Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 1200: Owner, Casa Singerna
5bed/3bath villa near Anghiari, Tuscany East
April 2004, 1 week
Casa Singerna is located in the eastern part of Tuscany, close to Umbria. It was formerly a stone barn on a farm, but has been renovated into a lovely villa. It is built into the side of a hill. The owners of the villa live next door in the original farmhouse.
Casa Singerna overlooks the Singerna river, and there are beautiful views of the river and the mountains beyond. It is in the countryside on a large property. There are three houses clustered together - the villa, the farmhouse where the owners live and another house owned by their neighbours.
While the neighbouring houses are closer then they look on Casa Singerna's web site, they do not detract from the views or a sense of privacy.
You really need a car to get groceries or visit the towns closeby. I think that you could walk to a hamlet to do a quick shop, but none of us did this. However, there were several excellent restaurants close by - anywhere from 15-25 minutes away by car.
It's a good area for hiking although we weren't able to do as much as we would have liked because it rained a lot when we were there.
This villa is well-equipped. It accommodated two families with no problem (4 adults and 3 children). There are two levels - the upper level has four of the five bedrooms, a music/entrance room and two bathrooms (one a master ensuite). The lower level has a large great room with a kitchen, dining and living room area. At the back of the great room is an entrance to the fifth bedroom (which opens onto the terrace), a full bathroom with washer and dryer, and the furnace room.
Although it is thoroughly modern in terms of wiring/heating, the villa has a lovely Tuscan feel. The walls are very thick, and the owners left exposed stone on some walls. The ceilings are all very high with exposed beams.
The thing that worked well for us was that while there was a common area, everyone had a private place to which they could retreat if they wanted a quite time. Three of the bedrooms had small sitting areas - one with a woodstove - and all have generous windows with good views. This made a big difference to the harmony of the house - especially with the kids.
The windows are all big, with great views. The only thing we did not like about this villa was that the great room only had windows on one wall (plus a window over the sink). This made for nice views from the kitchen and dining area, but we did miss having windows in the sitting area. It felt a bit cave like in the daytime. At night we lit the woodstove, and that improved the feeling of the room.
It rained a lot the week we were there (early April) and so we weren't able to go outside as much as we would have liked. If it had been sunny, I think we would have spent a lot of time on the terrace, and not noticed the absence of windows in the sitting area as much.
The terrace is immediately outside the house. It has a barbecure and big table and chairs. Unfortunately, it was rainy a lot of time during our visit and we didn't get to eat out very much. There are also a couple of Adirondack chairs positioned just outside the entrance to the kitchen/great room. It was nice to sit in them with a morning cappucino and look out over the countryside to the river.
The pool is heated (solar I think). Although it was early in the season (April), our kids went swimming every day - even in the rain. Way too cold for the adults though. The pool is quite large, with a deep end for diving, which made for fun competitions for the kids.
The only drawback with the pool is its location. You had to walk down a rough path past the owner's house to get to the pool. If you wanted something from the house, you had to make a little trek back up the hill. If you are a parent, you can't sit on the terrace and safely watch the kids - you would need to stay down by the pool. However, this is just a quibble on otherwise lovely setting. And there were nice lounge chairs all around the pool.
One of the reasons we picked this villa (in addition to the pool and the washer/dryer) is that it had a long table that could seat everyone comfortably. The table can set 10 easily, probably 12 folk in a pinch.
The sitting area is well-outfitted and there is a big TV and CD player. All the furniture is covered in white fabric though, and that made us a bit nervous with the kids and the red wine lovers. Fortunately there were no accidents!
Four of the five bedrooms are very large and had generous closets/armoires. The fifth bedroom, while it had a double bed, is smaller. It is comfortable for one person, but would be a little tight for a couple. It was perfect for the little girl in our group.
The bathrooms were great. The master bedroom has a beautiful spa tub. The only drawback was that we seemed to run out of hot water fairly quickly, and had to stagger when we all took our showers. However there were 7 people in the house, and we were doing lots of washing!!
The kitchen was great. We all like to cook and had a lot of fun turning out really good meals after shopping in the local markets (Arezzo has a great one). There were lots of pots and pans, and enough dishes for everyone. The kitchen has a dishwasher. A nice touch was the kitchen welcome basket with bread, juice, coffee, olive oil, etc. It got us off to a good start until we could make it to the grocery store.
I had brought a kitchen kit with a good knife, cutting board, etc., but there was no need for it.
Problems or Bonuses
Nice surprise - the owners are Canadian (as we are) and so it really helped our transition to a new place. We did not know them in advance of making the booking. A nice touch was that they hosted a barbecure for us on the first night, so we didn't have to cook. Overall, the hosts were great - friendly but not intrusive. They gave us lots of good tips on restaurants and sights, and made reservations for us when we needed them.
Another nice surprise was that the house is wired for both North American and European appliances. We were able to plug in our laptops, palm pilots and battery rechargers without having to worry about adapters.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We found Casa Singerna online, after a lot of searching. Because the hosts are Canadian, language was no problem. In fact, communications were excellent from the outset. Everything was really clear with good directions. Payment was made in advance through email money transfer. There were no surprise surcharges at the end of the stay. My damage deposit was refunded promptly afterwards (again through email money transfer).
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
I would recommend this villa. It's particularly well suited to large groups. I think it would also work well for people who have been to Tuscany before, and want to visit a less well-travelled area. If this is your first visit and you're looking for a hit list of Top Ten Tuscany, then you might want to pick a location in central Tuscany. While it's easy to make day trips in a north/south direction, it seemed to take a long time to make your way west (to Greve for example).
Also, if you want to keep driving to a minimum and walk into town to do your shopping or go to dinner, then this villa is not for you. A car is essential, and it worked well that each family had its own car and could do different things during the day.
We were able to make easy day trips to Arezzo (where we arrived by train from Rome and rented the cars), Anghiari, Sansepolcro, Cortona and into Umbria to visit Assisi. You could drive to Florence for the day, or even take the train there and back from Arezzo. This scenery in this part of Tuscany is a little wilder and our husbands enjoyed driving up and down the switchbacks of the mountains and hills.
The other thing we liked is that the house was outfitted to a North American standard, including the aforementioned wiring and a lot of the plumbing, appliances, etc. It made for a very easy transition into our Italian vacation, and we all felt very comfortable.
While I'm glad we spent a week at Casa Singerna, I'm also glad we arranged a second week's rental in a more western part of Tuscany (near San Gimigniano). Combined, the two locations gave us an opportunity to fully experience this beautiful part of Italy.
Things to do in this area
There are lots of good, well priced restaurants in this area. Apparently, a lot of Italians come to this part of Tuscany because dinner is good value for the money. I'll post these reviews seperately.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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