Casa Valeri, Warburton review: A piece of Provence

Read our writer's views on this property below

Kristin Lee retreats to the south of France — just an hour from Melbourne.

I have a hankering for the south of France. So, in the lead-up to a significant birthday, it seems fitting to be staying at Casa Valeri, a Provencal-inspired villa in the verdant hamlet of Warburton.

Before check-in, I browse the shops that line the township's historic main street, enjoy a wholesome lunch on the footpath and stroll the pretty riverside walk.

Today the town is filled with summer holidaymakers who, generally speaking, are getting a coffee fix after cycling the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail, or taking a dip in the clear upper reaches of the Yarra River.

It's not even a kilometre uphill from here when I turn into the driveway of the upscale self-contained retreat.

On arrival, the owner, Natalina Valeri, provides a brief, personable welcome and runs through the operation of the electronic wrought-iron security gates. This striking one-bedroom single-storey villa, which stands on the peaceful slopes of Mount Victoria, sits among about 16 hectares of Hereford cattle grazing property that is bordered with gum and pine trees.

The exterior has a barrel terracotta tiled roof, sunny yellow stucco walls, delicate blue french shutters and antique double entry doors with iron detail. In the garden are plump rows of purple-blue lavender, a limestone fountain, pebble pavements and a drystone wall lined with Anduze urns.

Inside is spacious indeed, for one let alone two, and contains a refined blend of modern features and some carefully chosen classic pieces from Valeri's travels to Europe.

Natural light fills the open-plan living space through the doors and windows. A chandelier hangs at the main entry, there's a huge French limestone fireplace plus a long oak dining table set with crockery, napery and cutlery.

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A cosy couch covered in European fabric is well placed for snuggling up fireside (evenings can be a touch fresh here, even in summer) and taking in the rural views. There's also a lovely selection of French and Italian design books, lifestyle magazines, candles and a flat screen TV and DVD player.

The slick corner kitchen has a dishwasher draw and combi oven, plus a sleek benchtop and splashback from Milan. Inside the neatly concealed half fridge is an ample antipasto platter, a bottle of Yarra Burn wine, fruit juice, yoghurt, milk, locally made berry jam, fresh eggs, bacon and mushrooms.

The adjoining boudoir is elegant, with its high double doors, chandelier, a comfortable king-size bed and french glass doors that open to a petite balcony.

Also leading off the bedroom are two slightly curved doors. One is for the spotless powder room; the other is for the sizeable bathroom that has cutting edge tap fittings and vanity, plus a frameless glass corner shower. Worthy of mention is the deep freestanding Kaldewei bath, next to french windows that open to aromatic lavender.

At the back of the villa is a verandah with an outdoor table and chairs. It faces well-kept, manicured lawns, a sun deck, rock features, green pasture and a breathtaking backdrop of tree-filled mountains.

At dusk I listen to the calls of currawongs and kookaburras, as two adorable calves bed down in the nearby paddock. Next morning, a delicate mist weaves across the hills.

I could visit the nearby Upper Yarra Reservoir Park or any one of the boutique wineries or seasonal fruit and berry farms that dot the surrounding area but I'm in no hurry to leave.

VISITORS' BOOK

Casa Valeri

Address Brett Road, Warburton.

Phone Natalina Valeri, 5966 5821; see casavaleri.com.

Cost A two-night minimum stay costs $750 for a couple, including breakfast provisions, antipasto platter and a bottle of wine. Packages also available.

Getting there About 90 minutes' drive from Melbourne via the Eastern Freeway, EastLink (exit at the Ringwood bypass) and the Maroondah and Warburton highways.

Summary Sumptuous Provencal style melds with contemporary comforts in serene rural surrounds.

Verdict 19

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.