Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1064: Villa Calcinaia, Villa I Cipressi
apartments in a villa in Lastra a Signa, near Florence, Tuscany West
Xmas- new years 2002-3, 1 week
This idyllic apartment rental in a historic villa will make you want to pick up and move to Tuscany. The fabulous decor combines a rustic, Tuscan feel with true luxury; the greenery makes you swoon each time you look out the window, and the silence at night is unbeatable. My first impression was joy and amazement, which did not diminish all week.
Villa Calcinaia is located in the hills just beyond Lastra a Signa, only 15 minutes on the FI-PI-LI superstrada from the city of Florence. As such it is a perfect place to stay and drive into florence, or to explore the areas between Florence and the seaside to the west (the road leads eventually to Pisa and Livorno). By staying out here you get to enjoy the good air and incredible beauty of the countryside, but you're not too far from civilization.
The property consists of a large plot of land, accessed via a typical cypress-lined road. The owners live in the main villa "Calcinaia", where they have sectioned off two apartments. There is also a separate building on the property, called "villa i cipressi", in which we stayed. It has two fabulously decorated bedrooms and bath upstairs, while the downstairs has a HUGE kitchen and sitting area with pull-out couch. The kitchen is well stocked and has a large open fireplace, which is handy for heating in the winter. Although the fridge is only bar-sized, I managed to cook christmas dinner for 10 including a full-sized turkey (special-ordered from the local butcher), 5 sides which I kept warm by the fire, and even a pasta "primo" cuz you can't just serve a meat dish to Italians.
What sets this property apart from everything else I have seen is the way it is decorated. I intend to win the lottery and do up my own house in the same way. The home is decorated with antiques or look-alikes. Each room is a different colour, with tastefully textured walls. Paola has coordinated every little detail, from expensive Frette bed-covers to little baskets holding towels, to fresh cut colour-coordinated orchids. There are no tacky posters or glued-together puzzles on these walls. Paola and her mother are art collectors! In my bedroom was a 16th-century print by Titian. As my reward for noticing this, she showed me her personal collection in the main villa.
You definately need a car to access this place. The road is not bad, though locals drive like nuts. It is just a short jet uphill from the main highway (though don't worry, you can't see or hear it).
Just down that street is a huge "IperCOOP", a supermarket playground with everything you'd ever need. In town you can experience more local, cute stores ... and prices.
The villa and out-building were purchased by the owners about a decade ago and every bit has been lovingly restored. A photo album at the villa shows that they raised it from rubble!
The property is large and you have full access to the whole thing. When I stayed there they had blocked off an area for a pool, which according to the website has now been constructed. Behind the little Villetta in which we stayed there was a little outside sitting area though it was December so of course we didn't use it.
As described above, the furniture and decor was to die for.
The beds were fabulously comfortable and topped with enough down-filled comforters to keep warm all winter.
The bathrooms were spotlessly clean and equipped with everything you could desire including hairdryer and even a mini heater.
The kitchen is huge, a really usable area and center of life. The appliances are all set up in a row which makes it hard for more than one person to cook at a time, but as I said above, I managed christmas dinner for 10 here.
Problems or Bonuses
The only downside to visiting this place in the winter is that it does get cold inside. The heating system is adequate, good by Italian standards. You have control over what hours to keep the heat on. We probably could have cranked it up more, but out of respect for the owners we kept it off much of the time. Hence it was about 16 degrees celcius in there at times. The big open fire in the kitchen became a gathering point (lots of free firewood), and there were lots of spare blankets around that you could wear over your pj's in the morning. In the summer, I'd think this place would be decently cool.
A lovely touch is that paola provides you with bottles of local oil and wine, both of which were really good.
The weather on January 1st 2003 was about 10 degrees celcius (that's not normal!) and I woke up early that morning to a stunning misty view outside my window (see photo) that remained on my desktop as inspiration the whole following year while I planned my escape from chicago -- a permanent move to Florence.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
You book directly with the friendly owners. Prices seemed reasonable enough to me for the quality of the place. I think in high season the largest apartment goes for around 1500 euros, and it must go down from there.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I keep looking for occasions to stay here. I would like to become rich and buy this place or one like it.
Things to do in this area
Lastra a Signa is not exactly hopping, though there's a decent pizzeria in town. You're close enough to Florence to go there for dinner, though I prefer to cook at home.
As for what there is to do in the area, the main issue is being able to choose from all the cities and hillside towns nearby. If you've already been to Florence, or if you want to avoid the tourists, try looking at a map and just going to whatever looks good or souds vaguely familiar. There's lots to see within an hour. Pistoia, for example, has a SlowFood osteria that can't be beat (review to come when i find their business card -- I recall something about cinghiale al cioccolato... ) and a really interesting renaissance hospital with fresco decorations on the outside. Lucca is a quaint walled city with a Roman plan like Florence, but a different feel, and different shopping too!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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