Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 124: La Bella Toscana, La Torre
2bed/2bath apartment on main piazza of San Gimignano, Tuscany West
June 2001, 1 week
Since my wife and I have gone to Italy every year since 1998 for both business and pleasure, we wanted to take a nice "family" vacation, as our kids are 22 and 20 and have never been to Europe (yes, we were feeling guilty), so we planned this 4th trip to show them as much as we could in 12 days. We again rented an apartment through Gaynor Powell (it's so easy - she now takes credit cards). She recommended the perfect place. And the price was half what we would have paid in a hotel.
La Torre is a beautiful, two bedroom, 2 bath, 2 floor apartment with one of the rooms in one of San Gimignano's famous towers, overlooking the main Piazza, facing the Duomo steps, the center of activities from early morning to nearly midnight. (But with the window closed, one couldn't hear a sound.)
The day we arrived was during a large festival. We were to meet the owner, who spoke not one word of English, upon our arrival ... (we'd spent 3 days in Bologna & Venice prior to our arrival here) which we did and you wouldn't believe the route he took to get us into the village due to the festival! He led us to the parking lot, where we had parked on our previous vacation, then took us in two trips (his car was a Fiat 500) to the apartment, carried our bags up the stairs ... was a great guy. We actually talked in the car with my rudimentary Italian and his patience!
You enter a courtyard off a small side street, Viccolo del Oro, and the apartment is on the 1st and 2nd floor, which is actually the 2nd and 3rd floor in Italy, then enter through a small anti-room. You are in a very large dining room, with a TV, off which is a large bathroom with a tub shower. There's a balcony overlooking the little street where we entered and on the other side is the kitchen with everything you need, small breakfast table and another balcony overlooking the courtyard. Going up the stairs from the dining room you enter a huge living room with another TV (only local TV). Off this room are the two large bedrooms, another bathroom and the tower room which overlooks the Piazza.
The owner explained to us, in Italian, that the pictures on the wall were of his family and relatives, childhood pictures, etc. I think some of the locked wardrobes contained his off-season clothes. He was very proud when we asked about different things in the apartment. Some of his explanations I understood ... others I just nodded! He stopped by during the week to see if we needed anything and see what time we wanted to leave on Saturday, as he came again and took us and our bags to the car park. The apartment was simply perfect. Beautiful marble floors, travertine stairs, and swallows in the courtyard that started "talking" at around 5 in the morning.
We chose this location again mainly because we knew the area well and could hit all the sites with the kids. They loved the village itself and we were close to all the other places ... Siena - 25 minutes, Volterra about 35 minutes, Pisa, about 1 1/2 hours, probably due to getting lost in downtown Pisa. We'd never been to Pisa so it was new for us as well. We'd been to the other cities before, but this time saw things we'd not seen before. That's what we enjoy about Italy. For Firenze, we drove to Certaldo, just north of San Gimignano and took the train from there. Much easier. But if you do drive to Firenze, the best place to park is in the underground garage at the train station ... easy to find and usually plenty of room.
It's hard to say which is our favorite part of Italy. But Tuscany is beautiful, ancient, with great food and warm people ... certainly one of the best. San Gimignano itself has great sights, fantastic food, unbelievable views and a great location.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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