Vivian Q. United States
My husband and I traveled to Pico, and stayed at Nena, after hearing rave reviews from my MIL. It did not disappoint!! Situated on top of a hill, near a castle, Nena is a beautiful property with an awesome host, Carlo. Carlo made sure we had the best meals and suggested delicious local wines to complement our dinners. We would spend hours at the dinner table, enjoying the multi-course meals, and then enjoying homemade limoncello for a nightcap.
Carlo was great at suggesting day-trips near Pico, some of which included: Casamari abbey, Abbey of Montecassino, Sperlunga, and others. Just tell him your interests, and he will know exactly where you should visit!
Also, if you're interested in a cooking lesson, Carlo can arrange that as well. The house chef, Simona, speaks only Italian but is a GREAT teacher (and an amazing chef)!
Highly, highly recommend.
Thank you, Carlo!
a traveler United States
The Trip of a Lifetime...Thank You!
This review is long overdue because I've been struggling to write it. I mean, how do you begin to describe perfect?
Pico is my maternal ancestral homeland; and, after spending only a few hours there in 1974, it has been my lifelong dream to return. I started planning this trip two years ago and this past July, it all came together: I spent 11 wonderful days in Pico at Nena.
After a train ride from Rome to Cassino and then a drive from Cassino to Pico, I arrived at Nena where Carlo welcomed me like a long lost relative. I felt instantly at home. Since I was traveling alone, I had booked the Bellavista. It's a lovely, simple, and very comfortable room on the top floor of the main albergo. True to its name the views from the room's windows are, indeed, beautiful. The room and large private bath (great shower) were immaculate and had everything necessary for my stay. Although the room did have an air conditioning unit, I didn't need to use it once despite some of the hottest weather ever. Carlo showed me how to close and shutter the two floor-to-ceiling widows during the day and then open them in the evening when the ocean breezes kicked-in from the other side of the mountains.
After getting settled in my room, Carlo prepared a delicious light lunch to share as we talked about my plans for the time I would be there. My top priority was genealogy: I wanted to see if any relatives remained in Pico, find my grandmother's childhood house, etc. My other priority was to soak in as much of the atmosphere of the village and surrounding area as possible. Carlo got right on it.
After lunch,Carlo took me to the Comune (city hall) to see if we could find out anything about a cousin whom I met 40 + years ago. Sure enough, one of Carlo's friends who works at the Comune knew my cousin and called her...unfortunately my cousin was out of town, but Carlo's friend spoke with her son and gave him Carlo's phone number so that he could help me arrange a meeting which he did.
The next step was to see if we could find the tiny street where my grandmother's house would have been. No one at the Comune knew where the street was. So, Carlo had the idea to check with his friends that own a business having something to do with building permits…I'm not exactly sure what…anyway, they quickly found the little street on their maps. In fact, we could the street from their office window. Fast forward: With a bit more help from Carlo, I did end up finding and touring my grandmother's childhood home before I left town. Amazing.
With the genealogy part of my mission off to a great start, during the next part of Pico Day 1, Carlo gave me a tour of the old part of town (where Nena is located) and then we were off to the piazza where he introduced me to his friends that work and/or run businesses in the square so that I'd feel comfortable going there on my own to enjoy a drink, pizza, or an espresso.
Pico Day 2 began with a delicious breakfast of cappuccino, and slices of a terrific yogurt cake type pastry served with homemade fig and prickly-pear jams. Then, it was off to see the coast with Carlo acting as tour guide and driving coach. The Ulysses Riviera isn't far at all from Pico...it's just on the other side of the mountains – maybe 20-30 miles as the crow flies. But since you have to drive over the mountains to get there it takes about 45 minutes. I can't begin to describe the beauty of the coastal area. Carlo showed me around Sperlonga and Gaeta, including some sights and beautiful vistas that a tourist wouldn't know about. We stopped for lunch at Mare Frito in Gaeta and I got to meet the two delightful owners, brothers, who really know their fish, pasta, and olives. I didn't know that Gaeta olives are from Itri. After a full day of driving around the coastal area and getting oriented to the roads, etc. we headed back to Pico.
I've shared all this to show how carefully Carlo listens to his guests and tries to ensure that he helps them, in every way possible, have the visit they hoped for. After the first two days, I had the knowledge and confidence to head out on my own to find more info about my family roots and explore Pico and the surrounding areas. Of course, Carlo was always available to offer suggestions about sights to visit, places to eat, etc. I must add that he went above and beyond when he contacted my car rental company and straightened out a problem for me and arranged for the manager to take me to the train station in Cassino after I returned the car (he also tried to arrange for me to be picked-up at the train station in Casino when I arrived, but the manager forgot).
If you're looking for a comfortable and relaxing stay in a place not frequented by tourists where you can experience the real Italy, look no further. Pico and Nena are just the thing. You will be charmed by the medieval village with it's old castle high upon the hill. You will be charmed by Nena's clean and comfortable main albergo that has been beautifully restored and very tastefully decorated with interesting antiques. You'll get a nice workout as you walk back and forth to the piazza for an Aperol spritz or espresso. You'll meet interesting fellow guests over breakfast. You'll be treated kindly by Nena's staff; and, you will be encouraged by Chef Simona, to ask her questions about the food preparation which will give her a chance to practice English. You will meet kind and interesting townspeople, eager to tell you about the area and who will be patient as you try to speak to them in Italian. But, most of all, you'll get to meet Carlo.
Carlo is Nena and Nena is Carlo and to him I say: There are no words to express my enduring gratitude for the generosity, kindness, warmth, and hospitality that you, your staff, your family, and your friends showed to me during my visit to Pico. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for everything you did to make my stay comfortable and interesting and to help me find and connect with my cousin's family and find my grandmother's house. There isn't a day that passes that I don't think of my trip to Italy and especially my time in Pico. The memories are ones that I will always treasure and hold dear. Mille grazie, Carlo.
Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo a te e alla tua famiglia!
Trudi V. Netherlands
Back at Nena again
This was our third visit to Nena, and as always, it felt like coming home. We had another wonderful couple of days in this beautiful area of Italy during early Fall, with sun-filled days and cool evenings. Our day trips included a visit to the Abbey at Casamari, where we were privileged to be part of the anniversary of its dedication in the presence of Pope Francis' secretary of state, Cardinal Parolin. Evenings were spent enjoying multi-course meals, specially prepared by Chef Simone with something to please everyone, Our wonderful host, Carlo has recently completed renovating another beautiful property in this hill-top village which could house a large group or family. Pico and Nena will always be on our list as a place to revisit time and again. Thank you Carlo!