Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1057: GIDEC, Arno
2bed/2bath apartment south of the Arno, Florence
July 2004, 2 weeks
The apartment is on the fifth floor of an apartment building on the south bank of the Arno, directly across from the Uffizi and three minutes' walk from the Ponte Vecchio. There are views of the river, the Uffizi, and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio from the living room and the main bedroom; if you stand right at the window, you can see the Ponte Vecchio. You have to push through the crush of tourists on the Pitti-PonteVecchio-PiazzaSignoria axis to get most places, but this is five minutes' worth of unpleasantness, after which things get better.
There are small shops (alimentari, a bakery) just south of the Ponte Vecchio, five minutes away; ten minutes away, in Piazza Santo Spirito and vicinity, are fruit and vegetable stalls and a number of good restaurants. The nearest supermarket is fifteen minutes' walk to the northeast.
The building is a large nondescript postwar construction (this area was bombed) with an open elevator shaft surrounded by wide stairs, and two or three apartments per floor. It's a thick-walled edifice that retains its cool in the heat of the day. All apartments in the building appear to be rental apartments; we occasionally saw other tenants on the stairs, but never heard them while in our apartment.
There are a few benches in the ground-floor lobby where the doorman sits, but you probably won't want to hang out there.
The furniture was in quite good shape, and all the beds and chairs were comfortable. The apartment was quite clean when we arrived, and easy to keep clean.
The apartment has high ceilings and is quite large; the main bedroom alone is larger than most European double hotel rooms we've been in, and has a large wardrobe as well as a large chest of drawers. Its ensuite bathroom is a little small but quite functional. The main bathroom is large, with a full-sized tub and curtains to be drawn around to create a shower. There was enough space in there to set up a drying rack for clothes and not have it be in the way. The second bedroom was smaller, with a small closet, but still quite functional. The two bedrooms are equipped with portable air-conditioning units, as is the living room.
The kitchen is large, with a prep table, a large window offering good light, and a good amount of storage space. There is a full-sized refrigerator and a full-sized dishwasher (most dishwashers in European rentals are half-sized, in our experience), a four-burner gas cooktop, a microwave, and a toaster. The dishes are from Richard Ginori and there are enough pots, serving dishes, and utensils. I didn't try to cook a full meal, but the kitchen was quite adequate for simple pastas, heating up food from a rosticceria, and putting together meals composed of plates of salumi and cheeses, salads, crudites, and breads. I think it would have been just fine for a full meal.
Problems or Bonuses
Bonuses: The place was larger, quieter, and better equipped than we expected. The agency's information actually undersells it. In a decade of renting apartments in Italy, France, and Spain, this is the nicest one we have had.
Problems: The biggest problem we had was that there weren't any glasses suitable for white wine or limoncello, and there weren't any spoons sized between demitasse and large soup. Really! The only English channel on the satellite TV was BBC World, but that made no difference to us. If you're a CNN junkie, you might talk to them in advance and see what can be done.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
This apartment is offered by several agencies, but GIDEC owns it, so save yourself middleman fees. (The other agencies are useful for seeing more pictures and opinions.) We dealt with GIDEC via e-mail and made all the arrangements without difficulty (except for some awkwardness in wiring money between our bank and theirs, which was not their fault). There is a doorman in the lobby during daytime hours who speaks English and can help with arrangements (e.g. calling taxis). Including all fees (utilities, phone, and final cleaning are extra), we paid about $225 US/day for our two-week stay in high season. I think this is reasonable considering accommodation prices in Florence, the comfort provided, and the location. I credit this apartment with changing our minds about Florence, which we had previously thought of as hot, crowded, noisy, and headache-inducing. Having an oasis to retreat to was quite important.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would recommend this apartment without qualification. For us, this apartment provided the right balance between cheaper places that might be more uncomfortable or more poorly located, and more expensive places that we would find unnecessarily fancy or opulent. We felt at home here.
Things to do in this area
Our favourite restaurants and shops were not really close to the apartment, but not too far away: Gelateria dei Neri for gelato, Vini e Olio on via dei Serragli for wines, spirits, and olive oil, Donnini in Piazza della Republica for breakfast pastries and coffee, Patrizio Cosi on Borgo degli Albizi for dessert pastries (also coffee), Nerbone in the market for their boiled-beef sandwich, Forno Sartori for pizza and foccacia. Restaurants: Trattoria Mario (make a point of eating here!), Cibreo Trattoria, Quattro Leoni, Vecchia Bettola, Osteria de Benci, Il Pizzaiuolo (the best pizza we had).
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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