Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 119: TuscanHouse, La Stregaia
3bed/3bath house near Lucca, Tuscany North
June 2001, 1 week
Rented from TuscanHouse in June 2001 for one week. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, three separate living areas (one with satellite TV, VCR, CD player), dining room, well equipped kitchen – microwave, dishwasher, convection oven, and washing machine. There are several outside areas for dining or relaxing.
Well, where to begin? A bit of history. We have been doing house rentals in the US and Europe for about 15 years. This was our first Italian house and I’m afraid we are going to be spoiled for a return visit. Renting a house is about many things…amenities, cleanliness, amount of space, and location. But it is also about the general feel of the property and the area in which it exists. It is about the welcome you receive at the property and the support that’s available if you need it. La Stregaia gets five stars on all accounts for our family.
La Stregaia is located about 10 miles north west of Lucca in the foothills of the Alpi Apuane and at the edge of a national park. The drive to the property was the first in a series of eye openers that we were about to see during our week. Only a few kilometers off of a main road going into Lucca, the house is reached by climbing up and up on a series of switchbacks until you reach the driveway. The drive goes down a steep hill, at one point the nose of our van disappeared, as the drive both dove and made a sharp right. Another sharp right and, after having our car dusted by the overhanging rose bushes and giant rosemary, we arrived at our destination. The first glimpse of a new rental house is always fun…sometimes a twinge of disappointment, sometimes a rush of exhilaration. The latter was certainly the case.
To give you a little "lay of the land" it might help to know that La Stregaia is on about 50 acres of hilly property and is owned and lived on by two gentlemen, Massimo & Fabrizio. In the winter they live in the rental house – thus all the amenities and lovely furnishings-we were actually living in the home of the owners, one of who, Massimo, is a director in a bank in Turin. They both enjoy the antique market in Lucca, evidenced by the furnishings and Fabrijio is both a cook and a gardener. In the summer they live in a converted barn on the property and they are well on their way to restoring an older property higher near the road. There is also a two room stone building occupied by Lucky the Indian caretaker, who was a great pleasure and help to us.
La Stregaia is an old flour and olive oil mill…there is a creek that runs at the base of the house. There is another mill building from the mid-18th century on the property that may be renovated in the future. Future plans call for Lucky to move into the barn, the owners to move into the house currently in renovation, and the two room building will be offered with the existing rental house for larger groups. In all, there are 5 habitable or potentially habitable buildings on the property. There are dark tree lined paths through the woods and along the creek up to the old mill and many sunny areas filled with herbs, roses, and fruit. It is a magical place, everywhere you look is something else to explore. Gardeners would love it.
Massimo works in Turino during the week and Fabrijio is the manager of the property. They have many ornamental plantings as well as olive and fruit trees, vegetable, herb, and water gardens and all manner of livestock…goats, geese, chickens, bee hives and, when we were there, a litter of whippet puppies with their mom and dad. All the gentlemen are generous and helpful…their English was slightly better than my Italian, but it was never a handicap. I might also add that Zak at Tuscan House is a real pleasure to deal with, supporting and informing us at all steps. We appreciated the mid-winter "Care" package we received with maps and tourist information and a local phone card.
The furnishings of the house are very pleasant. Some parts of the building are 15-16th century and the rooms are on many levels. You feel as though someone just left their house for you to use for the week…CD’s, books, magazines, etc…of course someone does live in this house all winter so it is furnished to their standards of comfort. The master bedroom has a TV and a huge marble bath with lots of closet and drawer space and a good bed. Likewise I had good reports on the beds in the other rooms and each bedroom was on a different level and had its own bath.
There are no screens and we had no problems with insects. All windows open and can be shuttered, also. The kitchen has modern appliances and sufficient tableware. Fabrijio will cook for you if you wish for about $30 per person. We didn’t take advantage of this but we understand his dinners are quite good from comments in the guest book. He raises much of his produce and we understand, from our limited conversations, that he is an organic gardener. The pleasant terrace and giant stone table off of the kitchen and interior dining room was where we ate most of our meals. It overlooks the creek.
La Stregaia is well situated to allow you to visit many different areas in the day and return to the quiet of your home in the evening. The coast – Viareggio, La Spezia, and the Cinque Terre are all within 30-60 minutes as is Pisa. Lucca is about 20 minutes, Florence 90, and Siena/San Gimignano about two hours. We also considered Barga, Volterra, Montecatini, Chianti towns, but didn’t make it. You will not run out of things to do within an hour of the house. La Stregaia is high in the hills which means it’s a great place to return to in the evening in the hot summer. We noticed on our drive to Siena how much more green and cool it was in our area to the north.
The location may feel a bit remote to some. You have to enjoy being in the country. Although the property itself is beautiful, it is set in a valley and, without walking to the top of the road above the house, you don’t have the sweeping views of Tuscan countryside that you might find further south where it is flatter. We did not find a good nearby restaurant, but Lucca was only 20 minutes so it wasn’t a disadvantage. There is a bar/restaurant not far from the property, but it was a drive not a walk and our meal there was undistinguished, although the owner was nice. It would be worth a second try. Lucca is best for groceries. There is a large supermarket just outside Lucca’s wall. An ATM is located on the road just a few kilometers from the house.
In closing, I can’t recommend La Stregaia too highly. It is not an inexpensive property, but you feel that you have received good value in return. It engenders the best in amenities, atmosphere, and support of the people you deal with.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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