Exactly 11 years ago, Dottie and I inadvertently discovered the tiny hilltop village of San Gemini in southern Umbria. We stayed in an incredible villa built on top of Roman, then medieval, ruins by the Italian sculptor, Canova, in the 1850s.
Canova is long gone, but his villa has been preserved, with some modern conveniences, by the Grandjacquet family of Rome. A grand or great-grand patriarch of the family raised it from near ruin in the last century, and today the family keeps part of it for their part-time residence, and offers the rest as a vacation rental.
San Gemini is very small, covering an area roughly the size of the Sonoma Plaza.
During our first visit, which happened to be during the town’s medieval festival in honor of its patron San Gemini, we were captivated by its unspoiled authenticity, and the warmth and graciousness of its residents. Dottie said to me then, “Some day I’d like to bring our whole family here.”
At the time, our family consisted of us, four adult children, a daughter and son-in-law, and one grandchild. Today the family numbers 16, including seven grandchildren, ages 5 to 12.