31st August 2018
Nestled in the Vicenza Hills of Italy is La Scuola Guesthouse, a 1920s schoolhouse that has been transformed into an enchanting retreat. This once abandoned village school, located at 2,600 feet above sea level and as picturesque as a postcard, taught its last class six decades ago. Now families will find a getaway with a laid-back vibe and killer views, thanks to owners Valeria Carfora and Marco Baldan.
“We always dreamed of owning a maison d’hôtes or guesthouse in the hills, away from the crowded cities. One day we came across an old school building for sale in the tiny town of Lusiana and fell in love,” Carfora says. “Every single person has memories of school,” she adds. “We decided we wanted to create something that was like an old Italian school, but we wanted it to be fun, colorful and quirky.”
Their passion is evident in the carefully thought-out details throughout the property. The couple has preserved much of the original character and the charming features, working with local craftsmen to ensure they retained the classic feel of the schoolhouse.
Inside is an eclectic mix of schoolroom furniture, from vintage pieces found in the flea markets of Veneto to new chairs and dorm-style beds from French furniture designers. You’ll also find antique toys, old Italian schoolbooks and original photographs. Each of the five rooms has a locally inspired, traditional school theme. Arithmetic is the largest room, and it’s perfect for families. In addition to an area with a king-size bed and bunk beds, it has a little activities corner with an old chalkboard and a desk that kids will love.
Families can expect a warm welcome from the inspirational duo, who go out of their way to make you feel at home. A traditional Italian breakfast of local cheeses, cured meats and homemade pastries is served in the Alphabet room, a former classroom complete with an enormous chalkboard, or in the courtyard, where children once played in the shade of the linden trees during recess. The courtyard is now lined with roses and peonies in flowerbeds and filled with brightly colored bistro tables.
While there isn’t an actual restaurant on the property, you can find plenty of superb spots nearby, and Carfora has created a guide for guests with favorite stops, including Osteria Sciessere, which is within walking distance of the hotel. Hunting for mushrooms in the forests is also fun for kids — you’ll need to get a permit for this from one of the bars or osterias in Lusiana. The town has a Sunday market where you can find local specialties such as Asiago cheese and soppressa.
The hotel is also in a prime spot for exploring the region of Veneto, namely Padova, Verona, Treviso and Vicenza. The unpaved roads are perfect for mountain biking or hiking. Also easily accessible is the walled city of Marostica — every even year it puts on a medieval show that kids will love. Farther afield, Bassano del Grappa and the idyllic town of Asiago, famous for its cheese, are also worth a visit. And of course, you won’t want to miss Venice, which is just 90 minutes away by car and train.
One thing is for sure: When you stay at the enchanting La Scuola, you’ll realize this is one time when you aren’t waiting for school to be out.
By Janine Clements
Photos by Daniela Sallinger