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Italy's best affordable country inns

By Valerie Waterhouse
  • The list includes everything from an ancient stone villa in Piedmont to an atelier in Florence
  • One inn invites guests to drink Asti Spumante in its Renaissance-style garden
  • Another offers a breakfast of house-made almond cake and croissants

(Travel + Leisure) -- From an ancient stone villa in Piedmont to an atelier in Florence, we reveal Italy's best affordable country inns.

Novecamere Resort, Le Marche

An unassuming cream-stone house with blue shutters in Le Marche's Conero Park, Novecamere Resort is not for those seeking high-tech amenities. Eco-conscious and organic are the aesthetic here.

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The nine guest rooms are stylishly spare with natural oak floors, white Conero-stone walls, and handmade linens. For breakfast, owner Isabella Fabiani serves salumi, cherries, plums, peaches, and grapes straight from her farm, and she'll whip up fluffy goat-cheese omelettes on demand.

There's not much to do at Novecamere except relax, which is precisely the point.

5 Via Cave, Sirolo; 39-071/933-2127; doubles from $259, including breakfast.

Relais Cattedrale, Piedmont

Globe-trotting owner Laura Elsa Valente has transformed her family's 18th-century palazzo in the medieval town of Asti into a fashionable country retreat.

The seven rooms -- four of which have restored ceiling frescoes, discovered during the renovation -- are appointed with Turkish silk floral carpets and Moroccan wrought-iron lamps sourced from Valente's travels.

In summer, locals join guests in the Renaissance-style garden to drink Asti Spumante, the region's sparkling white wine, and hear live acoustic music.

7 Via Cattedrale, Asti; 39-0141/092-099; doubles from $168, including breakfast.

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Town House Street, Milan

Milan has long had the reputation of being a staid and business-minded city, but a design renaissance is helping to transform its image. Take Town House Street, an innovative B&B in the Citta Studi district, just a 10-minute walk from downtown.

Created by local architect Simone Michele, the four ground-floor suites are housed in converted shops, each with its own entrance that opens up onto café-filled Via Goldoni. Eye-popping colors (red, orange, yellow, green) and giant black-and-white paintings of Milanese street scenes punctuate the modern interiors. One caveat: You'll have to head next door to Town House 33 for breakfast.

33 Via Goldoni; 39-02/70156; doubles from $360.

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Villa Lina, Venice

Hidden behind the Nason & Moretti glass factory on the island of Murano is this secluded pink-washed manse. Surrounded by oleander and lemon trees, the contemporary inn was decorated by owner Evi Nason, wife of local glassware designer Carlo Nason.

Vintage Murano lamps and vases can be found in all the suites, along with four-poster beds and orange leather couches perfect for perusing the hotel's expansive art-book collection. What we love most? The view from the veranda across the lagoon to central Venice, just a short vaporetto ride away.

12 Calle dietro gli Orti, Murano; 39-041/527-5358; doubles from $216, including breakfast.

Casa Schlatter, Florence

Once the atelier of 19th-century Swiss painter Adolfo Schlatter, this three-suite retreat is like an antiques-filled museum dedicated to the artist. It's no wonder, given that the owner, Alessandra, is Schlatter's great-grandaughter.

She'll greet you at the door and take you on a tour of his masterpieces, including some dramatic oil paintings of Florence. The inn's greatest asset is the location -- within walking distance of downtown Florence but far enough out to have space for a private garden.

14 Viale dei Mille; 39-347/118-0215; doubles from $122.

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Al Cardinal Mazzarino, Piedmont

The Portofino of Piedmont -- that's what Italians call the hilltop village of Cherasco, where well-heeled families including those linked to the Agnellis, of Fiat fame, spend their holidays.

Guests may not live like the Italian aristocracy at Al Cardinal Mazzarino, but they'll find calm in abundance: the 19th-century former convent has only three modest but elegant suites with botanical prints on the walls and striped silk Bellora bedspreads. Linger over a breakfast of house-made almond cake and croissants in the rose-filled courtyard.

48 Via San Pietro, Cherasco; 39-0172/488-364; doubles from $230, including breakfast.

Casa San Ruffino, Le Marche

When British transplants Ray and Claire Gorman got fed up working in banking, they moved to Le Marche and opened the honey-hued Casa San Ruffino. With the views of lush farmland and the blue-tinted Sibillini Mountains from each of the four airy suites, it's easy to understand why.

A few highlights: vintage terra-cotta floors, exposed wooden beams, and (unusual for an Italian B&B) a fully stocked and fairly priced mini-bar.

13 Contrada Montese, Montegiorgio; 39-0734/962-753; doubles from $187, including breakfast.

Villa Urbani, Rome

Music is the raison d'être at this early 1900's mansion on the avenue that leads from the hip Trastevere neighborhood to Gianicolo Hill.

Two Italian set designers are the brains behind the contemporary interiors, which are filled with Art Deco furnishings and black-and-white photographs of international musicians.

In the high-ceilinged dining room, classical and jazz melodies can be heard around the clock, and, if you're lucky, owner Laura Urbani will invite you to a private concert in the villa's patio garden.

2 Via Trenta Aprile; 39-333/481-7313; doubles from $146, including breakfast.

Casa Baladin, Piedmont

If you're a beer aficionado, you may have heard of Teo Musso, the maverick behind the Italian craft-beer movement, whose Casa Baladin is across the road from Le Baladin pub, in the village of Piozzo.

The five rooms have themes related to travel destinations, from China, with an antique, black-and-red-lacquer bed and vintage floral fabrics, to Africa, with walls covered in traditional tribal paintings. Book a tasting at Musso's pub to sample his artisan-made ales, including our favorite, the Isaac, flavored with coriander and orange peel.

34 Piazza 5 Luglio, Piozzo; 39-0173/795-239; doubles from $175, including breakfast.

Le Tre Stanze, Florence

Just steps from the Duomo, the bohemian-chic Le Tre Stanze is a favorite haunt of artists, writers, and musicians. Decadent glamour is the theme here, from the worn tile floors and handmade wooden beds to the objéts d'art (antique porcelain bowls; terra-cotta sculptures).

Book the Mansarda Room with its own terrace overlooking the city's centuries-old palazzi.

43 Via dell'Oriuolo; 39-329/212-8756; doubles from $173.

Relais Villa Antea, Florence

A friendly dog named Marta welcomes you to Relais Villa Antea, an ocher-colored villa owned by sisters Diletta and Serena Lenzi.

Inside, a Renaissance-style staircase framed by three archways gives way to six well-appointed suites with pastel-colored curtains, Empire-style armoires, and plush armchairs covered in vintage fabrics. The Lenzis treat guests like family and are more than happy to offer the inside scoop on the city's best restaurants and boutiques.

46 Via Puccinotti; 39-055/484-106; doubles from $157, including breakfast.

Masseria Cimino, Puglia

If you're searching for a romantic getaway in the Pugliese countryside, look no further than Masseria Cimino, an 18th-century farmhouse surrounded by centuries-old olive groves.

White-stone sconces illuminate the 15 whitewashed rooms, some with stone fireplaces and private balconies that look out onto the crystal-blue Adriatic. Bring an appetite: the hotel's stylish restaurant will have you feasting on authentic Puglian specialties and the region's renowned Primitivo wines.

Contrada Masciola, Brindisi; 39-080/482-7886; doubles from $497, including breakfast and dinner.

Le Case Della Saracca, Piedmont

One of the four ancient houses that make up Le Case della Saracca was previously home to a quirky farmer named Camiot who kept a donkey on his third-floor balcony.

Today, his former residence has been turned into an edgy B&B and osteria. A stone candlelit passageway leads to a mazelike interior, where glass walkways connect six rustic-chic rooms (washbasins carved from tree trunks; exposed wood-beamed ceilings; flagstone floors).

After a day of exploring the nearby vineyards and truffle farms, head to the inn's restaurant for such regional specialties as risotto with artichokes and bacon, and local goat cheese au gratin.

3-5 Via Cavour, Monteforte d'Alba; 39-0173/789-222; doubles from $190.

Il Resentin, Milan

Italian pop star Eros Ramazzotti is trying his hand at the hospitality business. In the artsy Brera zone, his Il Resentin draws a sophisticated crowd looking for an intimate alternative to the city's top hotels.

The four understated rooms are set above a bustling restaurant and bar (also owned by Ramazzotti) with plush white bedding and gray-and-taupe-striped walls. But it's the small details that make this place stand out: fresh flower arrangements everywhere, Linea Comfort Zone bath products, and free bicycles for exploring the city.

24 Via Mercato; 39-02/875-923; doubles from $418, including breakfast.

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