Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Review 148: Milligan and Milligan, Montefioralle Apartment
2bed/1bath apartment in Montefioralle near Greve, Tuscany Chianti
October/November 2001, two months
We spent two months in this apartment. The village of Montefioralle is on a hill above Greve, 1.5 km below, a 10 minute walk. Greve is a good-sized town, with a nice piazza where there are lots of people gathering nearly any time of day. There are two bakeries, a number of restaurants, butcher shops, wine stores, fruit and vegetable stores, a grocery store and numerous and varied other shops as well. There is also a market every Saturday morning in the piazza where you can buy everything from food to clothing and housewares. Montefioralle itself has two restaurants, but thatís about it, so you will do your marketing in Greve.
Greve is situated between Florence and Siena, and there are buses to both from there. There are countless books you can consult for what to do in this area, so I wonít bother to elaborate on that. There is plenty! Greve in Chianti is referred to by some as Chiantishire because of the large number of tourists that visit, and particularly the large number of British people who have purchased vacation property in the area. This is helpful inasmuch as it is not unusual for the people in the shops and markets to have some English to draw upon. On the other hand, I also think it creates some division as the local people seem to draw in on themselves, a natural reaction, I think, to so many strangers passing through.
Montefioralle is visually charming. It is an adorable hill town, with four entrances, cobbled streets, all stone with freshly painted wooden shutters, and big, handsome wooden doors with attractive door-knockers. There are stone archways, wrought-iron gates, winding stairways, narrow little streets and alleys and window boxes filled with the inevitable geraniums. We walked through it, awaiting our landlady and thought it just would not be possible that we would be lucky enough to get an apartment here. We were expecting to follow her to an apartment on a farm in the countryside, based on the description we had found online. However, when we finally connected with her, (more difficult than you would think based on the fact that the agency had been acting as intermediary), we were surprised and delighted to find that we would indeed be in Montefioralle.
I donít know how old this village is, but it is really old. Supposedly, the people in Greve would retreat up here when their town was under attack. So, this village has been standing here for many hundreds of years. And yes, it has been brought somewhat up-to-date. However, that which renders Montefioralle charming also makes it an Ďadjustmentí for someone used to living in the U.S. That being said, I will admit to something of a love/hate relationship with this apartment.
You enter the apartment at street level. Cars are not allowed in the village, but you can pull up to the door, unload, and then take your car back out of the village to park it. There is sometimes parking just a few steps away, but often, we have to park around the back of the village, and then walk back uphill to the apartment. (This is not really a problem, but if your mobility is impaired you should know this.) You come into an entry hallway, with a stairway leading to the apartment upstairs, and the front door to this apartment. Inside this door, there is a long hallway that leads to the main bedroom, and also to a stairway that goes down to the kitchen.
The main bedroom has a double/queen bed, which was pretty saggy. We went and bought wooden slats which we put inder the mattress, which improved its comfort immeasurably. There is an armoire, a built-in cupboard and two nightstands with reading lamps. There is also, a little balcony opening off this room. In one corner of the room, there is a metal circular staircase that leads upstairs to the second bedroom. This bedroom has two firm twin beds, reading lamps, and another armoire for clothing storage. There is also another, smaller balcony. Neither bedroom has any other windows, just the french doors, leading out to the balcony. There are screens on both. Back to the entry hallway. Down the stairs, halfway to the kitchen, there is a tiny alcove with a bookshelf and a desk. There are a number of books here, in both Italian and English, and an ironing board and iron, if you are so inclined. Continue on down the stairs the rest of the way, and you arrive in the kitchen.
The kitchen is the primary room in this apartment. There is a dining room with a long table, with benches along both sides, and this is also where the refrigerator stands. However, since there were only two of us, and there is also a table in the kitchen, we found little use for the dining room. It also has a peculiar smell, which drove me crazy. But more about that later.
The kitchen has a big fireplace, and there is an ample supply of firewood and kindling provided on the terrace outside of the kitchen. There is an old stone sink, with a drying rack above it, a gas stove with an electric oven, and a very good selection of dishes and pots and pans. I did lots of cooking here, and though I missed my food processor, for the most part, I found this a very serviceable kitchen. (No dishwasher). There is a black & white TV in the kitchen too, but there are only 4 or 5 channels, all in Italian. (We practiced our Italian by watching "Happy Days" reruns.)
The bathroom is off the kitchen. The fixtures are all new, a tiny half-bathtub with a shower, a big sink, toilet and a bidet. The washing machine is in here, too. There is a big window in the bathroom, and a mirror with good lighting. Laundered clothes are hung either on the terrace or on the drying rack to dry, as there is no dryer. (They are not common in Italy, I understand, due to the expense of running them.)
There is no sitting room. So, one must either sit at the kitchen table in the evening, or go to bed. Weíve done both.
Now, the terrace. This is a few steps down from the kitchen. There is a table and two reclining plastic armchairs for the terrace. There is a clothesline. There is a wonderful garden with not only flowers, but tomatoes, green beans, fresh herbs, an olive tree and a lime tree. And the view!!! This is without a doubt the best thing about the entire apartment. There is a magnificent view from not only this terrace, but also from the two balconies above. Olive groves, vineyards, woods, villages, and the hills of Tuscany, sometimes overarched by a beautiful blue sky, sometimes blanketed with soft clouds. We never tired of this view. We sat on the terrace, eating fresh-picked tomatoes, with fresh mozzarella, and olives, sipping wine, enjoying the sun and the view and feeling like youíre supposed to feel in a setting as romantic as this.
Remember, I said we were here for two months? I am writing this at the end of the first month. It is November 1, and Italy is closed for the day. Itís a National Holiday, so we are taking advantage of this break from siteseeing to catch up on correspondence. So far, the weather has been wonderful. The days have been mostly sunny and warm, though the evenings are getting cooler. We are looking forward to seeing the olives harvested sometime in November. Each weekend, we hear, and sometimes see, hunters with groups of dogs in the woods across from our hill. Our landlord told us they are hunting cinghiale, wild boar.
All in all, we are enjoying our time in Tuscany. Much to see and do. We spend a lot of time reflecting on what makes life so different here. We also think we should think about revising the way we eat in the U.S. Here we eat foods from closer to home, fresh-picked when ripe, rather than harvested in mass quantities, green, and packed in nitrogen as we do at home. Time in Tuscany leads to all kinds of thinking.....
But let me finish about this apartment and my love/hate thing. There is a smell emanating from the dining room that is most unpleasant. If we open the doors and windows and turn on the exhaust fan for an hour, it diminishes, and is bearable. But I dread coming home after the place has been shut up all day. I also wonder how this will be when the weather gets too cold to keep the place open. I wish there was someplace comfortable to sit in the evening. It can also be a hassle to come all the way downstairs in the middle of the night when nature calls. My husband, who is tall, has made a habit of banging his head each time he descends. But I do love the terrace, and the view, and the fireplace in the kitchen. And I love the idea of living in a place where so many people have lived before. And lest I wax too romantic, this place is really CHEAP! We have yet to pay a utility bill, which we hear are outrageous, so weíve been miserly with all of them.
Milligan and Milligan is kind of difficult to deal with. They are hard to get in touch with, except by email, and pretty unresponsive in general. They are terse and cranky. But the Nenceonis donít speak English, and we donít speak Italian, so we couldnít have made this connection without Milligan. Weíll post an update at the end of our stay and let you know how it all turns out.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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