First, as always, geography: From Milan we head south, through the hills and vineyards of Lombardy. Just before the village of Santa Maria della Versa, we turn left into a side street and end up … in a different world. A farm like you rarely find, superbly simple yet renovated to a high standard by hosts Azzurra and Alberto, whose family has owned the former convent for a century.
When the large gate opens, an enchanted journey through the past begins. And yet you immediately feel a comforting warmth that only estates where many generations of the same family have lived can convey.
The rooms of the rather large monastery from the Middle Ages have been kept as true to the original as possible. You walk through huge halls and living rooms furnished with comfortable sofas, works of art, tapestries and many memorabilia. A feeling of grandeur besieges you. And you think: why doesn’t your own family own a property like this.
At Casale Denari breakfast is served in one of the dining rooms and, in fine weather, also on the terrace overlooking the inner garden and the hills of Lombardy. What’s being served? Only products from local farms, yoghurt from their own dairy, eggs from free-range chickens from their own garden or the neighbor’s, honey produced by bees depending on the flowering season, and vegetables from the region.
The nine rooms, including two master suites, are all stylish, simple and cosy. Alberto and Azzurra have gone to great length not to destroy the historical structure in the rooms. You’ll find minimalist design elements that are contemporary and, above all, in keeping with the area. The place resembles a bit the beautiful Prati Palai on Lake Garda and it is no coincidence that the two owner families are friends.
On the second floor there is even a small wellness area with sauna, Turkish Hamam and massage room.
The highlight at Casale Denari in summer is, of course, the swimming pool in the garden. It sits majestically in front of the house embedded in an English lawn surrounded by centuries-old trees. A location full of atmosphere, that is also quite suitable for weddings, open-air dinners and obviously retreats of all kinds.
The flower farm
Speaking of retreats: even before the reopening of Il Casale Denari, hostess Azzurra offered flower workshops on the grounds of the monastery. Together with the hostess, you then spend a day in the fields of the estate. Every year, “Pick Your Own” events are on the agenda, mainly harvesting daffodils and tulips in the field. Afterwards, one is initiated into the art of flower arranging. The philosophy behind this is also very commendable. Everything here follows the principle of sustainability. Find the respective dates on their website.
After a long hiatus, in 2023, Azzurra and Alberto re-established the hostaria del Casale Denari inside the ancient cellars of the Casale monastery. Thanks to the collaboration with the Bertacchini family, restaurateurs in Oltrepò for generations, the hostaria offers a menu that combines tradition and modernity with particular attention to local raw materials and wines.
The hostaria had been a part of the house in the early 1960s thanks to an intuition of Duke Antonio Denari who, ahead of his time, proposed a place to eat on his farm. Today we call them agriturismi, but at the time they did not yet exist.
The Oltrepò Pavese is a quiet corner of northern Italy. A landscape dotted with small villages, farms and wineries (it is the second largest growing area for Pinot Noir in Europe). A succession of rolling hills and ploughed fields, vineyards and farmsteads between the Staffora and Tidone valleys. The village of Golferenzo, ten minutes away, Pavia, twenty-five minutes away, a medieval jewel, the church of San Michele, a masterpiece of Lombard Romanesque architecture, are sights and attractions not to be missed.
Azzurra and Alberto, who know their way around very well, are happy to give tips on exploring the area. This also applies to restaurant recommendations, of course.
Il Casale Denari is ideal for a very pleasant break in the hills of Lombardy with top wines and hosts who pay great attention to quality.
Doubles from about 215 euro including breakfast. The suites are around 300 euro per night.
Booking & Contacts
Il Casale Denari
Frazione Il Casale Denari 1
Santa Maria della Versa
Pavia / Italy
Tel: +39 342 8508591