to Turin and the Italian Lakes.
Or head south to Florence and read our guide to the Best Things to do in Florence in 3 Days on a Budget
About the author Nancy is a former women’s magazine editor who lives in London and is mum to two 20-something boys. In Map&Family she shares info and inspiration for curious travellers: singles and couples as well as families travelling with teens and young adults.