Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 115: La Bella Toscana, Il Rudere: I Cipressi
3bed/2bath house near Poggibonsi, Tuscany West
My husband, my eight year old daughter, myself, and my roommate from college spent a week in Tuscany (6/15-6/23, 2001) and one day in Bologna. For most of our vacations my husband and I have rented houses for a week at a time in the states: Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, & Chincoteague, VA. My friend has rented houses in Reno NV and Monserrat (before volcanic eruption, of course). My husband and I were last in Italy 20 years ago for our honeymoon, and we did the big three cities (and Siena). My friend had last been there 25 years ago and did the big three, and Siena and Lake Como. None of us slow traveled then.
After much searching on the internet, we located La Bella Toscana here on Slow Travelers. La Bella Toscana concentrates on the area we were most interested in -- close to Florence and Siena. After much deliberation among ourselves, we decided it was important to work with a rental agency with a presence in Italy and nearby the house. (This became critical to us much later, and we pat ourselves on the back for this decision.) That one of the owners of the agency, Gaynor Powell, speaks English made the transaction process much easier.
We stayed at the property Il Rudere in the one-standalone unit Il Ciprisi. It was five minutes away from Poggibonsi and five minutes away from San Gimignano. The property is in a valley. As you go up the driveway to the road to the west there is a spectacular view of San Gimignano.
This is one of the best of the 10 or so vacation houses my husband and I have rented. The owners of the property have been renovating the buildings and grounds for the last four years. And they are still working on the property.
Everything on the inside was new and very clean. You enter into a room with a wicker settee, two chairs, coffee table, fireplace and television, and a sideboard unit where dishes and glasses were stored. Off that is the kitchen that was nicely outfitted (no oven). Pots, pans, utensils were all new; nothing was a cast off. The kitchen was large enough for a nice wooden table and four chairs, and a cart that had the toaster and coffee maker. Off that is a room with a utility sink and charcoal grill and brooms, etc.
Off the entry room is a hallway with the three bedrooms and two baths and stairway to terrace room. Each of the bedrooms was nicely appointed with adequate light next to the beds for reading at night. The beds were new and very comfortable. One room was a true double bed (American king size) with large modern armoires to hold clothes and extra blankets, etc., and a small dresser. The second room could be two twins or made up as a double with a large armoire. The third and smallest had twin beds and a small desk. This bedroom and the shower bathroom were up two-three steps. (The house is built into the side of hill.)
The two bathrooms were totally new. One with Jacuzzi tub and hand held shower, toilet, bidet and large sink. The other bath had the glass door enclosed shower stall, toilet, and bidet, sink with nice vanity cabinet. Each bath had a large towel rack/heat unit. The full staircase leads up to a room with comfortable couch and chairs and large glass door that leads to the large terrace. Right now the floor of the outdoor terrace is concrete, but the owner has plans to tile it. On the terrace is a table with large umbrella, the kind you see all over in Italy.
And the best thing about the house is that it had screens on all the windows! We were not expecting that.
Just across the driveway is the large swimming pool. The grounds around it are terraced and flowering plants had just been put in. On the other side of the driveway is the building that has three apartments in it: two rentals and one where the owner’s family lives. Both units were rented when we were there. We saw the one family with a toddler and baby at the pool, but never spoke with them as they were Polish. There was another couple there but we only saw them come and go. Major landscaping work was underway when we were there – laying irrigation tubing, and planting many trees.
There was adequate hot water. We only had a problem the first night. The hot water had not been turned on. (So I washed my face in cool water – I didn’t care -- I was finally in Italy after months of planning!) The next morning the owner was very apologetic. It gave my husband an opportunity to go with him to see where the water heating unit was. My husband was very impressed by all the new mechanicals that were put in. He even saw a new Braun clothes washer that was just about ready to be hooked up. (While there was a washer on the premises, I did not use it.)
The owners spoke no English but their college-aged son spoke beautiful English. My daughter made friends with the son, his girlfriend (she spoke no English), the Senor and Senora. The family has three dogs: one a house dog, a hunting dog that lives outside in a large cage with her eight week old puppy. My daughter would help walk the dogs up the hill. Everyone welcomed her company and treated her well. She speaks no Italian, but as she is a chatty soul that did not stop her from having conversations with everyone – even if they were speaking Italian to her.
On arrival they gave us a message from Gaynor to call her regarding the arrival of my college roommate. The Senor kindly phoned Gaynor on his cell phone and let me talk to her. Collective travel plans had gone awry and so we did not meet up with my friend in Bologna as planned. My friend made many calls (from New York and Rome) to Gaynor who arranged for a driver and car to pick up my friend at Bologna on Sunday morning when she finally got in. Because of all this we were very glad we used a local agency and that had someone who spoke English. Gaynor was wonderful.
While we loved the house there are things that may bother other people that did not trouble us: several stairs to one bedroom and bath, larger staircase to terrace sitting room, barking dogs at night (think we even heard a wild pig one night), steep gravel driveway, workmen (though not in the house), driveway goes right past front of house (terrace, kitchen window, front door), steep walk up from parking area, locked bars on the windows, on Saturday night heard car traffic on road late at night.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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