Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 108: Italian Vacation Villas, Poggio di Sopra 2
3bed/3bath apartment on farm near Sant'Antimo, Tuscany South
June 16 – 23, 2001
My family returned yesterday from our two week trip to Italy and I wanted to write our review of the house we rented through Martin at Italian Vacation Villas while the memories are fresh.
We rented Poggio di Sopra 2 for a week from June 16 – 23, 2001. We arrived after a somewhat tiring drive from Portovenere on Saturday around 4pm. We had arrived in Montalcino, 9 kms to the north of the house, at about 3pm, and decided to check out the town because it was too early to check in to the house.
When we pulled in, we were greeted by a representative for the house. Before even going into the house, we were overwhelmed by our luck! The house sits on the top of a hill above Sant Antimo in Castlenuovo dell'Abate, with spectacular 360 degree views of the area.
The house is really two apartments, the ground floor (Poggio di Sopra 1) and the first floor (Poggio di Sopra 2), and is built of native stone. Sandro Chia bought the house and it was recently restored (I think it was finished in '97 or '98). In addition to the house, there are two separate buildings: one housing the washer and dryer, full sized refrigerator and a chest freezer, the other an office with fax, computer and phone. There is a bathroom (half bath) attached to the office. There is also a large kitchen and dining hall in the lower portion of the main house that can be rented if you choose to entertain (we didn't get to see this or the lower apartment).
Our apartment was lovely, with exposed beam ceilings, tile floors, stone and stucco walls and views in every room. The walls are decorated by prints of artwork by Sandro Chia, co-owner and apparently famous modern artist (www.sandrochia.com). There are 3 bedrooms, two with queen sized beds, the other with 2 twins. There are 3 full baths, 2 with shower, the other with a wonderful, long and deep tub. Next to the master bedroom is a study/television room with satellite TV, a sofa, small table and chairs and book cases.
There is also a large living room with fireplace upon entering the house. The kitchen is large with every possible amenity one could hope for. There is a dishwasher, gas cook top, electric/convection oven and typically small refrigerator. The kitchen holds a large and beautiful pine table that would easily seat 6 - 8 people. Kitchen equipment included an American coffee maker, espresso pots (several), plenty of dishes, silverware, cooking utensils and knives. The staff of Castello Romitorio (the estate) had provided us with 3 bottles of wine from the estate, olive oil from the estate, dried pastas, butter, coffee, sugar, salt and other seasonings, as well as a delicious cake prepared by Cesare Vitorrio's brother (a lemon torte we ate right away)! In each room they had placed small vases filled with wild flowers and cut herbs.
The baths were complete with nice, thick towels, terry bath robes and bath/shower products by Bulgari (they smelled wonderful). Beach towels were also provided.
Outside, there is a small but quite nice lap pool (it was cold - 68 degrees when we were there). There are comfortable, cushioned lounge chairs, a covered porch with tables and chairs and hammock beds (I can't think of how to describe these -- they are "rope beds" for lounging and very comfortable).
There is also a covered loggia with Confederate Jasmine climbing over the roof situated on the hillside with spectacular views of Sant Antimo and great for watching the sun set. Roses bloom against the southern exposure next to the garden. In addition to San Antimo, you can see Montalcino, especially lovely at night when they light up the fortification, and Mount Amiata.
The house is set amidst the vineyard, and there are olive trees, an almond tree, pomegranates, a lavender hedge, and herbs galore. There is a small garden adjacent to the house, that one is allowed to use, though nothing was ready when we were there. The garden contains tomato plants, zucchini, lettuces, onions and herbs. All around the grounds one can find pockets of herbs, including sage, mint, thyme, curry and of course, rosemary!
We were lucky in that no one rented the lower unit, so we had the place to ourselves. The sweet woman who greeted us the first day, in her Italian-English, told us that we would be lonely ... meaning we would be alone. Not being the best socializers in the world, lonely sounded wonderful to us!
This is a wonderful rental, though not a budget rental by any means. It is well suited for 3 couples, or 2 couples with a couple of kids. I think it would be a bit scary if one had small children, because there are steep stone stairs to reach the unit that can be slick when wet, and of course, the pool can be dangerous. We are already talking to family members about renting both units, which would accommodate a total of 10.
The lower unit did look a bit dark, far fewer windows, though from what I could glimpse, it too was well furnished. But the upper unit caught all the breezes, so mosquitoes and heat were no problem. I have to admit, it was unusually cool during our visit, which was also lucky. An added benefit (can there be any more added benefits?) is the extra maid service mid-week.
It is about 2 hours from Florence, 45 minutes from Siena, an hour from Montepulciano, and 10 minutes from Montalcino. If anyone wants to hear more, have them email me. We were thrilled with our luck, and the place was worth the money we paid. I wish I could have packed up the house and moved it lock, stock and barrel to Charlotte! The layout was perfect -- plenty of privacy provided between the bedrooms and baths, and I can envision having a blast with a group of close friends who love to cook and relax by the pool.
If I had to list other considerations before renting this house, I would mention that it is a bit difficult to run out and buy provisions. There is a very small alimentari in Castlenuovo dell'Abate, but their hours are limited and the selection small, which means you must drive to Montalcino, pay to park, etc. Not a real problem, but a bit of an inconvenience. Also, the beds are very, very firm (read "hard"). But, we had been traveling through Italy for a week, had stayed in 3 hotels and found the same, hard mattresses everywhere we went, so we gather this is an Italian preference.
Another plus to Poggio di Sopra is its proximity to Bassomondo, the little trattoria in Castlenuovo dell'Abbate near the abbey. We ate there twice, and loved the food both times. My kids liked it too, and they can be difficult! My son devoured the ravioli with butter and sage. The owner also makes an excellent Pecorino Toscana - the best we tasted while in Tuscany (and we tasted a lot) and salumi. We made the trips to Montalcino more enticing to the kids with bribes of gelato at the excellent gelateria there (I think it is called "Why Not?").
Thanks to Martin from Italian Vacation Villas for helping us find this wonderful place!
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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